Margaret George is the author of Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles, The Memoirs of Cleopatra, and Elizabeth I: A Novel, among others. George first got the idea to write historical fiction when, after reading numerous novels that viewed Henry VIII through the eyes of his enemies and victims, she started to wonder if there might be another story. She became determined to let Henry speak for himself, and it took fifteen years, about three hundred books of background reading, three visits to England to see every extant building associated with Henry, and five handwritten drafts for her to answer the question: What was Henry really like? Margaret George was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and has traveled extensively. She and her husband live in Madison, Wisconsin.
If Henry VIII had written his memoirs, what a fascinating document they might have been. Unfortunately, George's attempt to do the job for him in this massive, impressively researched first novel fails to capture either the brilliance, the cunning or the ruthlessness of the grim monarch who tore down monasteries to fill his coffers, executed two of his six wives and sacrificed friend and enemy alike for political expediency. This is a romanticized Henry, pleasure loving, sentimental and superstitious enough to blame the executions of his most faithful ministers Wolsey, Cromwell and Sir Thomas More on the ``witch'' Anne Boleyn. George is strongest at portraying Henry the ardent lover and frequently enraged husband, weakest at depicting Henry the warrior, navy builder and Machiavellian statesman. Her story has its moments, as when Henry first meets his unprepossessing wife-to-be, Anne of Cleves, plus touches of wit and a whole cartload of history. It is, however, hard to imagine a potentate of Henry's stamp feeling the need to justify his life, and harder still to imagine him doing so at such length or in such mild and distinctly 20th century prose. As for Will Somers, who interjects comments on his master, he's a far cry from the witty and entertaining fellow he must have been to keep his postand perhaps his head. 60,000 first printing; $60,000 ad/promo. (September 15)
Henry VIII ascended the throne as a vigorous and handsome youth. The story of his long, turbulent reign is well documented, and many authors have used it as background for novels. But George takes a different tack than most in this first novel by telling Henry's story from his own perspective. We are given an intimate view of how it must have felt for Henry to grow up under the influence of a dour father and a frail, distant mother. When he becomes king we watch as his exuberant, trusting nature slowly turns sinister and cruel. Interspersed with Henry's words are comments by his fool, Will, a man who loved his master, served him faithfully, but saw clearly his failings. The author has done a brilliant job and readers will find this book enlightening as well as enjoyable. Patricia Altner, Dept. of Defense Lib., Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C.
"A remarkable achievement...Magnificently researched and admirably written." --Mary Stewart
"Her novel is a...banquet feast for most readers...astonishing. There's rousing drama, robust atmosphere and consistently solid characterization; and finally, Margaret George's triumph is anchored in the urgent rhythm her writing attains." --Forth Worth Star Telegram
"It doth brim with lust, violence, cruelty and living conservation...Margaret George has found a new and fresh way to tell the story." --Detroit Free Press