A beautifully written book. The language so well creates a time and space depicting Wales, coal mining of days passed, union struggles and both the wo...moreA beautifully written book. The language so well creates a time and space depicting Wales, coal mining of days passed, union struggles and both the wonders and hardships of the land. You grow to love the people. When the book is over you are so sad, but also happy to have met these wonderful people and been part of their lives. (less)
Finished: I am VERY glad I read the book. However I am also glad that it is done. So how can I give it more than three stars. The author brings to lif...moreFinished: I am VERY glad I read the book. However I am also glad that it is done. So how can I give it more than three stars. The author brings to life the medieval era. After reading the book you truly know the character traits of the main historical figures. I cannot emphasize this enough. They become true friends/foes. They are real, no one-sided portrayals. No good guys and bad guys, just real people with good and bad qualities. Boy did I come to like Henry II! And King Stephen before him, a king with a heart and a good military leader but the chivalry so central to medieval warfare is so bizarre b/c it often prolongs the suffering and devastation of the masses. Life in Wales is invitingly described, which makes me want to read Here Be Dragons by the same author. I am also torn b/c I want to know more about Henry and Eleanor d' Aquitaine. Around page 700 of 900 the book really picks up! Couldn't the preceding 700 pages have been edited? The question is whether I would have really come to understand warfare in the Middle Ages. I have very mixed feelings about this book!
Read pages 234 of 909: So far I think this book does not have the pull of Gortner's The Last Queen. It is historucally very accurate, and it is made clear what is fact and what fiction but I am getting bogged down by the civil war occurring in England. OK, it did happen and history is history but a little editing might of helped! It is hard to get through. In addition I am getting bogged down by the continual bickering between Maude and Geoffrey, and actually I am also a little tired of hearing how wonderful Stephen's and Matilda's marriage is. I also find it difficult with the names - there are just so many people having the same names. Many of the main historical characters are delineated in family charts at the front of the book. Otherwise I would be lost! What I do like is that Penman has for the most part drawn the characters so they come alive. Currently I feel terribly sorry for Maude and Geoffrey's son Henry! Stephen's good and bad sides are well depicted, but other characters are less nuanced. Maybe this will change as the story progresses. The history is clearly depicted and not hard to follow. I appreciate that.(less)
After 172 pages I have decided to dump this.I do NOT enjoy reading it and I have given it a fair try. I am often hesitant toward autobiographies, part...moreAfter 172 pages I have decided to dump this.I do NOT enjoy reading it and I have given it a fair try. I am often hesitant toward autobiographies, particularly when they are historical fiction. An autobiography cannot, by definition, provide an impartial view on the events that occurred. Margaret George is an author known for her thorough research, but in that which is not known she has made suppositions that I cannot accept. In my mind it is very clear that Henry was motivated by power. He was a king and it definitely was his job to increase England's (and his own) glory, strength and power. Why did he split with the Pope? Divorce was not allowed. When Catherine's father, King Ferdinand of Spain, did not support Henry against the French as had been agreed, it is not so strange that he questioned his wife's allegiance. In addition she did not give him a male heir. Henry's choices were motivated by a search for power. This is a power game, nothing else. I object to George putting these words into the text:
I would take my place on the Continental stage, to pursue England's lost dream of conquering France in its entirety. Perhaps that was what God truly required of me; perhaps it was here that I had failed Him. As King, there were certain tasks that I must undertake, as surely as a knight at Arthur's Round Table was given them, and to shirk them meant shame and cowardice........
Perhaps when I conquered France, God would turn his face toward me. I became more and more convinced of it. .......
My advisors and Council, by and large, were not convinced. Of my desire to redeem myself with God they were unaware; but they were against war with France. Father had spoiled them with his lack of involvement in foreign entanglements, and like any privileged state, they had got used to it. (page 145)
There is no proof of such a supposition. He used the church for his own purposes; I do not see him as being religiously motivated. He is motivated by a search for power.
This book is a diary written by King Henry, with added notes by his jester, Will Somers. These notes are meant to explain, round out and fill in the King's statements. But tell me why are they never funny if he is the court jester?! These "notes" add nothing, they merely disrupt the text.
In addition, it is mentioned by Somers that the song Greensleeves was sung. Although it is today discounted, it has been thought that King Henry wrote it for Anne Boleyn. King Henry hadn't even met her yet.
And Catherine of Aragon was married to Henry's older brother Arthur first...... It is stated she is a virgin!
Although I am not stating that Margaret George is fictionalizing the known facts, I question all too often her suppositions, and there is no humor!
Even if there is a family tree at the front of the book it isn't that simple to keep track of all the characters. Do you know why you have to call people Duke or Marquis or Earl of for example York or Exeter or Cambridge? That is because all the men are called Henry or Edward and the women Mary or Catherine or Anne. This is a way of keeping track of who is who.(ha ha) I would have appreciated a map of these places.
If this book is not going to get me inside the heads of the leading players in a believable manner, I might as well just read a book of non-fiction or go to Wikipedia. Once I started questioning what I was being fed, I spent more time reading Wiki than reading the book!
There was one, and only one, little sparkle in the first 172 pages of the book, and that is when Henry fell head over heels in love with his brother's wife Catherine.....but soon that disappeared and was replaced with his drive for success and power. 932 pages of this is just not my cup of tea. I warn you, you have to love the Tudors to be drawn to this book!
No, this book was not even OK! I ran to Wikipedia every time I could. I expect more than one little sparkle in 172 pages.(less)
How to best describe this book so prospective readers will know whether they w like it or not? Look at the beginning lines of the book description: "A...moreHow to best describe this book so prospective readers will know whether they w like it or not? Look at the beginning lines of the book description: "An extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century & the First World War. The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, NY." Tapestry is the word you want to pay attention to. When you look at a tapestry you see a lot of small details, but you don't get much deep understanding. You are presented with a snapshot. Or do this; picture a Brueghel painting - lots of people, each busily doing their own thing. Do you even expect to understand their inner thoughts? No! This is the best way to describe how this book is written. There are tons of interesting details that will have you checking things out at Wikipedia. I didn't know of the existence of “Belgian marble” or “Norwegian maples”, and learning of their existence was interesting. Nevertheless, these are mere surface details describing a place in the book. No further information s given; for that you need to go to Wiki. The smattering of assorted facts captivates a curious reader.
What I did not enjoy is that you feel absolutely no empathy for any of the characters. You are delivered a snapshot of a time and place. There is a plot involving a fictional family. We are not meant to be drawn into character analysis. This family consists of a mother, father, son, younger brother (who is the brother of the mother) and a grandfather. No names are given. There are a handful of other fictional characters, but intertwined with these are historical figures all readers will recognize. J. P. Morgan piqued my interest. Historical details are said to be impeccably presented. Harry Houdini, Evelyn Nesbit, Booker T. Washington, Henry Ford, Robert Peary, Sigmund Freud and Emma Goldman -they are all here too. Do not expect a thorough biography or deep analysis of any of these characters though. The fictional story too presents a snapshot - of New York at the beginning of the 20th Century. Tammany Hall politics, women's rights, racial inequalities and the growing pains of rapid industrialization and growth of unions.
The author reads the audiobook in a level tone …. that easily puts the reader to sleep! There is no dialog.
What I liked were the assorted facts and the author’s unique way of blending fact with fiction.
It may be interesting to note that there is some debate as to whether the author “reinvented” Heinrich von Kleist’s German novella Michael Kohlhaas, published in 1811, or should be considered guilty of plagiarism. (less)