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Monday, June 17, 2013

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HENRY VIII, by Margaret George

The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will SomersThe Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers by Margaret George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My Goodreads review:

I was unaware of this author until I came across this book. Now I want to find everything else she ever wrote! I've always been interested in the Tudors and have read a lot, both fiction and non-fiction; also watched the recent TV series and various movies from the Charles Laughton one on.

This book seems to me a particularly fair account, and probably as accurate as fiction can get — so far as we can tell from this distance — though it does of course include imagined scenarios of things we can never know in detail. The premise is that, after Henry's death, his fool, Will Somers, comes across a personal diary that Henry kept for many years. About to die himself years later, during the reign of Elizabeth, Will sends this document to Henry's daughter (Catherine) by Mary Boleyn, who was his mistress before he fell in love with and married her younger sister Anne. Will has made his own notes in the diary from time to time, as commentary on what Henry has written. This device enables the author to update her readers about things Henry could not have known or would not have thought.

It's a good device, and a refreshing change to see the story through Henry's eyes — though we also see how he deceives and justifies himself. It's a huge story. The paperback is 932 pages. I found every one of them fascinating.

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