Posted By Claire on December 15, 2009
Anne Boleyn Files visitor, Christine Nicole Kimmell was kind enough to write this review on Margaret George’s fictional “autobiography” of King Henry VIII:-
The Autobiography of Henry VIII, With Notes From His Fool Will Somers, was an absolutely fascinating read. Although it is fictional it feels as though you are actually in Henry VIII’s head. It is the only book that I have read that has ever made an effort to get to know Henry, rather than the image that he created for himself. It shows vulnerability and heart, which is a rarity when reading about Henry.
The book focuses exclusively on Henry VIII, with the exception of the bits of humor and perspective interjected by Will Somers. The back drop is beautifully painted, detailed but never boring. Absolutely a must read for anyone who is interested in “getting to know” Henry VIII personally.
One of the aspects of the book that I most enjoyed was the attention paid by the author to Henry’s life before he became king, unlike other novels that I have read, that seem to gloss over the first 25 years of his life.
Henry’s personality is also much more deeply explored than I’ve ever read before. Rather than building upon his already well known public persona, the author takes the time to show some of Henry’s insecurities that he may have been trying to hide beneath the pomp and grandeur of his image. Henry is credited with enough intelligence to realize the views the people around him had about his more whimsical tendencies, whereas it is generally believed that Henry was too self involved and childish to realize that others knew it was him in a play, or knew he was the tall, red-headed, masked figure.
The only part of the book that I found disappointing was that Anne and Henry’s relationship felt like it was somewhat minimised. The author gives the impression that Henry viewed Anne as more decorative, rather than an intellectual equal. It does not paint the picture of a passionate romance, more of a lukewarm infatuation that was easily moved on from.
In conclusion, this book is an absolute must read for any Tudor enthusiast. It is a challenging read, challenging in that it makes you stop and think. I found myself reading excerpts to my husband and pondering over the deeper meaning of certain quotes. It is an enormous book, but don’t be put off by that. I had an extremely hard time putting it down. While reading it, it literally feels as though you’ve gone back in time. The thoughts, feelings and situations of the “characters” have definite parallels to our own modern lives and gives interesting and poignant perspective.
Review by Christine Nicole Kimmell
You can read an excerpt from this novel and read an interview with the author at Margaret George’s website – see http://www.margaretgeorge.com/books/henry.asp
This book is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK – click on book covers above – or from your favourite book retailer.