Meg's Reviews > The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives: A Novel

The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives by Tim Darcy Ellis
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it was amazing
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The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives by Tim Darcy Ellis is a comprehensive and exquisite historical novel about a largely forgotten figure. Juan Luis Vives was a Spanish, Jewish, and Renaissance scholar, and this novel shows his fascinating life in a fast-paced and detailed manner. Vives is a largely forgotten historical figure despite his powerful connections with some of the leading intellects of the time.

This novel begins in modern times with an electrician opening up a study and discovering an ancient book: which happens to be Juan Luis Vives’s diary. Vives was remarkably progressive for a man living in the 15th and 16th centuries, he advocated for animal rights, literacy for women, and is often depicted as ‘the father of modern psychology’. Vives had to navigate the world as a New Christian - going from one tribunal to the next and exploring love, hate, knowledge, and power.

During this era, the deadly Spanish Inquisition were burning all non-Catholics in cold blood - particularly Jews so Vives models as a Catholic but then lands himself in a difficult situation with King Henry the VIII of England - which he was shipped over to tutor the King’s daughter Mary (future queen of England otherwise known as ‘Bloody Mary’). However, Henry was in a terrible war with the Catholic Church, which stems from his desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon, as she is aging and did not bring Henry any sons.

Both Catherine (youngest surviving child of King Ferdinand II of Aragon) and Henry seek assistance from Vives - which leaves him in a very complicated dilemma. If he should help Catherine, he would be helping the same rulers who are murdering his friends, family, and would not hesitate to kill him if they were to find out his true religion. However, if he successfully manipulates the king - he can provide aid for Jews in Britain.

This novel is an introspective masterpiece that peeks into the wounded soul that Vives had to live with whilst making decisions that would transform the lives of many. Tim Darcy Ellis is an excellent historical writer with a very strong educated background that has allowed this novel to depict the odd times of Tudor England accurately. Vives remains true to his bold personality throughout, which as a reader, makes you root for him consistently, even during some of his darker moments.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in historical novels, a dramatic retelling of history, or psychological dramas. Even if historical fiction is not your ‘go-to’ genre - there is certainly a lot in this book to be enjoyed across all genres like romance, power dynamics, and religion.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
Finished Reading
August 13, 2020 – Shelved

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