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Figures in Silk

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  1,474 Ratings  ·  221 Reviews
The plot of my latest novel brings together the silk business of fifteenth-century London and the personality of King Richard III, suspected throughout history of having murdered his two nephews, the Princes in the Tower. My story begins with silk merchant John Lambert’s decision to marry off his two beautiful daughters at the end of the Wars of the Roses. Elder daughter J ...more
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published March 24th 2009 by William Morrow (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Margo Brooks
Aug 02, 2011 Margo Brooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the third book I read in close sucession of the War of the Roses time period in medieval England. The other two were The White Queen by Philippa Gregory and The King's Grace by Ann Easter Smith (see previous review). Reading all three provided an interesting perspective on Edward V, Richard III, Queen Elizabeth Woodward and the future Queen Elizabeth, mother of Henry the VIII. Each book presented the main characters as villians or heros while sticking to the historical facts surrounding ...more
Mar 02, 2009 Misfit rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Misfit by: Amazon vine
Get thee to an editor!! Seriously. While I understand the copy I have is an ARC and thus an uncorrected proof what I read in this book goes way beyond the pale. Twice I found a duplicated sentence, one right after the other. Run-on sentences with way too many commas, colons and semi-colons, along with short disjointed sentences that went nowhere - picture Snoopy writing his classic "it was a dark and stormy night". Frankly I felt I was always on the outside looking in and that's the last place I ...more
Ben Babcock
I couldn't get into this book, unfortunately. I had a hard time empathizing with the characters that Bennett sets in 15th century England. The protagonist, Isabel, never really seems to seize the day and attempt to carve out her own destiny.

Often I say, "Not my favourite book, but if you have the time, give it a read." There's nothing about Figures in Silk to recommend itself as one of those books, however. Its historical scope is narrow: while set during the War of the Roses and involving sever
Morgan Dhu
While I started reading Vanora Bennett's Figures in Silk because of the Ricardian aspect of the plot, I actually found that part of the narrative rather thin compared to the rich and detailed story of life in the London silk trade which is the primary focus of the novel. Bennett's protagonist Isabel Claver is a young widow who becomes an apprentice to her successful mother-in-law Alice Claver, one of the foremost silk merchants in London. She learns the trade well and, in partnership with Claver ...more
Dec 11, 2014 Merry rated it really liked it
"We all end up equal in the bottom of the bag". This historical fiction is based in 14th Century London following the Wars of the Roses and incorporating the silk industry that was the centre of the English silkwomen's trade in Medieval London. I really enjoyed this book, gave it 4 stars for entertainment and noteworthy history.
Sep 30, 2015 Kara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

If you are bored by descriptions of the 15th century European fabric industry, this is not a book for you.

However, if you’re interested at all in the role thread and cloth played in the late medieval world, as seen by a character on an apprentice–to–master journey storyline, I think you would enjoy this book.

15th century London teenager Isabella Lambert finds out in Chapter One that her father has engaged her to a man she hardly knows for economical-political reasons. She is advised by a new acq
Tara Chevrestt
I had my doubts when I purchased this novel, having read some negative thoughts on it and having hated Anne Easter Smith's version of the War of the Roses. This suprised me, however, at almost every turn. Isabel and Jane are sisters who are married off to strangers while Edward is taking control of England's kingship. Isabel is widowed quickly and takes to her mother in law's silk business against her own father's wishes. Jane gets a divorce from her husband and becomes a harlot for the king and ...more
Feb 06, 2013 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Britain just announced to the world that King Richard III's remains have been found, with a reconstruction of his face even made possible. As coincidence would have it, this book features Richard as one of the principal characters. Richard III was not a well-loved monarch and Vanora uses the historical suspicions surrounding him to create this novel. Isabel Lambert is a fourteen year old daughter of a silk-weaver who unexpectedly meets 'Dickon' while they are both praying in a church one morning ...more
Ambrosia Sullivan
I have to say of all the war of the roses books this is going to be one of my favorites. While it does focus on the royals in some respects the main focus is the story of trying to get the silk weaving business brought to England. You learn all the ins and outs of the mercers guild and many others within England at the time. Isabel Lambert a fictional created sister to the infamous Jane Lambert, better known as Jane Shore Mistress to King Edward is the center piece in all of this silk world.

May 11, 2010 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cannonball-read
While I was on the treadmill this afternoon, I watched as Gordon Brown, his wife, and his two children took their leave of 10 Downing Street. Brown stood in front of the hoards of photographers, smiled, then climbed into a car, streaking through London toward Buckingham Palace to give his resignation to the Queen. I’m not British, nor have I paid much attention to British politics since I spent the spring of 2007 in Scotland, but I got a lump in my throat watching his car make his way down the c ...more
Jill Knight
A great love story historical portrayal of a very strong common girl and a would be King of England. They main character takes you on a journey of a life that was lived to the fullest even when doubt and lies step in to destroy her. I would have liked to haved learned even more about the silk making process in addition to the selling and marketing within the first portion of the book so that relating to her everyday life would have seemed more real. The genuine giving of her love to someone so u ...more
Dori Von Nieda
Feb 06, 2016 Dori Von Nieda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1-10
Isabel is too young to be wed and the universe seems to agree because her husband dies after 3 months of marriage. Left penniless as her in-law already spent her dowry on supplies, she must decide between returning home to be used as a tool or become an apprentice under the terrifying Alice Claver. While romance isn't in the cards for Isabel, she finds strength in words from a stranger and goes on to introduce the silk industry to England and become a powerful player in her own right. Set in the ...more
Jun 16, 2014 Cassandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was much better than I thought it would be. I love historical fiction, but really didn't care so much about the life of a silk woman - how interesting could that be? Boy, was I wrong. Not only did Bennett manage to weave Richard of Gloucester into Isabel Claver's life, I feel she managed to convey the growth between characters admirably well.

It was actually refreshing to read about life away from Court, in the eyes of one of the everyday Londoners - who *SPOILER ALERT* just happens to
I was all about Richard in this book





I love this specific time in history, and many of my favorite books from Shakespeare to Phillipa Gregory deal with these characters, but this specific book was nothing to write home about.

The story focus on two sisters Isabel, a silk merchant who finds herself romantically entangled with with the future Richard III, and Isabel's sister Jane who acts as mistress to Richard's brother King Edward and later William Hastings.

In theory the story should be fascinati
Mar 03, 2016 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is now entitled Queen of Silks. Published in 2009. The year 1471 marks a crucial point in the Wars of the Roses as Edward 1V wins the throne. But amongst England's turmoil two young sisters, Jane and Isabel Lambert, are more concerned with finding good and loving husbands. Their father, a silk trader, believes that a good marriage must establish advantageous business links and so thoughts of love must be put aside. The girls will be bound by marriage to the court of Edward 1V and their ...more
Amalie Simper
Jun 14, 2016 Amalie Simper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is full of love, deceit, death, war, adultery, business minded widows, the love of silk, grief, and an unexpected..but expected ending. The sadness at the end of the book is overwhelming, but true to how people have to accept life's trials and hardships. It discussed the change of kings and power during the war of the roses, the fear of the common and mechs tile people of London as the changes brought worry to their personal lives. I really enjoyed the story and I was sorry that each o ...more
3.5 stars.
I really could not stop myself with this one. It was a wonderful historical read - rich in period detail without being dry as dust, set during an interesting political landscape i n an England on the cusp of change. The other bonus is that the romantic element is not suffocated by vapid sentimentality or unnecessary descriptions of sex. Rather. the act is secondary to the emotional charge - on that point it was an interesting choice by the author to choose Richard III as the romantic l

Liked this book. Silk trade. who knew??!! Early 15 th century no less womens lib!!!
Jul 03, 2015 Cassandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Go back to 1400's right before Henry the 8th. Wars, Affairs, and Silk come in abundance. Isabel is a young woman engaged to a young man whom she's never met, but lucky for her, he turns out better than she could have ever hoped. But unlucky for her, he is taken from her by the cruelty of life. Alone, and abandoned, she stays to work for her vile Mother-in-law and learns about silk. She attempts to change the world of the women, merchants, and royals of her lifetime. Isabel challenges those who w ...more
Isabel Lambert is the fourteen year old daughter of John Lambert, a successful London silk Merchant who has arranged for her to marry Thomas Claver, the son of another wealthy silk merchant named Alice. Isabel is completely against the idea of marrying Thomas, but after a chance encounter with a handsome, mysterious man who points out that as a woman she would do better to think of the future, plan ahead - and to start by marrying Thomas, she agrees to the match. Surprisingly, Isabel
Jan 04, 2012 Denise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The year is 1471. After years of civil war (the War of the Roses), the king of England (Edward IV) has restored order and peace to the land. The silk industry is booming in London, aided by the group known as "silk women". Two sisters come onto the scene and are the focus of this book. Elder daughter Jane becomes the mistress of the king. The younger sister, Isabel, who has been made a young widow because of the war, becomes an apprentice to her mother-in-law (Alice Claver)--a silk woman of vast ...more
Mar 12, 2009 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vanora Bennett's novel, "Figures in Silk," intermingles historic and fictional persons in an entertaining narrative concerning Yorkist England.

Her main character, Isabel Lambert, is a 14-year-old girl when she meets a man who turns out to be Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Isabel is about to be married to Thomas Claver -- who dies one month after their wedding, but she never forgets the dark-haired and serious man who spoke to her. Isabel decides to enter the silk trade as an apprentice to her moth
Ellen Ekstrom
Mar 01, 2012 Ellen Ekstrom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cloth of silk hiding freise...

I recommend Bennett's "Figures in Silk" to those who enjoy historical fiction set in 15th century England and the Wars of the Roses. Bennett introduces the reader to Isabel Lambert, the sister of the infamous 'merry mistress' of Edward IV, Jane Shore. Isabel is the younger daughter of silk merchant John Lambert and by accident she encounters a dark, mysterious young man in a tavern in April of 1471 who encourages her to make her own way in the world. Smitten by the
Jul 05, 2010 Erin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book as I am a fan of Vanora Bennett’s but try as I might I just couldn’t really like it. One positive thing to say about the book is that Bennett has obviously researched the silk weaving industry extremely well, that is evident in this story. As for the characters I have to say I found Isabel at times to be irritating and as the lead character I felt she was seriously undeveloped. In other parts of the book I felt that the characters were just mere background to a ...more
Overall I found this to be a well written novel with evidently a good deal of research into the silk industry. However, the depiction of real historical events became closely woven (no pun intended!) into the plot, but this for me was a weakness.

In some places the chronology just wasn't right. In other places the internal logic was weak. For example, over the instance of the execution of Hastings, in novels which cover this event the author needs to come up with their own explanation of this as
Kay Stopforth
Aug 31, 2010 Kay Stopforth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're looking for a serious historical novel that tells the story of the Princes in the Tower in a measured way, with the main participants believable but ultimately likeable people, then this ain't it.

However, if you're looking for a fun, pacy and at times outrageous read with engaging (but not always very nice) characters and unexpected psychological depth, then give it a try.

I loved it, with only the odd stylistic caveat. The author obviously fell heavily for the medieval silk industry,
Debra Martin
I am a fan of historical fiction and when I saw FIGURES IN SILK in the bargain pile, I grabbed it. From the description on the back book cover, I thought I'd be enjoying the story about two sisters, but I was sorely disappointed. The book focuses mainly on Isabel who we first meet as a 14-year-old sheltered girl from a wealthy family and her fears about being forced into marriage with Thomas Claver. In the first scene she is praying/sobbing in church when she meets a "hard" stranger with a "wolf ...more
Jun 12, 2009 Margaret rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There really wasn't enough there there in any respect for me to get invested in the narrative or the characters of this novel: not enough historical detail to be persuasive, not enough character development for me to care about anyone, not enough life or color in the writing to make the 15th century silk industry (the story element which makes this novel different from others about the same period) as interesting as it should be to learn about. The central premise is promising: a young girl meet ...more
I'm Sorry But I Have To Be Honest, I thought this book was just horrid. I can not believe that Vanora Bennett wrote this. I read and loved 'Portrait of an Unknown Woman' and would recommend that book, I can't recommend this to anyone.

I have so many criticisms that I'm going to have to stay focused. I thought the writing itself was awkward, stumbling and difficult. The characters were not at all developed even the main character, Isabel. The emotions and the events that unfold do not ring true a
Feb 10, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think this is one of the authors best books, but I did find the history in it very interesting. I have read a lot of fiction based around the Henry VII and Henry VIII time with Phillipa Gregory etc but nothing very much earlier than this. Knew very little about the reign of Edward IV and this book lead me to read a little more about the period.
I didn't particularly like the Isabel character in the book, and found her self pity and lack of will power to change her hopeless situation very
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Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 1 Feb 16, 2015 11:34AM  
  • Lady of the Roses: A Novel of the Wars of the Roses
  • The Seventh Son
  • Treason
  • To the Tower Born: A Novel of the Lost Princes
  • The Flowering of the Rose (We Speak No Treason, #1)
  • The Goldsmith's Wife
  • The Ruby in Her Navel
  • The King's Mistress
  • Harlot Queen
  • The King's Daughter
  • The First Princess of Wales
  • The Heretic’s Wife
  • Queen Defiant: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine
  • The Stolen Crown: The Secret Marriage that Forever Changed the Fate of England
  • The Rebel Princess (Alais Capet, #2)
  • Mary of Carisbrooke: The Girl Who Would Not Betray Her King
  • The Founding (The Morland Dynasty, #1)
  • The Queen's Sorrow
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 wit ...more
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