The way I felt about this book was perhaps much like Henry VIII felt about one of his doomed wives At first I was entranced, captivated, under a spell of sorts I couldn t put the book down However, about halfway through the honeymoon was over so to speak , and I began to be annoyed at the little things This was perhaps not the match made in heaven that I thought it was Perhaps I had been led atray By the end there was nothing but the most urgent desire to be done with it let it die already, I m finished, I want to move on, perhaps even a feeling of violence existed towards the book I even already had my next reading choice picked out dare I say that, like Henry, I too could not wait until one marriage was over before I was dallying elsewhere Yet after it was all over and I had moved on, I still found myself looking back with fond memories and a feeling of love that I had thought lost by the end of the bookI think you get the point George s novel is a masterpiece of history, certainly She has captured ALL of Henry VIII s life in her 932 page tome And perhaps that s the problem right along with the interesting came the dull, the mundane, the repetitive There is always an interesting thing to consider when reading historical fiction how much history and how much fiction I appreciate what George has done, certainly, but for me it s always the fiction part I love, whereas George is history I think Give me intrigue, give me drama, give me passion, and anger, and love, and hate Give me all of that even if it isn t all exactly as it should have been I think I prefer Philippa Gregory, even with her bastardized history, as opposed to Margaret George with her flawless accounting.And if you think this review is long, consider the fact that the book took me over a WEEK to read For those of you who know me, that in and of itself is a sad commentary on it s compelling nature I would recommend this novel only to the most dedicated historical fiction and Tudor history buffs. Margaret George appears to have challenged herself to write the definitive biography of England s Henry VIII from the inside out Henry did not leave us any self reflective notes, but there is plenty of material around to provide George with the building blocks for her effort Aside from the salacious aspects of Henry s love them and let them go approach to getting a heir that have been exploited in so many dramatizations, there are the serious issues of church, war and internal politics that were so heightened during this period We also have some of the most famous characters in British history sharing the stage including Thomas Cromwell, Thomas More, Thomas Cardinal Wolsey and I particularly enjoyed her dramatization of the early encounter between Henry and the King of France Francis I.done with broad humor and cunning observations.George says that she came to realize that the general picture of Henry was assembled from those who had an interest in characterizing his faults and that she wanted to supply counterpoint to that In over 900 pages she does just that, and for the most part, does it well If we don t see quite the difference in Henry s voice from the time of childhood to Henry in his fifties, that may be because he never had to do the growing up that the rest of us go through He was always praised, coddled and deferred to The objective point of view is provided by his long serving fool, Will Somers In general, this seems to achieve what George intended I felt no compulsion to speed through this autobiography A little at a time went a long way From what I know of the period, George did not take liberties with the facts Yet how many of you will want to devote yourselves to this very long, very detailed examination of Henry s life If you do, please let me know how well this autobiography works for you. To be a king is to be an unnatural man 4.5 stars The Autobiography of Henry VIII with notes by his Fool, Will Somers is an immense novel in whose world I enjoyed being submerged for 3 weeks while I read it The premise of the text is that it is during the reign of Henry s daughter, Mary, and the late king s former fool has sent the undiscovered private journal of the king to his supposedly illegitimate daughter in order to preserve it for posterity The fool Will Somers notes are actually a very small part of this novel, and most of the text is told from Henry s point of view and in his voice, with infrequent interjections by Will who has written some comments on the items he reads in the journal before sending it off.Henry does not become King until page 92 of this 932 page book, and that is a wise decision of the author s as what precedes his kingship is important to what happens during it This Henry is a product of his youth.One of the joys of this text are the little nuggets of historical reference scattered throughout the book that allude to other historical events and relationships that are not addressed in the novel If you are familiar with the history of the period you will notice them, if not you will be no worse for the wear.A strong suit of this book is how deftly the author, Margaret George, handles the characterization of Henry She shows us, she never tells us Thus, if the reader does not pay attention it is easy to misread this novel Ms George is not celebrating or condemning the protagonist He is a mix of the best and worst of humanity At times, he is appallingly ignorant of the truth of who he is, and at other times he is brutally honest and observant about himself Henry s moments of acute self awareness and of complete lack of self knowledge will hit home for any honest reader Ms George said that she wanted to humanize Henry VIII, she certainly succeeded The characterization of Henry has wonderful depth and vitality The device of this novel being King Henry s journal allows Henry to create himself, a task we all do in our own minds about ourselves every day The reader must determine what truth is and what is self deceit As does everyone who encounters us on a daily basis.The novel flows so smoothly, impressive considering its length Religion, politics and the personal ebb and flow around each other with ease in Ms George s skilled hands I also found myself annotating a lot, there are many profound lines and moments in this text Lines like, Regrets No one sets out to have a list of regrets It is a mortal condition begged to be underlined and thought on.I will say this about The Autobiography of Henry VIII , a historical interest in the period and some Biblical knowledge will greatly aid in your appreciation of the text I enjoyed reading this novel, was never bored by it and a little sad when it ended Not my normal feeling when completing a book of almost 1000 pages This book came unexpectedly into my reading life, I am glad it did I m ashamed by how long this book took me to read, but my defense is that it s a big thick thing, over 900 pages long Not one you should pick up unless you re planning to be in it for the long haul and are genuinely interested in the subject matter.After years of seeing Henry portrayed as a fat, greedy slob whose only concern in life was to have a son, this book made a wonderful change Finally Henry gets a chance to defend himself Margaret George clearly put in a lot of work and research into completing the novel and it brims with historical detail Henry s main preoccupation, it seems, lay not with his wives or with fathering an heir but with his religion and a large portion of the book focuses on the dissolution of the monasteries and Henry s own personal struggle with god.Some parts of the book were enthralling, but at other points I found myself a little bored It seems that Henry s Great Matter really did go on for years and all the detail put in concerning England s breaking away from Rome became rather tedious.Although the majority of the book is told from Henry s point of view, the text is occasionally interjected with words from the King s jester, Will Somers I was expecting these passages to be funnier than they turned out to be, although Somers does have his fair share of witty observations.One thing the book could have benefited from would have been a small glossary of the main characters I ended up becoming a little confused between Cranmer, Cromwell, Wolsey, More, and so forth.Despite its length, the book is very easy to read The language is modern enough for us to understand it easily, but it still retains an aura of authenticity It is a good piece of fleshed out, meticulously researched historical fiction and I would recommend it to anyone interested in the Tudors. This is a book told from Henry s viewpoint From the beginning, I was captivated and drawn into King Henry s world The author makes Henry come alive as a human being with many of the same feelings as the rest of us and not a monster that is the common portrayal of him The author does a fabulous job recreating the events of the time and the powerful people surrounding the King which shaped him The treatment of the six wives are great, except for Anne Boleyn I was unhappy with the Anne Boleyn s story the book concludes that she was an evil, adulterous witch and carries on, it was disappointing. This is a very long but readable novel purporting to be the autobiography of Henry VIII, with commentary by his court fool It tracks the king s life from his earliest memory at the age of three until shortly before his death It is vividly told, and even though scenery and small details are mentioned with photographic accuracy for the reader s benefit, it is done so subtly that said reader doesn t really mind It gives us a glimpse into the innner life of someone often thought of as a monster who disposed of people around him with nary a twinge of conscience What we get is a nuanced larger than life portrayal The interspersed marginal comments of Will Somers serve to balance his perspective by occasionally switching the angle of the camera, as it were Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in the Tudor era. By the end, it was difficult to decide who is self absorbed the author or her subject.Margaret George said she wanted to give King Henry better PR She failed totally The plot was naturally given over to his various wives political schemes, but in 900 pages George really, really could have gone a little further than cliche the betrayed wife, the scheming bitch, the virtuous woman, the stupid slut, the ugly dog, and the useful nurse I find it intensely disturbing and frankly unbelievable that Catherine of Aragon was not a virgin at her marriage to Henry that he thought Anne Boleyn a lying skank from the first moment he met her that Jane was totally enad with him and wanted nothing than to be his wife that Catherine Howard was not hysterical over her impending doom as firsthand accounts record that Katherine Parr who had been married twice before Henry condescended to notice her was still a virgin And thrilled to his touches, no less It s hard to believe that anyone could enjoy the caress of a corpulant old man with a stinking open wound on his thigh, but there you have it For a novel that claims to be researched so extensively, and delivered with such attention to accuracy it s The Real Henry , all this was a serious issue to me What else Henry s claiming to be the same size at 40 years that he was at 20 this, again, is frankly contradicted by the size of his armour His famous temper was toned down considerably although his snarky remarks were duly reported, the vitriol was shrugged off, sandwiched between paragraphs of patient consideration.The notes by Will Somers were generally useless, often intrusive He pleaded for the reader to forgive Henry without giving any justification he s not such a bad guy when you get to know him Meanwhile, Henry moans because his daughter, Mary, hates him Why, why Maybe because you disinherited her, drove her mother to near madness, and sent them both into comparative poverty and isolation Just a guess.Maybe I m just angry It pissed me off that Jane was mourned and moaned over for five hundred damn pages, that Anna of Cleves was called a dog and a horse by everyone, that Anne Boleyn was literally demonized, that Henry really loved his children, dammit, and wanted them to love him back George eventually discounted Henry s pre occupation with having a male heir, too, and his reasons for such I find myself wondering how much of the considerable misogyny in the novel was unintentional just a reflection of her own views.I d say it was only euphemistically about Henry VIII The best written bits, the parts with most emotional pull such as Henry s aggravatingly protracted mourning over his one true wife , Jane were obviously inserts from the author s own life It s only natural, perhaps this 900 page tome took thirteen years to research write Some part of yourself is going to slip in. This Is The Story Of England S Most Famous, And Notorious, KingHenry Was A Charismatic, Ardent And Brash Young Lover Who Married Six Times A Scholar With A Deep Love Of Poetry And Music An Energetic Hunter Who Loved The Outdoors A Monarch Whose Lack Of A Male Heir Haunted Him Incessantly And A Ruthless Leader Who Would Stop At Nothing To Achieve His Desires His Monumental Decision To Split From Rome And The Catholic Church Was One That Would Forever Shape The Religious And Political Landscape Of BritainCombining Magnificent Storytelling With An Extraordinary Grasp Of The Pleasures And Perils Of Power, Margaret George Delivers A Vivid Portrait Of Henry VIII And Tudor England And The Powerhouse Of Players On Its Stage Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas More And Anne Boleyn It Is Also A Narrative Told From An Original Perspective Margaret George Writes From The King S Point Of View, Injecting Irreverent Comments From Will Somers Henry S Jester And Confidant Review Superb pace and research Engaging and extremely readable Detailed, engrossing characters A window on historyFirst and foremost Margaret George is a superb historian and writer, she has the ability to make history alive and incredibly engaging This hefty book makes you feel like it opened a window into Tudor England and dropped you right in the midst of Henry s long and tumultuous reign, and the voyage is always exhilarating and unforgettable I did not always like Henry, I did not always agree with him, or sympathize with him at times there were than one occassion where I was seriously disgusted with him, but ultimately he was always interesting and the book made me want to learn I cannot recommend this book highly enough if you enjoy historical fiction or would like to know about this time period in particular, read it If you have any interest or curiosity in the life and times of Henry VIII and want to know besides what is common knowledge about him almost all of it wrong, this book is the best place to begin Surprisingly readable and engaging, this is one book that I can proudly put on my favorites shelf. 932 pages You re probably thinking That s a lot of pages I admit I was a bit intimidated by the length of Margaret George s novel on Henry VIII However, I assure you, the length is less of an issue than the actual content of this gargantuan book.Disappointment arose quickly, as the beginning of The Autobiography of Henry VIII welcomed me with a very slow and dull start The first several chapters were drab recaps of the events of Henry s youth which lacked any emotion, excitement, or personal opinion even though this is supposed to be Henry s view Initially, the most interesting moments were the note of Will Somers, which sadly, were too rare in usage Also adding to my poor first impression, were the inaccuracies which stuck out like sore thumbs I could not determine if these were thus because the novel was first published in 1986 or because it was Henry s view and his side of the story is skewed an attempt to add character to the story but either way, I noticed the errors The characters were flat and underdeveloped, especially Henry who was deemed no growth or depth and seems very child like even during late adulthood The novel lacks any connection to the characters Granted, there were some interesting moments throughout the novel such as with infamous Anne Boleyn but these were sprinkled too loosely and encompassed a roller coaster ride between boredom and entertainment Meaning, there was never a constant flow in the story s plot line Further, some of George s contrived Henry experiences created simply for the novel were so outrageous and ridiculous that it created even dissonance in the already filtered reading Like most Henry VIII novels, The Autobiography of Henry VIII focused mostly on Henry s mistresses, wives, and search for wives Many readers tend to complain that Henry is only described in regards to his six wives, but apparently even from HIS view, his wives are deemed the most diversification All other events rebellions, downfall of Cromwell, Henry s children are less than side notes in this novel In fact, if this is Henry s view, then he would describe himself as shallow and elementary if we are to believe how he is portrayed in his novel Speaking of wives, I especially disliked how Anne Boleyn was depicted Love her or hate her, it can be agreed that she possessed a certain level of intelligence and conniving However, George created a bimbo character that was annoying, frivolous, and prone to temper tantrums It is the equivalent of the usual portrait of Catherine Howard Anne of Cleves was presented in a much brighter light, showing strength and personality while Catherine Howard s relationship with Henry, in Henry s view, was based merely on physical attraction The End Nothing there Basically, Henry comes off as a virginal 15 year old teenager desperate for sex with Catherine He made me dislike that marriage even than I already have Although, that being said, Catherine s deceit toward Henry and her death prompted one of the most powerful reactions from Henry in the novel allowing the reader to finally see his true feelings The best parts of the entire 932 pages were the last 30 or so pages depicting the war with France, the death and funeral of Charles Brandon, and the impact on Henry Plus, of course, the death of Henry himself was also moving although less so than Brandon s Overall, I can see why some readers could love and do love George s novel There are some books which are simply terrible and some which aren t for everyone This one is simply not for me I suggest it for a Tudor reader whom hasn t read a hundred books on Henry, already If you have, like myself you may find yourself skimming large sections like I did.
Margaret George is a rolling stone who has lived in many places, beginning her traveling at the age of four when her father joined the U.S diplomatic service and was posted to a consulate in Taiwan The family traveled on a freighter named after Ulysses son Telemachus that took thirty days to reach Taiwan, where they spent two years Following that they lived in Tel Aviv right after the 1948
- 939 pages
- The Autobiography of Henry VIII. With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers
- Margaret George
- 09 July 2019 Margaret George