Portrait of an Unknown Woman

Portrait of an Unknown Woman During the reign of King Henry VIII th century England was the scene of great turmoil between Church and State a time of religious strife with voices clamoring for reformation countered by charges

  • Title: Portrait of an Unknown Woman
  • Author: Vanora Bennett
  • ISBN: 9780061251832
  • Page: 151
  • Format: Hardcover
  • During the reign of King Henry VIII, 16th century England was the scene of great turmoil between Church and State a time of religious strife with voices clamoring for reformation, countered by charges of heresy and execution In this crisis, one man stood out as the great defender of tradition Sir Thomas More.Portrait of an Unknown Woman is historical fiction at its beDuring the reign of King Henry VIII, 16th century England was the scene of great turmoil between Church and State a time of religious strife with voices clamoring for reformation, countered by charges of heresy and execution In this crisis, one man stood out as the great defender of tradition Sir Thomas More.Portrait of an Unknown Woman is historical fiction at its best, rich in detail and observation that dares to choose as its setting the household of More It is a novel that unfolds from an oblique angle, revealing itself not through More s eyes but through the eye of his young ward, Meg Giggs the unknown woman Meg is a wholly realized creation, a young, headstrong woman schooled from childhood in the healing arts A woman who, in time, will be torn between her loyalty, duty, and devotion to the More family and the call of her passions and conscience Two men will vie for the heart and mind of young Meg John Clement, her former tutor, a quiet man with a past shrouded in mystery and Hans Holbein, the famous artist who twice painted portraits of More and his family.In Portrait of an Unknown Woman, Bennett has penned a suspenseful family drama with countless twists and turns, a revealing lesson on art and painting, and a most satisfying love story, all set against and within the rich historical time and tapestry of Tudor England A remarkable debut novel.

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      Vanora Bennett

    About Author

    1. I became a journalist almost by accident Having learned Russian and been hired after university by Reuters to my own surprise and the slight dismay of traditionally minded editors who weren t sure a Guardian reading blonde female would be tough enough for the job , I was then catapulted into the adrenaline charged realm of conflict reporting While on a trainee assignment in Paris, I fell in with the Cambodian migr community and ended up reporting in Cambodia myself, a decade after the Khmer Rouge regime ended, as well as covering Cambodian peace talks in places as far apart as Indonesia and Paris That led to a conflict reporting job in Africa, commuting between Angola and Mozambique and writing about death, destruction, diamonds and disease, and later to a posting in a country that stopped being the Soviet Union three months after I arrived I spent much of the early 1990s in smoky taxis in the Caucasus mountains, covering a series of small post Soviet conflicts that built up to the war in Chechnya.My fascination with the cultural and religious differences between Russians and the many peoples once ruled by Moscow grew into a book on the Chechen war Crying Wolf The Return of War to Chechnya A second, light hearted book followed, about post Soviet Russia s illegal caviar trade, once I d got homesick for London and moved back to writer leaders on foreign affairs for The Times This book was The Taste of Dreams An Obsession with Russia and Caviar.I now lead a sedate life in North London with my husband and two small sons, enjoying the reading, research, writing and metropolitan leisure activities that I grew up expecting adult life to involve I ve found that writing books is much of a surprise, a pleasure and an adventure of the mind as it was to become a foreign correspondent.As a journalist I ve written for, among others, The Times and its website, TimesOnline, the Los Angeles Times, Prospect, The Times Literary Supplement, the Guardian Saturday magazine, the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard, Eve magazine, The Observer Food Monthlyand The Erotic Review.

    One thought on “Portrait of an Unknown Woman

    1. I have a deep interest in Thomas More s family, so when I saw this novel about his foster daughter Margaret Giggs Clement, I had to check it out Unfortunately, although the author has given Giggs an engaging character and she deftly plumbs the contradictions posed by More s humanist and anti heretical personae, the book quickly becomes a farrago of melodrama and conspiracy theories At times, Bennett s historical inaccuracies and stylistic descent into the literary equivalent of Cheez Whiz were i [...]


    2. I listened to this book while jogging in 1 1.5 hr segments It made a wonderful companion on my runs This story is told from the perspective of Thomas More s adopted daughter, Meg The story is told in everyday life, not the court, and tells of the people s side of events The events center on Meg s upbringing, her relationship with her sisters, Thomas More s change his treatment of heretics It tells the tale until More is thrown out of court In between these stories is an alternate account of the [...]


    3. Rating clarification 4.5 starsPortrait of an Unknown Woman is an intelligent, thoughtful and interesting historical novel which weaves a vivid, what if fictional story around the beautiful and lush 2nd portrait of the Thomas More family as painted by Hans Holbein.The story primarily focuses on Thomas More s foster daughter, Meg Griggs, but Bennett also gives the reader a realistic peak into what Thomas More and Hans Holbein might also have been like had we been privy to their inner most thoughts [...]


    4. Vanora Bennett has chosen an interesting time in More s life for this novel of many layers From my futuristic perspective, I was waiting for More to be taken away, but this doesn t happen So the story is encapsulated in that uncomfortable, trying time when everyone fears the worst but they don t know when, or even if, the king is going to strike More even stages his own arrest in front of the family at dinner, just so they will be better prepared when the moment comes The novel starts at what mi [...]


    5. Ever wonder about the real story behind the Princes in the Tower Portrait of an Unknown Woman presents one version that is plausible, even probable Thomas More, a powerful and influential part of Henry VIII s court, his family, and Hans Holbein are brought to life again and shown with both shining perfection as well as dismal human failings The mystery of the ultimate fates of the Princes in the Tower is deftly told, incorporating many historic figures, but primarily focuses on the perspectives [...]


    6. Fantastic historical fiction This poignant story is a small glimpse into the life of Sir Thomas More and his family during one of the most turbulent times in Western history There are so many elements to this book, my mind can t leave it alone First there s the history, a time period I already find fascinating mainly because of how it changed the world culture of religion The amazing way in which Vanora Bennett presents the story allows the reader to see both sides of the controversial issues fa [...]


    7. In her historical fiction debut, Portrait of an Unknown Woman, Vanora Bennett has brought a crucial slice of English history to life with compelling characterizations and a keen eye for period detail Based on the rise and fall of humanist author and statesman Sir Thomas More during the English Reformation and the German artist, Hans Holbein, who created a painting of More s family during that time, Portrait is a work rendered in stunning clarity and often breathtaking prose.Although some readers [...]


    8. I enjoyed this perspective on those crazy power mongers who lived during the reign of Henry VIII Vanora Bennett creates a fictional account of the life of Meg Griggs, Thomas More s adopted daughter Thomas More being one of King Henry VIII s devoted servants and a staunch defender of Catholicism Bennett offers us insights into the mind of those who are so devoted that they would risk their lives to defend their ideals and harshly punish those who criticize them.Meg More is a skilled healer, a you [...]


    9. I picked up this book hoping for another Girl with the Pearl Earring , but was sorely disappointed The main thing that struck me about the book was it s incredible length, and unbelievable non action There was no climax There was only weak plot It took FOREVER to listen to the 12 discs that made up this audiobook, and I was counting the minutes after the 4th disc That s a lot of minutes.Also, there was a lot of twinkling and dimpling mentioned in this novel in, he twinkled down at his lovely dau [...]


    10. I really loved this book and I totally agree that it was nice to be away from Tudor Court and on the streets of London I ve not read an awful lot about the Princes of the Tower so I was able to go with that theory for the books sake Just googled John Clement Plantagenet prince and you get a lot of results linked to Holbeins painting so maybe there is something there However I m pretty sure when I went to the Tower of London the tour guide said that they did discover the skeletons of two young b [...]


    11. Great read, I m a huge fan of historical fiction Anya Seton, Sarah Dunant, Tracy Chevalier, Katherine McMahon and this novel did not disappoint The story is effectively told from a variety of points of view a young ward of More s called Meg Holbein.People have commented that the book is boring well, it s a pity they re not subtle or sensitive like the plot or the characterisation It s a slow burner, but then not everything in life should be rushed The novel is a fictionalised account of Thomas M [...]


    12. Can I mark the book as read if I quit in the middle Since I met the author at the American Libraries Association midwinter conference and got an autograph in the book I feel an obligation to like this book I really kept plugging along even though I lost interest fairly early onbut, I m giving myself permission to be done.This book is based on paintings done of a family in England during the reign of King Henry the VIII The story seems to starts like a harlequin romance climax haha, get it and I [...]


    13. I have re read this after a long period since my first reading and I am impressed than I was, thus I have upped my rating to five stars Frankly,if Vanora Bennett never wrote another word, this book would be good enough to secure her rep.Spoiler coming up The book is based on Jack Leslau s theory that the Princes in the Tower did not die but survived under More s protection and with bogus names You make think this unlikely, but suspend your belief for the length of this book and just enjoy the r [...]


    14. Rich in detail and historical fact and fiction this is at times a quiet book but very engrossing A real insight into the family of Thomas More and which delivers a real clanger of a surprise nearly half way through Holbein s paintings come to life so much so I have to make a trip to the National Portrait Gallery to see for myself Vanora Bennett is definitely another author added to my historical novels favourites list.


    15. This could have been a great book Thomas More was a key figure during the reign of Henry VIII and played such an important role in shaping posterity s negative view of Richard III that the story of his family should have been a compelling one And Portrait of an Unknown Woman has plenty of admirable qualities I d like to have given it 2 1 2 stars The main character, More s adopted daughter Meg Giggs, is well drawn, and Bennett has clearly done a lot of research on the period and on the paintings [...]


    16. Alright all now I am 90% convinced it is me I have yet another 3 out of 5 book here Although with this one it wasn t another case of a rushed ending at least.I don t really know why they called it Portrait of an Unknown Woman since the art aspect of it played precious little role in the book over all Maybe it is my fault for expecting something similar to Tracy Chevalier s books, one of the best known of those being Girl with a Pearl Earring It seemed to me that this book was possibly trying to [...]


    17. Portrait of an Unknown Woman promises a story about one woman s relationship with the painter Hans Holbein It s actually about Holbein, the lady Meg, adopted daughter of Thomas More and marital drama, with More s increasingly fanatical politics a a backdrop.Right off the bat, I d like to express my relief at the fact that the saintly Thomas More myth perpetuated by A Man for All Seasons and even The Tudors seems to be wearing off Hilary Mantel s Cromwell sympathizing trilogy has played a big rol [...]


    18. Portrait of an Unknown Woman is told from the viewpoint of Meg Giggs, adopted daughter of Sir Thomas More, sometimes in the first person, sometimes in the third When the book opens the More family is awaiting the arrival of Hans Holbein, who is to paint a family portrait Just before Holbein arrives John Clement, former tutor to the family, arrives He has been studying medicine on the Continent and he and Meg hope to marry Meg herself is something of a physician only her learning is concentrated [...]


    19. This book is based on a picture by Hans Nolbein, a portait of Thomas More and his family Thomas More was a philosopher in King Henry VIII s court, during the Reformation He was a humanist, and ended up being a persecutor of Martin Luther s followers The story is told from the perspective of Thomas More s adopted daughter, Meg, who appears in the fam ily portrait The author gets quite graphic when describing the persecution It s funny that in history we are studying the Pilgrims and the Puritans [...]


    20. Ever since I read the second book in Cynthia Harrod Eagles Morland Dynasty series, I have been completely and totally in love with English historical fiction I will happily read just about anything set in England prior to 1945 Yum So far, this novel is filling the basic requirement of filling my appetite, without really tempting my palate My main issue with this book is that it is set in the 1520s, and yet the author has no compunctions about putting modern words and terms into the mouths of her [...]


    21. I would really give this book 3.5 stars I picked it up randomly at Barnes Noble and had low expectations let s face it, most historical fictions are cheesy and lacking any depth.I agree that the book would appeal to those who are interested in a conspiracy theory, but I must admit, the author exceeded my expectations with the depth of her characters The book focuses around the main character and 3 supporting characters, one of whom is an artist I particularly appreciated the depth the author gav [...]


    22. Portrait of an Unknown Woman revolves around the family of Sir Thomas More, the famous humanist and Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII In the late 1520s, tensions in the country are rising between the Catholics and the reformists Bennet skillfully works together the politics and everyday life of the period, and the dilemma faced by Meg Giggs, the adopted daughter of the More family, who is torn between her former tutor John Clement, and the young painter Hans Holbein, who visits the family Some of th [...]


    23. Set in the time of Henry VIII the title is slightly misleading The book is about the family of Thomas More, the famous courtier who opposed the marriage of the king to Anne Boleyn Hans Holbein arrives to paint a family portrait and falls in love with one of More s wards who has been brought up as his daughter The book is about far than a painting and a family, it includes a fanciful story of what may have happened to the Princes in the Tower It is an interesting novel but should never be read a [...]


    24. Just arrived from USA Hans Holbein, the Younger, who had been recommended to More by his friend, Erasmus, arrived in England in 1526 Next year, he began a painting of Sir Thomas More and his family A preparatory sketch for the original survives, but the painting itself was destroyed by fire in the eighteenth century Fortunately, paintings which were created based on it by Rowland Lockey in the late sixteenth century, survive.


    25. This book isn t for everyone I love history, I love painters, and I love great thinkers This book is historical fiction, based on Thomas More, the chancellor for Henry VIII, told through the eyes of an adopted daughter It is long, not very exciting, but I enjoyed it despite its simplicity and lack of mental challenge.


    26. This book tried to tell too many stories, and therefore ended up not telling any of them very well The writing wasn t bad, but it didn t give me the insight into the life of Thomas More I was looking for and don t get me started on the character development or I will have to break my self imposed minimum snark rule.


    27. I ruined the book for myself because I had an inkling Elizabeth was a huge bitch and I needed to find out before I continued with the book So I did the unforgivable and read the ending I went back and read most of the rest, but of course it wasn t as good any It was a bit too much like a soap opera and I m not sure what the point of it was, but it was entertaining.



    28. I should have stopped reading when the Princes in the Tower angle was revealed because I knew only craziness could ensue from there I find it hard to swallow that these boys would not have mounted a resurgence against Henry vii there would have been tons of support as their father Edward was a wildly popular king particularly with the commoners and Tudor was an unknown commodity having spent most of his life in exile This was a time when kings felt they were chosen by God to lead and so I think [...]


    29. I listened to this book over a period of several weeks in the car This may have contributed to the fact that I found the story lacking Also, with a large part of the narrative speaking in detail about Holbein s paintings, I kept expecting a portrait to be introduced that would link with the title In hindsight the portrait in the title is figurative, I gather.I don t know enough about Thomas More to comment on historical accuracy, but I suspect that most of the conspiracies and intrigues revealed [...]


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