There are hundreds (probably more like thousands) of books/texts/writings available focusing on the lives of major Tudor-era figures. However, these ‘There are hundreds (probably more like thousands) of books/texts/writings available focusing on the lives of major Tudor-era figures. However, these ‘celebrities’ were a minority in the population so what about the common, everyday folk? What were their lives like? Ruth Goodman visits (and lives!) the lives of people just like you and me during the Tudor period in, “How to Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life”.
Ruth Goodman is n expert when it comes to historical accuracy and reenactment and has a personal interest in the Tudor period. Goodman thereby crafts “How to Be a Tudor” into a unique piece combining elements of an academic text, memoir, how-to guide, and a “day in the life of...” personalization literally focusing on the full day of civilian life in Tudor England (although royalty and peerage is still occasionally addressed). Initially, all of this meshing of styles feels clunky and ill-conceived and therefore isn’t smooth. “How to Be a Tudor” can be somewhat difficult to follow at this stage as Goodman doesn’t seem to know the best ways to transition her writing.
As “How to Be a Tudor” progresses, either the reader gets used to Goodman’s style or she becomes more confident (probably a mixture of both); resulting in a stronger and more compelling read. Although “How to Be a Tudor” is still ‘different’, it becomes so in a good way and the reader is intrigued to continue on. Goodman clearly encompasses a wealth of information which also includes first-hand experience of her having tried Tudor ways of life which debunks myths, clarifies facts, and teaches the reader; therefore bringing many new lights to the topic.
Goodman infuses the text with light humor here and there which keeps the pace moving and fresh while also highlighting examples and case studies of the lives of “nobodies” (wonder what these individuals were to think if they knew that they just received their 15 minutes of fame?). However, there is an issue with some light repetition with Goodman revisiting some facts from one section to another.
Even though Goodman makes “How to Be a Tudor” accessible and easy-to-understand; there is a lot of material and details which can become overwhelming. It is suggested to take some reader “breather” breaks in order to retain and grasp all of the information. Goodman’s success lies in not running off on tangents with all of the material and keeping on path with her thesis.
Although informative, the conclusion of “How to Be a Tudor” feels open-ended and somewhat anti-climatic. A summary would have done well to make the book more memorable and rounded.
Sadly, Goodman doesn’t include notes or citations which can question credibility but several pages of sources are available. “How to Be a Tudor” also includes three sections of photo plates.
“How to Be a Tudor” has a rocky start but this smoothes out into an informative and unique book which definitely opens up the Tudor times in a way which isn’t always evident in historical texts, teaching the reader a bountiful of information. Although not necessarily the best “flowing” text; “How to Be a Tudor” is an excellent reference piece and engages the reader in its own way. “How to Be a Tudor” is recommended for all readers interested in the Tudor period. ...more
Those active in the Tudor online community are probably familiar with Barb Alexander’s “The Tudor Tutor” in which she presents Tudor history lessons iThose active in the Tudor online community are probably familiar with Barb Alexander’s “The Tudor Tutor” in which she presents Tudor history lessons in a sassy and witty way making it ‘fun’ and accessible. Alexander offers her knowledge for the first time in print-form in, “The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Dynasty”.
“The Tudor Tutor” is a slim volume offering a quick overview of the main topics in Tudor history. Imagine Alexander’s angle as bullet points or a play off her blog/site but written in a more narrative way. The pace flows easily and quickly, resulting in a fast read. “The Tudor Tutor” can be described as a “history-beach read”.
Alexander infuses “The Tudor Tutor” with humor and charm which is the reason behind her internet fame resulting in a few chuckles from the reader. There are some evident moments, however, where it is obvious that Alexander tries too hard to be funny which can be tiresome. Certainly do not expect an in-depth scholarly read with “The Tudor Tutor”. It teaches history but not in a credible, academic way.
Elaborating on this lack of depth, “The Tutor Tudor” is a ‘fun’ read but it doesn’t present any new information or offer any new angles to those familiar with the topic. Alexander’s work is best suited for those seeing a quick doctor’s office book inducing a few smiles. “The Tutor Tudor” is very much a blog in print form. Don’t misunderstand – it is not bad- it simply is very light so one has to merely take it for what it is.
Illustrator Lisa Graves adds some entertainment to “The Tudor Tutor” with colorful, hand-drawn illustrations. Although these are accurately based on historical paintings; even these have a hint of humor/snark (an occasional side glance or smirk on a figure’s face) which supplements Alexander’s text appropriately plus solidifies the information discussed with the reader.
Alexander does have the flaw of sometimes “crossing the line” with her descriptions, meaning that during her attempts to be comedic, Alexander can be offensive to those historical figures discussed or is biased in nature (against them). This isn’t overly harsh but still appears slightly childish. On the other hand, Alexander often ends paragraphs with questions which encourage readers to interpret the reading and encourages after -thoughts and personal research.
Despite my complaints, “The Tudor Tutor” is certainly entertaining and is a “cute” way to learn history. Plus, Alexander never claims to be an expert, doesn’t act elitist, and isn’t called a professional. Some other authors in the same realm (I’m talking about you, Susan Bordo) whom pen humorous history takes claim to be experts when they are FAR from it. Alexander doesn’t go down that path, keeping humility and not displaying any attitude or airs. Well done, Alexander!
“The Tudor Tutor” ends strongly with a somewhat lesser-discussed factoid (Stuart vs. Stewart spelling) which leaves on a memorable note. Alexander also offers a timeline of Tudor dynasty events and a light list of sources for further reading.
“The Tudor Tutor” is a humorous and indeed ‘cheeky’ look at the Tudor reign. Although light and not academic; it is a good introduction to those new to the topic or would fit well as a supplement to an exhibit. However, it is not necessarily suggested for those well-versed on the topic unless one is searching for a laugh. Again, don’t misunderstand my complaints: “The Tudor Tutor” is a fun ‘guide’. I am merely saying that is all it is so don’t expect anything more. ...more
For us Tudorphiles, there really isn’t anything we don’t already know about one of history’s most dramatic families. So what’s the point of reading anFor us Tudorphiles, there really isn’t anything we don’t already know about one of history’s most dramatic families. So what’s the point of reading another book on the Tudor dynasty? Perhaps this can be answered by Leanda de Lisle in “Tudor: The Family Story”.
Lisle’s version of events in “Tudor” stands out instantly, as the tone presented to the reader is not simply that of a recollection of Tudor monarchy life; but the basics and underlying psychosis of the family. Lisle begins the history backtracking to Owen Tudor and his “fall” into royalty. Although nothing new is learned by the expert reader; the family history will be understood in a new light. Lisle reveals the Tudors in a smooth way in which their emotions and actions throughout the decades make clear sense. Thus, although the story isn’t new, the fresh perception is.
Lisle’s text is heavily researched and accurate, skipping the biases and speculation which are abundant even in the works of renowned historians. The pace is exciting and has a steady ratio of almost-fictional narrative to that of an academic piece. However, at times Lisle goes off on the flowery descriptions and either grazes or rushes too quickly on the historical events (I suspect that she could produce a solid HF novel).
A notable characteristic of “Tudor” is the breath of life Lisle gives to some figures who are often ignored such as Mary and Margaret Tudor (the sisters of Henry VIII) and Margaret Douglas. Plus, the chronology is solid and all major points are highlighted without jumping back-and-forth which could confuse new readers.
Lisle seamlessly interweaves the text with descriptions of ‘everyday’ life/culture which instead of feeling like tangents; clearly sets the stage for Tudor lie and again: makes everything clear and understandable. “Tudor” is also filled with anticipation, with even the seasoned Tudorphile wanting to know what happens (even though he or she already knows).
On the negative end, Lisle has the habit of mentioning a thought or idea which is contrary to popular belief but doesn’t elaborate or offer clear sources. I would welcome new angles but need details. Also slightly annoying is Lisle maintaining the trend of quoting Shakespeare within her historic text. Shakespeare was NOT a historian and his plays were just that: plays. Not sure why so many authors insist on this.
The second half of “Tudor” has more of a detective focus with Lisle debunking some much-talked about Tudor myths. The only issue with this is a lack of description/argument and notes with holes in the connection (I had many, “You got this from that?!” moments). Despite this, Lisle also displayed the strength of not following stereotypes in “Tudor”: Mary isn’t vilified, Elizabeth isn’t glorified, etc. Instead, Lisle simply sees the strengths and weaknesses of each figurehead.
The conclusion of “Tudor” is exceptionally strong, wrapping up Elizabeth’s reign (but again, not overly romanticizing her); flowing into a memorable, well-rounded Epilogue in which Lisle truly brings home the Tudor message in a way not many history books have. Lisle doesn’t just stop there, as she briefly discusses some Tudor myths in the Appendices. For those readers who enjoy notes, Lisle offers pages worth while also serving up color plates and genealogical trees.
Even though one may not experience new information on the pages of “Tudor”, the presentation is entirely new. Versus a straightforward look at Tudor history, Lisle opens up the personal view of the Tudors and how THEY viewed themselves which explains their actions better then a simple look at their political actions. Lisle successfully treads a middle ground where readers both new and old to the topic will find enjoyment. “Tudor” is well-written and extremely readable with Lisle showing a marked improvement in her writing (it is obvious that she has more great things in store). Although not perfect, “Tudor” is very much recommended for anyone and everyone interested in the topic.
Note: My rating is more of a 4.5 but rounded to 4 versus 5 ...more
Love her or hate her, Anne Boleyn is here to stay – even centuries after her execution. How much do we actually know about her is another story entireLove her or hate her, Anne Boleyn is here to stay – even centuries after her execution. How much do we actually know about her is another story entirely: one which Susan Bordo attempts to capture in “The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England’s Most Notorious Queen”.
Bordo’s “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” is not a typical history piece and certainly not a biography. It instead combines elements of a cultural study, history, social history, psychology, and academic argument into one work. Although the first section of “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” recaps common myths surrounding Anne, Henry VIII, and Anne & Henry as a couple; it is not detailed enough for readers new to the topic, who as a result, would be at a loss with the events, authors mentioned, rumors exposed, etc. Therefore, it is best suited for readers with knowledge on the Tudor reign.
“The Creation of Anne Boleyn” instantly suffers from some problems. Most noticeable is Bordo’s constant argument that individuals incorrectly judge Anne’s behaviors based on the morals of modern day rules. Yet, she then compares those same behaviors with modern similes in order to better acquaint the reader with their importance. This is hypocritical. Furthermore, although Bordo attempts to discredit other authors and theories, she doesn’t fully back up her own statements and is equally guilty of the biases and behaviors of those she is accusing (bluntly: Bordo lacks some academic value and is a bit too haughty in her views). Another issue is with repetition, where Bordo tends to drift off and then repeat recent ideas.
On the plus side, it is refreshing that Bordo is US-based so the view of Anne is from a unique/different angle from that of a staunch British author. This also gives “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” a fresh and modern feel. The book is inviting for those who subscribe to the school of thought that Henry was too strong of a personality to be ‘whipped’ by any female and thus Anne wasn’t some bewitching sexpot but merely the subject of Henry’s first lustful, obsessive, infatuation; as this appears to be the main thesis of Bordo’s work.
Although “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” is understandably a cultural study; the constant references to such modern Tudor-pieces as “The Tudors” television series is overused and weakens some of the text. However, Bordo doesn’t claim to lead a purely academic debate and does successfully raise many compelling and suggestive arguments revolving around well-known theories, which whether for or against, provoke deep thinking with the reader. This also encourages slower reading to “take it all in” versus just rushing through the book.
The second section of “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” outlines and discusses the various incarnates of Anne throughout history in a multitude of outlets. This is not only quite in-depth but also interesting. However, Bordo is guilty of composition/arguments likened to that of a college paper, at times. First of all, it is clear that she isn’t a historian and “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” feels like a gender ideology university assignment where Bordo merely picked Anne as a focal point. Second, there are times when Bordo presents a quote but crops it or fine-tunes it to prove her point (much like a journalist).
The third section continues on the route of various portrayals of Anne (mostly with pop culture references and other present day-takes); and is also interesting but heavily feels gossipy, provoking of a fight, and like a bashing of authors (from both Bordo and other authors). Although I am not a strong proponent of Philippa Gregory and so I agreed with Bordo’s opinions on her (she supports Robin Maxwell whom I dislike as much as PG); the insults were too much and this portion of the book felt childish, pointless, and lacking merit. In fact, Bordo comes off as arrogant and calls herself an “Anne Boleyn Scholar” while she, herself, is new to the topic and is less versed than I am! Take that, Bordo!
Luckily, this turns around when Bordo discusses why the portrayals of Anne occur in relation to ideologies, cultures, and feminism. Sadly, this is only expressed on a few pages and begs for extension. This spins into why people love Anne today based on these deeper psychologies and thus ends “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” on a strong note. Also pleasing are the amount of primary and secondary sources by Bordo, plus her offered notes.
“The Creation of Anne Boleyn” is not a terrible book. It has a strong premise with a unique angle which clearly exemplifies Bordo’s ardor on the topic. However, it begs for more meat, some clarity, and editing making it obvious that this is Bordo’s first foray into the topic. Although “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” didn’t blow me away and I expected a bit more, I do recommend it for fellow Tudorphiles or those interested in Anne Boleyn.
I would like to note that the author rudely addressed me as I asked an another author if Susan mentioning the author in her book effected her review. Susan jumped on me for questioning the said author's review and also implied that I lied that she called herself an "Anne Boleyn scholar" (if I had the book, I would quote the page). Her tone and way of addressing me puts a sour taste in my mouth and thus I will never recommend her work....more
One of the biggest open windows into the lives of royal figures is the letters written by their own hands (since we clearly can’t travel back into timOne of the biggest open windows into the lives of royal figures is the letters written by their own hands (since we clearly can’t travel back into time to actually converse with them personally). Anne Crawford, a former Assistant Keeper at the Public Record Office, compiled some letters (and biographies) of some of the Queens (or Queen Mothers) in “Letters of the Queens of England”.
Crawford introduces “Letter’s of the Queens of England” by announcing to the readers that some of the figures portrayed have more letters available than others which resulted in having to decide which would be more valuable to use/include in the anthology. Conversely, some Queens left no letters behind but were included with biographical coverage in order to provide a comprehensive look at these women. This explanation provided a clear insight into what to expect in “Letters of the Queens of England” and was thus, well appreciated.
The introduction also includes facts regarding when signatures were first used, which languages (and why) letters were written in, fertility rates, and marriages and is therefore a great queenship introduction to the average reader. Crawford immediately demonstrates intelligence and passion concerning the topic.
“Letters of the Queens of England” is divided into five sections (Norman Queens, Angevin Queens, Plantagenet, Lancastrian & York, and Tudor) which allows for readers to pick and choose their queens of interest. For those opting to read the text through, the chronology makes sense and is smooth. This can also be said about the writing style which is clearly well-researched but not overly scholarly (more of a brief look) resulting in an interesting and well-paced read.
At times, the abundance of names and figures can become difficult to handle especially for those readers unfamiliar with the histories. Crawford does provide genealogical charts and marriage tables in the appendix which helps to sort through the cluster.
Although it is effective and revealing to read letters written by queens; some of Crawford’s biases do bleed though regarding each queen, meaning that it is clear what image is being attempted to define each female and the message that is being reinforced with each letter (although the letters’ contexts are also described). Luckily, these opinions aren’t overly pushed down one’s throat (but they are still obvious).
“Letters of the Queens of England” becomes a bit repetitious and dry as each section describes the same elements of each queen’s life and the information therefore runs together without standout moments. On another negative note, “Letters of the Queens of England” also contains some inaccurate information. However, most were minor and the accuracy overall is acceptable. Although, some of these errors question the editor of the book (for example: Lady Rochford –Jane Boleyn—being called Anne).
Although purely personal, I would have preferred Crawford to have used a different font for the actual letters for ease of quick differentiation of the passages.
Overall, “Letters of the Queens of England” is a terrific resource for those doing research on specific queens and wanting to cite their letters in full. Plus, the content is certainly interesting for Anglophiles and is accessible and interesting with a better insight into the lives of these women. “Letters of the Queens of England” is suggested for royalty-lovers. ...more
Each of Henry VIII’s wives had a personal fate to be remembered by. Katherine Parr is remembered as the matronly one who took care of Henry and attempEach of Henry VIII’s wives had a personal fate to be remembered by. Katherine Parr is remembered as the matronly one who took care of Henry and attempted to further the Reformist cause (a portrayal which isn’t entirely correct) and then married the rogue Thomas Seymour. Elizabeth Femantle tells Katherine’s version of events in “Queen’s Gambit”.
“Queen’s Gambit” instantly opens with historical fluff and inaccuracies which sets the tone of a historical recreation novel versus an emphasis on accuracy. This is discouraging for those readers who seek more history than fiction in HF novels. On the other hand, Fremantle’s dialogue and text style is accurate with the times versus being modern and also carries a level of eloquence. However, this is off-put by an overemphasized effort towards flowery phrases and literary means, which falls short.
The plot of “Queen’s Gambit” is flat early on with a slow pace. The novel follows a heavy “As you know, Bob”- style meaning that pages pass with the characters merely recalling events or discussing other figures with a lack of any activity or actually “living” proceedings. This creates dull text and a slow story.
Speaking of characters; none seem properly introduced or developed which results in a thick veil when attempting to get to know them. Katherine feels far away which is disappointing as the novel is expected to reveal her inner thoughts and psyche. Fremantle’s portrayal of Katherine is tight and constrained while surprisingly, she is much more ‘loose’ with other characters such as Dot (Katherine’s maid) and even Henry. In fact, “Queen’s Gambit” is told through both Katherine and Dot’s eyes with Dot’s being more ‘real’ due to a more relaxed storytelling.
Elaborating on reality; “Queen’s Gambit” questions believability early on and suffers from development issues such as Katherine falling in love with Thomas Seymour after only one conversation with him (this is stretching it even in a world of courtly love). Fremantle therefore misses ample opportunities of event and character building, making the plot of “Queen’s Gambit” aloof.
“Queen’s Gambit” monumentally improves approximately half-way through upon Katherine’s marriage to Henry. Although there is still too much talk of activity versus partaking in it; the drama does increase. It seems that Fremantle gains some confidence as the story progresses. This strength continues as the plot thickens with a religious focus and Katherine’s reformist views. This plot focus is a refreshing take versus the romantic side of the story and encourages turning of the pages. However, Katherine is still not truly unveiled as a character and one doesn’t feel as though he/she truly ‘knows’ her.
Also positive is the historical accuracy of the smaller details such as court etiquette and decorum, sumptuary laws, decorations, etc. Although there are some errors such as the emphasis on Katherine having lice when the Tudors had fleas but lice was considered lowly and higher social classes did not generally have them.
An incident occurs three-quarters way through which is complete ludicrous and will anger readers striving for historical accuracy (sadly, general readers will believe this angle). Luckily, this is dropped rather quickly and not explored. Similarly, the ending of “Queen’s Gambit” is weaker than expected; still not truly presenting a true sense of Katherine but at least being quite accurate historically.
For less versed readers, Fremantle includes a character list and a list of important Tudor dates. Although helpful to the general reader, this would be better suited in the beginning and also supplemented with a thorough author’s note describing the historical liberties taken as this was barely addressed by Fremantle.
Extra Notes:Noticeable to readers is a lack of proper chapter breaks with each stretching far too long causing both a lag and an inability of the story to ‘breathe’. Also, the entire book addressing Katherine’s sister as “Sister Anne” is INCREDIBLY annoying.
Overall, “Queen’s Gambit” begins slowly with historical fluff but finds its footing and momentum, turning into a decent novel. Although one-dimensional storytelling and a lack of truly getting to know Katherine is maintained; Fremantle does include strong historical effects. One can see potential despite first-novel jitters so I would read Fremantle again to see how she fairs. “Queen’s Gambit” isn’t terrible but not a masterpiece, either. It is worth reading for those interested in Henry’s wives and the lesser focused on: Katherine Parr.
I was torn between 2 or 3 and went with 3 so perhaps 2.5...more
Although I live in the United States; I wouldn’t be able to list most of the US Presidents if you paid me. Yet, ask me the monarchs of England and I cAlthough I live in the United States; I wouldn’t be able to list most of the US Presidents if you paid me. Yet, ask me the monarchs of England and I could list them (in order, mind you) even while half asleep. Ian Crofton provides a similar directory in, “Kings and Queens of England: The Lives and Reigns of the Monarchs of England”.
“Kings and Queens of England” is a small, colorful, glossy-paged book which is fit for a reference shelf (albeit a thin one) or a coffee table. The structure is that of a directory or quick-reference guide while the content is exactly what it claims to be: a listing of English monarchs with brief bios (generally 2-4 pages for each).
The term ‘brief’ is not an exaggeration as the issue with “Kings and Queens of England” is that it is much too summarized and simplified. Although Crofton does mention interesting and/or menial notes and facts; nothing is detailed and therefore the reader is not left with a solid image of any of the monarchs. Basically, “Kings and Queens of England” is somewhat flat and not memorable.
On the other hand, the format is useful as a quick reference with charts depicting the monarch’s coat of arms and listing such facts as birth date, parents, children, succession date, house, death, etc; while the section contain photos, quotes, and small supplemented texts to round the bios. Worth mentioning is that the quoted paragraphs are much too small in font size and will present some trouble for those with eye problems.
An annoying factor is Crofton’s habit of mentioning Shakespeare and the playwright’s depictions of kings. Although this may be used in order to find a common ground with the average reader; it comes off as elementary and far from scholarly.
Sadly, Crofton doesn’t explore any new ground in “Kings and Queens of England” and thus those readers well-read on English royalty will be somewhat bored unless looking for a quick recap. In fact, the text is better suited for young adults versus adults (unless the adult has no previous knowledge on the subject). Crofton also states too many myths and propaganda pieces as though they are factual plus much of “Kings and Queens of England” is dated (such as the section on Richard III). Therefore, it is suggested to take the text with a grain of salt.
On a positive note, Crofton smoothly presents the transition of ultimate monarchism to the ceremonial role it holds today; helping the reader understand the modern-day impact of their role. The conclusion is solid stipulating on the future of the royal family while also offering genealogical charts.
Note: “Kings and Queens of England” focuses on the monarchs regnant versus consort.
Overall, “Kings and Queens of England” is a quick, overly simplified introduction to the monarchs of England. Dated, riding on speculation, and brief; the text sadly won’t make an impact with readers. Those familiar with the topic won’t learn anything new and therefore the book is only strongly suggested for general readers who simply want to be debriefed. ...more
Whether one believes Catherine Howard was an innocent child begging for love or instead a slut who deserved her fate; her story as the “rose without aWhether one believes Catherine Howard was an innocent child begging for love or instead a slut who deserved her fate; her story as the “rose without a thorn” turned executed wife is well-known. Carolly Erickson explores Henry VIII’s fifth wife in her historical entertainment, “The Unfaithful Queen”.
“The Unfaithful Queen” begins with Erickson attempting to immediately shock readers by describing Anne Boleyn’s execution, a lemon in a “honeypot”, and a self-induced abortion just to name a few events. Although these are somewhat surprising, the constructs are far-fetched and not executed smoothly. Rather than supplement the story, these instead add annoyance and falseness to the already thin narrative.
The writing style, plot, and characterizations in “The Unfaithful Queen” are flat and rather juvenile. Each character fits into a specific stereotype with no personalization or explored elements. Catherine is portrayed as much too innocent for my taste. Plus, her character development is inconsistent as she is a naive child in one moment but then acts much older during the next. Although that may be how the mind of a typical teenager actually functions; I found it to be disillusioning (that, along with Catherine’s extreme pleasure the first time she has a sexual experience… yeah, right!).
Surprisingly, on a whole, the general premise of “The Unfaithful Queen” is more accurate than usual, although the implementation of the story is best described as “silly” and more suitable for teen readers. Elements of the historical events don’t “stick out” and therefore don’t teach much to those new to the life of Catherine. Often, “The Unfaithful Queen” has a rushed pace (even skipping years from one page to the next) which also adds to the lack of depth and truly “feeling” the story.
“The Unfaithful Queen” does improve slightly as it progresses; however, it produces irritations such as a lack of chemistry between Henry and Catherine, an absence of any historical settings or feelings (too modern), and the introduction of odd characters such as the “Dowager Duchess of Cleves” who yells at Henry accusing him of intending to eventually behead her daughter (?!). Did I mention Catherine also has an adorable (sarcasm) pet monkey?
The best conceived portion of the novel (although that isn’t saying much); is the rendering of Catherine during her suspected treason and adultery. The conclusion of these proceedings has a creative flair which ties into the first chapter.
Overall, “The Unfaithful Queen” is diaphanous, lacking detail, and is more of a day at “Tudor High School”. Readers are better off watching Catherine Howard’s season on “The Tudors” television show. This is another Erickson fictional entertainment which is only recommended to intro historical fiction readers. ...more
Admittedly, I have not read Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall”. However, with my extensive knowledge of all things Tudor, I looked forward to Mantel’s “BringAdmittedly, I have not read Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall”. However, with my extensive knowledge of all things Tudor, I looked forward to Mantel’s “Bring up the Bodies” (so much so, that I am the one who requested the library to order it into their offerings). Although I am not a Cromwell supporter, I was open to his point of view…
My immediate initial reaction to “Bring up the Bodies” was one of worry. The writing style seemed “messy” and to be a compilation of first-person, third-person, and narrative. This seemed very unique to Mantel and although it causes her work to stick out, I simply could not get a grasp of it. This style prohibited me from truly getting into the characters and the story. However, Mantel’s descriptions of scenes and emotions are so beautiful, poetic, and deep; that they kept me from giving up on the novel all together. Even some of the dialogue/phrases from the characters are worth noting such as Katherine of Aragon to Cromwell, “At least, as an enemy, you stand in plain sight. I wish my friends could bear to be so conspicuous…”
A note on the characters, however, is that they were somewhat one-dimensional. Cromwell was too caring and gentle in comparison to other portrayals and Jane Seymour was a little girl in nature. Every role fit inside a stereotypical box. This may possibly be my opinion due to my lack of reading “Wolf Hall” but it still effected character development, nonetheless. Some of the side characters aren’t necessarily to story development and although they may have foreshadowing or symbolic significance; this isn’t always as easy to decipher. For instance, the cameo appearances of Anne’s dwarf are more gruesome than whimsy.
Some of Mantel’s devices of constantly jumping back and forth between current plot lines and memories also caused disjointed moments (and again, may have been more appreciated having read WH). Equally as annoying was her constant mention of “he, Cromwell”; when Cromwell spoke or thought. I have read reviews/complaints about WH not clearly indicating when Cromwell is speaking and it appears Mantel tried to fix that issue… and not very well.
Despite all my negativity, “Bring up the Bodies” has an ample amount of build-up for even those who the story already, which creates a page turner. “Bring up the Bodies” is best for those familiar with the story because instead of re-telling history, Mantel attempts to show inner thoughts, points of view, and behind the scene looks at the famous events.
As the novel progresses, those readers not comfortable with Mantel’s writing style can become “used to it”, as was the case with myself. Although I still didn’t prefer it, some of the haze was lifted and I was able to digest the story with more ease. At this junction, the novel transformed into a somewhat lighter versus dense read.
Although the novel has some historical inaccuracies, Mantel also presents some thought-provoking possibilities such as Jane Rochford only begging for George’s reputation after she supposedly implicated him merely to cover her own machinations.
My main problem was the lack of truly showing Cromwell’s dealings. To me, he seemed simple and boring in regards to the plot to remove Anne and quite dull in nature. There was a lack of drama and showing of the importance of these events. Furthermore, the interrogations and trial of Anne’s supposed adulterers was glossed over and rushed which was a huge disappointment as it should have been the climax, in a sense.
In contrast to the above complaint, the ending was very strong. Although I would have preferred more elaboration on Anne’s execution; Cromwell’s reactions looked into his psyche in a satisfying way and presented his fears, doubts of his own wife’s loyalties, his thoughts of the future, strengths, weaknesses, etc. These emotions truly brought Cromwell to life and even caused me to pity his life’s outcome. Had the entire novel been as deep as the last few pages, then “Bring up the Bodies” would have brought more pleasure.
I have to give credit to Mantel that “Bring up the Bodies” is certainly “different” than most HF novels. Whether this is “good-different” or “different-different”, that is up to the reader to decide. If you enjoy screenplays, you will enjoy this novel, as it is very similar in nature. Overall, Mantel’s work isn’t terrible but simply not for me. Again, perhaps this has to do with not reading WH beforehand, but I don’t think any series or sequel should 100% require previous reading to experience fulfillment. ...more
Catherine of Aragon was a remarkable woman – the daughter of the great Queen Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, a formidable leader of the BatCatherine of Aragon was a remarkable woman – the daughter of the great Queen Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, a formidable leader of the Battle of Flodden, and eventually known for being displaced by Anne Boleyn but holding true to her wedding vows. Catherine was born for the history books but is often outshone by the aforementioned Anne Boleyn. Giles Tremlett brings Catherine to the forefront in, “Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of Henry VIII”.
Tremlett begins “Catherine of Aragon” with an initial look at Spain and her monarch parentage before describing Catherine’s childhood. The pace is exceptionally lively, easy-to-understand, and reads very much like a fictional novel. In fact, some readers who prefer a more perfunctory scholarly prose may find “Catherine of Aragon” to be too fluffy for a history book. Yet, the research is still strong and this makes the content memorable and easy-to-retain. “Catherine of Aragon” is great as an introduction into her life for new readers or a light recap for those already familiar as there isn’t too much new information.
The chapters of “Catherine of Aragon” are quite short again easing the workload and lightening the history but it also slightly breaks reader attention because just as a reader is getting “into” a discussion, then the chapter ends.
The major flaw within “Catherine of Aragon” is Tremlett’s overly familiar and casual language which he dips into quite often. For example, Tremlett seems to have an obsession with the term, ‘party’ (used as a verb) and constantly comments on “partying at the court” or “Catherine partying”. There is even a chapter titled, “Partying Queen”. Not only is this overused but it also has no place in such a text. Tremlett also includes speculative statements in the “would have” and “could have” realm plus descriptions which are clearly guesswork and circumstantial. These facets greatly take away from the credibility of the work.
On the other hand, Tremlett does well with not putting Catherine on a pedestal and doesn’t make her a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ figure and merely states her actions objectively but with a live mirth versus just a statement of historical events.
As “Catherine of Aragon” proceeds, it becomes noticeably weaker and rife with repetition and thin material. Tremlett begins each chapter in a way which is stylized like a fictional novel and the content is summarized. “Catherine of Aragon” is definitely a light, personal look at this figure and not a heavy, political, scholarly one. Also weakening the text is Tremlett’s poor citations making unsubstantiated claims. Quite often, Tremlett quotes letters going onwards to state that they are “most certainly fictional” and yet doesn’t cite this hypothesis (these are the same documents which other authors and historians claim as authentic). This continues to lessen the credibility of the text.
A large portion of “Catherine of Aragon” focuses on Henry VIII’s “Great Matter”. Although still feeling like a summary view without new information; Tremlett’s take is fresh is that he doesn’t merely focus on Anne Boleyn, the Reformation, and making Catherine a victim but rather shows how strong and obstinate Catherine was opening up the momentous event in a new way which makes readers think twice about.
The conclusion of “Catherine of Aragon” is very rushed and comes to an anti-climatic abrupt end not really giving Catherine the justice she observes. This is followed by notes (not annotated and quite short) and a bibliography. “Catherine of Aragon” also contains a section of photo plates.
“Catherine of Aragon” is a fast-paced text which flows almost like a novel make it great for those unfamiliar with the material. The issue is that it is a bit too light for those seeking a scholarly work and Tremlett’s text is poorly cited. “Catherine of Aragon” isn’t ‘bad’ (if you can put up with all of the ‘partying’!); it just isn’t academic. Tremlett’s “Catherine of Aragon” is best recommended for readers interested in Tudor England but who aren’t as versed on the matter or well-educated readers who seek a quick, light book used as a refresher or occupier. ...more
Each wife of Henry VIII left behind quite a legacy, to say the least. Divorced, beheaded, died… not necessarily a great one, but a legacy nonetheless!Each wife of Henry VIII left behind quite a legacy, to say the least. Divorced, beheaded, died… not necessarily a great one, but a legacy nonetheless! It can be agreed that Anne of Cleves was probably the luckiest of all the wives. Yet, there are many misunderstandings surrounding Anne, her marriage with Henry, and of Tudor marriages, in general. Retha M. Warnicke studies this compelling topic in, “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves: Royal Protocol in Tudor England”.
“The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” has a double-fold thesis aiming to discuss (1) the marriages of Henry in terms of protocol and (2) the marriage of Anne of Cleves and Henry, specifically. Warnicke’s work has a somewhat slow and inauspicious beginning, covering the general state of marriages and the rituals involved. This is a bit of a disappointment if seeking an instant focus on Anne of Cleves. Warnicke has the habit of venturing on tangents and spending pages on topics which feel unrelated and can be skimmed.
On a related note, “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” is very scholarly and academic (one could argue that the text is even slightly dry) with an overload of information. Thus, “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” may be a bit overwhelming for new readers with too many names, dates, and events noted. However, this is great for those readers seeking a more in-depth viewpoint and a heavy-history slant. Even as a well-versed Tudor history reader, I still gained some new knowledge. At the same time, there are some noticeable factual errors and inaccuracies which do not concur with other authors and are not explained thoroughly.
Annoyingly, Warnicke addresses the reader in every chapter (and often several times in a chapter), announcing what will be “discussed next” or “…in the upcoming chapter…” This breaks attention and also makes the piece feel like it is Warnicke’s notes versus the final product.
On the other hand, there are some very positive moments in “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” where Warnicke explores common Anne topics (her appearance, lack of musical talent, inability to speak English, etc); and with detective-like stealth debunks myths and presents proper backing arguments. These will cause Tudor fans to re-think the marriage with Anne and even reconsider some of Henry’s actions; therefore providing a solid, well-rounded view.
The highlight of “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” are the chapters studying the marriage, Cromwell’s fall, and the divorce; as they contain many “ah-ha!” moments. However, this text is often filled with Warnicke quoting contemporary historians’ secondary material instead of primary documents resulting in a college research paper-feel.
The final chapter of “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” focuses on Cromwell instead of Anne making for a weak ending. However, the conclusion summarizes the entire marriage and is thus a good reminder of the entire text. “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” is also supplemented by two sections of (black-and-white) color plates plus a notes section (although this isn’t detailed and is more of a source list).
It should be mentioned that some of Warnicke’s conclusions are odd and biased but stated with vindication: take these with a grain of salt.
“The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” is a bit distracted, inconsistent, and somewhat overwhelming but terrific in its subject and information presentation. Although not recommended for those new to the topic (due to information overload); the book is a tasty morsel for academic lovers of Tudor England and Henry VIII’s wives. I would read another work from the author based on “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves”. ...more