Holly's Reviews > Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family--a Test of Will andFaith in World War I

Conscience by Louisa Thomas
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's review
Mar 16, 12

NYT Book Review describes this biography of Norman Thomas this way: "{W}e are shown the “making” of a socialist, formed not by Marx but by the Bible. Thomas was an adoring student of Woodrow Wilson's at Princeton but later was disappointed by Wilson's "preparedness" strategy that inevitably led the US into WWI. Although the book focuses on Norman, we also learn to know his three brothers, two of whom joined the war effort. The other, 6'5" Evan, was also pacifist. Reading this book reminded me of my own foray into writing history that is somewhat personal, somewhat removed (The Same Spirit: History of Iowa Nebraska Mennonites). Though Conscience is mostly an appreciative history, the author sometimes feels moved to let us, the readers, know that she thinks her subjects were foolish or misguided or naive. Which I find awkward. She looks about 35 on the book jacket. I keep thinking, "Who are you to judge...?" But I probably did the same thing, and I was about that age. You want your readers to know you have perspective, but it's usually better to avoid overt statements of judgment. Still, this was not so very distracting. It was a wonderful, history-filled story about a remarkable family.

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