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Publisher's Summary

It's 1527 and Hans Holbein is welcomed as a guest at the splendid Chelsea home of Sir Thomas More to paint the family portrait. Unknown to them, it is the dawn of a tumultuous time in English history, affecting the family as well as Tudor society.

Meg Griggs, a foster daughter of More, attracts the attention of two people, one of them being Holbein. She marries one - but loves the other.

©2006 Vanora Bennett; (P)2007 Oakhill Publishing Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Bennett constructs lush backdrops and costumes, and has impeccable historical sense. She luminously shades in an ambiguous period with lavish strokes of humanity, unbridled passion and mystery." (Publishers Weekly)

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Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall

Fascinating and complex

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

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  • Overall
  • Deirdre
  • 03-18-10

Lush Tudor Fiction

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

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Jo
  • 07-15-13

A portrait of love and scandal

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

  • Overall
  • Carol
  • 12-23-12

Not bad, not great

I made two mistakes when I started this book - firstly, I started it straight after listening to Jane Eyre & so had not escaped the 'spell' a book casts on you; secondly, I decided to go for something lighter after such a full on classic, and the contrast was rather jarring. I wouldn't say this book is bad, just not brilliant. The narration is competent but - I know I am being picky - I found there were some strange inflections to words at the end of some sentences. A pleasant enough listen, but not gripping.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Amanda
  • 06-23-11

Interesting slant on the Princes in the Tower tale

I'm not sure I can completely agree with the twist on the Princes in the Tower tale, it seems too far fetched for me but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Holbein's paintings through his eyes. It made me fetch out some old art books to actually see the portrait that was being described. Overall an interesting story but I personally found it disappointing after previous books by this author.

  • Overall
  • Jayne
  • 05-15-11

Not up to much

I found this book very tedious it is the only book that I've purchased from audible that I haven't listened to all the way through, Meg the main character in it got on my nerves so much I wanted to hit her with a wet fish..
Very poor indeed

  • Overall
  • Elizabeth Davies
  • 07-24-09

Loved it ...

.... very much.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful