Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Autobiography of Henry VIII: with Notes by his Fool, Will Somers by Margaret George

Book Description: An extraordinary novel that brings into vivid focus the larger-than-life King Henry VIII, monarch of prodigious appetites for wine, women, and song. This is a readable, entertaining, tour de force that captures the essence of the Sixteenth Century, in all its drama and atmosphere. A can't-miss for readers who delight in wonderful historical fiction perfectly rendered.

All I can say right now is "Wow." This was some book. I simply loved it.

900+ pages of vivid storytelling from the point of view of Henry, beginning with his earliest memories all the way up to a few days before his death. In addition, it is cleverly told in such a way, that his fool, Will Somers, who was with him to the end, occasionally adds his notes to Henry's "journal," either correcting some inacuracies or putting his own point of view on things that Henry did not actually know about, thus filling in the blanks. I found it fascinating. I thought I knew a lot about Henry, now I feel like I'm an expert on him and his many wives. After finishing this mammoth piece of work, I'll miss him, I've been so caught up in Henry's life, I liked him, I feel like I knew him, foibles and all!

Being a fan of Showtime's The Tudors I can't help but wonder if they have used this book as a framework for the series. Much of it is similar as far as stressing certain events and characters - namely Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk (*swoon* played by Henry Cavill in the series). Twice I cried (or had tears in my eyes) while reading this book - the death of Katharine of Aragon, and the death of Charles Brandon. Much of the book dwelled on Henry's Great Matter (Anne Boleyn) and her rise and fall. But, I was also very interested in his later marriages after Boleyn.

There is much detail in all of his life, whether it was in regard to his marriages or his battles abroad, or domestic troubles within the kingdom. We read about his many relationships with the men in his life, Wolsey, More, Cromwell and Brandon. This Henry is likeable. We see him as a young boy grown into a vigorous and youthful man who was always at the mercy of wanting to love and to be loved. Much of his life was dominated by this theme. Not until he lost those who truly did love him did he realize he had had their love all along. I felt sorry for him. His madness towards the end of his life is touched upon in such a way that it is forgivable and understandable. There were some parts of the book that got a bit bogged down, concerning foreign policy with France and the Holy Roman Emperor - not to mention the many Popes, but overall these parts were brief in the grand scheme of things.

Once in a while you come across a book that is so large and detailed - memorable - you just want to take your time and savor it - this was one of them. I can't say enough about what a great book this is, I could go on an on, there are too many little things about it to list. The best thing I can say is if you haven't read it already - read it now. Anyone who is at all interested in the Tudor period should read it. An outstanding work, well written, well researched and very entertaining. It's really that good.


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