The year is 1527. The great portraitist Hans Holbein, who has fled the reformation in Europe, is making his first trip to England under commission to Sir Thomas More. In the course of six years, Holbein will become a close friend to the More family and paint two nearly identical family portraits. But closer examination of the paintings reveals that the second holds several mysteries...
Set against the turmoil, intrigue and, tragedy of Henry VIII's court, Portrait of an Unknown Woman vividly evokes sixteenth-century England on the verge of enormous change. As the Protestant Reformation sweeps across Europe to lap at England's shores, relations between her king and the Catholic Church begin to plummet-driven by Henry VIII's insatiable need for a male heir and the urgings of his cunning mistress Anne Boleyn-and heresy begins to take hold. As tensions rise, Henry VIII turns to his most trusted servant and defender of Catholic orthodoxy, Sir Thomas More to keep peace in England, but soon the entire More family find their own lives at risk.
At the center of Portrait of an Unknown Woman is Meg Gigg's, Sir Thomas More's twenty-three year old adopted daughter. Intelligent, headstrong, and tender-hearted, Meg has been schooled in the healing arts. And though she is devoted to her family, events conspire that will cause Meg to question everything she thought she knew-including the desires of her own heart. As the danger to More and his family increases, two men will vie for Meg's affections: John Clement, her former tutor and More's protégé who shares Meg's passion for medicine, but whose true identity will become unclear, and the great Holbein, who's artistic vision will forever alter her understanding of the world.
With a striking sense of period detail Portrait of an Unknown Woman is an unforgettable story of sin and religion, desire and deception. It is the story of a young woman on the brink of sensual awakening and of a country on the edge of mayhem.
Portrait of an Unknown Woman
It was just a room. A mean little room at the back of a mean little house,
under All Hallows. But it was a room full of God.
Bet youd like to see how I make my remedies, Davy had said almost a taunt when I took myself with cloak and basket round the apothecaries and stopped at his tatty display. He grinned for the passers-by. Bet youve never seen real unicorns horn, eh, missis?
The street boys cackled and poked each other with their elbows. I swallowed, ignored them, and nodded, wondering whether he was really just a lunatic after all, and he loped off eastwards, looking behind to make sure I was following.
He went on muttering. I caught some words on the wind as I hurried along behind, but nothing that made any sense. Once he turned round with a mad laugh and waved a dirty bottle taken from his pocket at me. Elixir of truth! he shrieked cheerfully. ...
Bennett's writing is a little overwrought at times, but this is at heart a love-story so a little overwriting is easy to forgive. However, her ability to conjure up the smells, sights and sounds of 16th century London is unbeatable.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (884 words).
Vanora Bennett became a
journalist by accident; having
learned Russian and been hired
out of university by Reuters she
was catapulted into the
adrenaline charged realm of
conflict reporting. She has
reported from Paris, Cambodia,
Indonesia and Africa where she
commuted between Angola and
Mozambique writing about death,
destruction, diamonds and
disease; after which she took a
posting in Chechnya, three
months after it gained
independence from the Soviet
In 1998 she published Crying Wolf: The Return...
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No Man's Land
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Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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