Utopia is one of those books that, like so many other classics, I have meant to read for years. Actually and legitimately, because I started my political science major in 2009 and am now technically a political scientist. So in early May 2020, because we are all finding ourselves with an abundance of free time with which to take down our TBR piles….I picked it up.
If we’re being honest, it was almost 1 in the morning and I thought it might be the sort of book that would help me fall asleep. Ahem.
In fact, I did end up falling asleep on this books but not because it was boring – I read until I couldn’t read any more. Which was only about an hour, as it turns out, because it was almost 2 in the morning when I finally gave up trying to pry my eyelids open and focus through force of will.
This was a really, really interesting book. I first heard of it as a child, watching Ever After, which is the greatest Cinderella adaptation bar none. I will hear no arguments on that point. Anyway, in the film, Danielle lectures Prince Henry straight out of Thomas More’s Utopia, from memory, having read it so many times. I’ve been intrigued by it since, and wanted to read it properly since settling into my POLS major in second year.
It is important to note that the book is a product of the time in which it was written, which is to say the early 16th century, or thereabouts. What I’m saying is, there are some seriously dated ideas in there, particularly in terms of the role of slavery in society and also the roles of women in relation to men and also in society generally. However, it also contains many social and political themes which are honestly still revolutionary today: I can only imagine how shocking they would have been in the early fifteen hundreds!
Utopia is written in an interesting fashion, too – it is the recollection of Thomas More of a story recounted by the acquaintance of a friend, of five years spent living on the island of Utopia. It is a verbal history of the island’s history, culture, beliefs, laws and politics. It is an extremely thorough recounting, all things considered, and is begun (hah!) by letters, from More to his friend Peter, and from Peter to another gentleman (seeking clarification on some details in the story of Utopia as told by More). The writing itself is both extremely eloquent and very interesting, somehow escaping the sheer boredom often emanated from the older political commentaries.
It is also book number 63 in the Penguin Books “Great Ideas” series, and honestly? Having looked at the list at the back of Utopia, I will pretty much be starting at the beginning and treating this series like a checklist fo TBR. They look awesome!
If you are into classic literature, or (classic) socio-political commentary, this book and indeed this series is honestly a great place to start.
Well worth a read, people
Photo credit: image is mine, taken of my copy of the book