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Portrait of an unknown woman, begins with Hans Holbein arriving to paint the family of Sir Thomas More. Meg Griggs is a ward of Sir Thomas and the beginning is told in the first person through her eyes. She is a bit of a lonely figure having watched her siblings married and start families of their own, but she has always been in love with the family Tutor, John Clement. And so the stage is set, so to speak.
The novel is a meandering tale, and not short of historical detail, and the author brings the period to life, enabling the listener to 'see' the story unfold easily. Slowly we come to realize that many things and events are not as they seem, and many surprises become apparent along the way. The character of Holbein is particularly well drawn, especially towards the final chapters.
My only complaint about this novel is that there is perhaps too much historical detail. Sometimes less is more. It's as if the author is letting us see how much she knows. Also the story switches frequently between first and third person the whole way through. I feel the story would have flowed better being told one way or the other. That said, I did get used to it after a while.
The story is narrated by Lucy Scott, who does an excellent job. I knew exactly which character was speaking just by the changes in her voice. Again, Hans Holbein was brilliantly done.
If you are interested in historical fiction, with a few twists and turns, and a gentle love story thrown in, do not hesitate. I will certainly be looking up other titles by Vanorra Bennett. Hope this helps.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
A world famous artist, a king in hiding, political intrigue and plenty of twists, what more could a person wish for? I found this book easy to listen to and easy to follow, but it didn't feel like I was being spoon fed. Each character was easy to identify and the narrator brought forth qualities that are only hinted on in the story.
Set in tudor england it highlights the problems women face in a male dominated society. That not to say the main character is dowdy or submissive, far from it, she is enquiring, progressive and challenging for the times. I have totally enjoyed this book and have listened to it twice and was not bored either time.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
A fictionalized account of the family life of Sir Thomas More, particularly centered on his foster daughter Meg Giggs, during the turbulent and dangerous years when Sir Thomas defied King Henry VIII over The Divorce. The dynamics of this fascinating family are captured by two family portraits, done a few years apart, by Hans Holbein, and his viewpoint as a discerning outsider and observer is central to the novel. (By the way, if your image of Sir Thomas More was formed by "A Man For All Seasons", then be prepared for a shock. No kindly, wise humanist here, but a self-flagellating zealot with a penchant for burnings.) Meg is an interesting, well-drawn character. I thoroughly believed her growing anger, resentment and confusion as she begins, with the help of Holbein and her own superlative humanist education, to view with clarity the events swirling around her and her family. Without giving away the ending, I was less convinced by the decision she ultimately makes about her marriage to her duplicitous husband, John. Just a tip - it is very helpful in understanding the novel's lengthy descriptions of Holbein's portraits of the More family, and how and why Holbein structured them a certain way, if the reader finds images of the family portraits on the internet. They are easy to find if one googles More family Holbein. The reader does a lovely job - clear, pleasant and emotive.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful