Portrait of an Unknown Woman

Portrait of an Unknown Woman In the year the great portraitist Hans Holbein fleeing the Protestant Reformation comes to England under commission to Sir Thomas More Over the course of the next six years Holbein paints two

  • Title: Portrait of an Unknown Woman
  • Author: Vanora Bennett
  • ISBN: 9780061252563
  • Page: 499
  • Format: Paperback
  • In the year 1527, the great portraitist Hans Holbein, fleeing the Protestant Reformation, comes to England under commission to Sir Thomas More Over the course of the next six years, Holbein paints two nearly identical portraits of the More family, his dear and loyal friends But closer examination of the second painting reveals several mysteries Set against the turmIn the year 1527, the great portraitist Hans Holbein, fleeing the Protestant Reformation, comes to England under commission to Sir Thomas More Over the course of the next six years, Holbein paints two nearly identical portraits of the More family, his dear and loyal friends But closer examination of the second painting reveals several mysteries Set against the turmoil and tragedy of Henry VIII s court, Portrait of an Unknown Woman vividly evokes sixteenth century England on the verge of enormous change as viewed through the eyes of Meg Giggs, More s intelligent, tenderhearted, headstrong adopted daughter, who stands at the center of this sweeping, extraordinary epic It is a tale of sin and religion, desire and deception the story of a young woman on the brink of sensual awakening and a country on the edge of mayhem.

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      Published :2020-01-16T00:48:54+00:00

    About "Vanora Bennett"

    1. Vanora Bennett

      I became a journalist almost by accident Having learned Russian and been hired after university by Reuters to my own surprise and the slight dismay of traditionally minded editors who weren t sure a Guardian reading blonde female would be tough enough for the job , I was then catapulted into the adrenaline charged realm of conflict reporting While on a trainee assignment in Paris, I fell in with the Cambodian migr community and ended up reporting in Cambodia myself, a decade after the Khmer Rouge regime ended, as well as covering Cambodian peace talks in places as far apart as Indonesia and Paris That led to a conflict reporting job in Africa, commuting between Angola and Mozambique and writing about death, destruction, diamonds and disease, and later to a posting in a country that stopped being the Soviet Union three months after I arrived I spent much of the early 1990s in smoky taxis in the Caucasus mountains, covering a series of small post Soviet conflicts that built up to the war in Chechnya.My fascination with the cultural and religious differences between Russians and the many peoples once ruled by Moscow grew into a book on the Chechen war Crying Wolf The Return of War to Chechnya A second, light hearted book followed, about post Soviet Russia s illegal caviar trade, once I d got homesick for London and moved back to writer leaders on foreign affairs for The Times This book was The Taste of Dreams An Obsession with Russia and Caviar.I now lead a sedate life in North London with my husband and two small sons, enjoying the reading, research, writing and metropolitan leisure activities that I grew up expecting adult life to involve I ve found that writing books is much of a surprise, a pleasure and an adventure of the mind as it was to become a foreign correspondent.As a journalist I ve written for, among others, The Times and its website, TimesOnline, the Los Angeles Times, Prospect, The Times Literary Supplement, the Guardian Saturday magazine, the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard, Eve magazine, The Observer Food Monthlyand The Erotic Review.

    781 thoughts on “Portrait of an Unknown Woman”

    1. I have a deep interest in Thomas More's family, so when I saw this novel about his foster daughter Margaret Giggs Clement, I had to check it out. Unfortunately, although the author has given Giggs an engaging character and she deftly plumbs the contradictions posed by More's humanist and anti-heretical personae, the book quickly becomes a farrago of melodrama and conspiracy theories. At times, Bennett's historical inaccuracies and stylistic descent into the literary equivalent of Cheez Whiz were [...]


    2. I listened to this book while jogging in 1-1.5 hr segments. It made a wonderful companion on my runs. This story is told from the perspective of Thomas More's adopted daughter, Meg. The story is told in everyday life, not the court, and tells of the people's side of events. The events center on Meg's upbringing, her relationship with her sisters, Thomas More's change & his treatment of heretics. It tells the tale until More is thrown out of court. In between these stories is an alternate acc [...]


    3. Rating clarification: 4.5 starsPortrait of an Unknown Woman is an intelligent, thoughtful and interesting historical novel which weaves a vivid, "what-if" fictional story around the beautiful and lush 2nd portrait of the Thomas More family as painted by Hans Holbein.The story primarily focuses on Thomas More's foster daughter, Meg Griggs, but Bennett also gives the reader a realistic peak into what Thomas More and Hans Holbein might also have been like had we been privy to their inner-most thoug [...]


    4. Vanora Bennett has chosen an interesting time in More's life for this novel of many layers. From my "futuristic" perspective, I was waiting for More to be taken away, but this doesn't happen. So the story is encapsulated in that uncomfortable, trying time when everyone fears the worst but they don't know when, or even if, the king is going to strike. More even stages his own arrest in front of the family at dinner, just so they will be better prepared when the moment comes. The novel starts at w [...]


    5. Ever wonder about the real story behind the Princes in the Tower? Portrait of an Unknown Woman presents one version that is plausible, even probable. Thomas More, a powerful and influential part of Henry VIII's court, his family, and Hans Holbein are brought to life again and shown with both shining perfection as well as dismal human failings. The mystery of the ultimate fates of the Princes in the Tower is deftly told, incorporating many historic figures, but primarily focuses on the perspectiv [...]


    6. Fantastic historical fiction! This poignant story is a small glimpse into the life of Sir Thomas More and his family during one of the most turbulent times in Western history. There are so many elements to this book, my mind can't leave it alone. First there's the history, a time period I already find fascinating mainly because of how it changed the world/culture of religion. The amazing way in which Vanora Bennett presents the story allows the reader to see both sides of the controversial issue [...]


    7. In her historical fiction debut, “Portrait of an Unknown Woman,” Vanora Bennett has brought a crucial slice of English history to life with compelling characterizations and a keen eye for period detail. Based on the rise and fall of humanist author and statesman Sir Thomas More during the English Reformation and the German artist, Hans Holbein, who created a painting of More’s family during that time, “Portrait” is a work rendered in stunning clarity and often breathtaking prose.Althou [...]


    8. I enjoyed this perspective on those crazy power mongers who lived during the reign of Henry VIII. Vanora Bennett creates a fictional account of the life of Meg Griggs, Thomas More's adopted daughter. Thomas More being one of King Henry VIII's devoted servants and a staunch defender of Catholicism. Bennett offers us insights into the mind of those who are so devoted that they would risk their lives to defend their ideals and harshly punish those who criticize them.Meg More is a skilled healer, a [...]


    9. I picked up this book hoping for another "Girl with the Pearl Earring", but was sorely disappointed. The main thing that struck me about the book was it's incredible length, and unbelievable non-action. There was no climax. There was only weak plot. It took FOREVER to listen to the 12 discs that made up this audiobook, and I was counting the minutes after the 4th disc. That's a lot of minutes.Also, there was a lot of "twinkling" and "dimpling" mentioned in this novel in, he "twinkled" down at hi [...]


    10. I really loved this book and I totally agree that it was nice to be away from Tudor Court and more on the streets of London. I've not read an awful lot about the Princes of the Tower so I was able to go with that theory for the books sake. Just googled 'John Clement Plantagenet prince' and you get a lot of results linked to Holbeins painting so maybe there is something there. However I'm pretty sure when I went to the Tower of London the tour guide said that they did discover the skeletons of tw [...]


    11. Great read, I'm a huge fan of historical fiction (Anya Seton, Sarah Dunant, Tracy Chevalier, Katherine McMahon) and this novel did not disappoint. The story is effectively told from a variety of points of view (a young ward of More's called Meg. Holbein).People have commented that the book is 'boring' - well, it's a pity they're not subtle or sensitive like the plot or the characterisation. It's a slow burner, but then not everything in life should be rushed!The novel is a fictionalised account [...]


    12. Can I mark the book as "read" if I quit in the middle? Since I met the author at the American Libraries Association midwinter conference and got an autograph in the book I feel an obligation to like this book. I really kept plugging along even though I lost interest fairly early onbut, I'm giving myself permission to be done.This book is based on paintings done of a family in England during the reign of King Henry the VIII. The story seems to starts like a harlequin romance climax (haha, get it) [...]


    13. I have re-read this after a long period since my first reading and I am more impressed than I was, thus I have upped my rating to five stars. Frankly,if Vanora Bennett never wrote another word, this book would be good enough to secure her rep.Spoiler coming up:The book is based on Jack Leslau's theory that the Princes in the Tower did not die but survived under More's protection and with bogus names. You make think this unlikely, but suspend your belief for the length of this book and just enjoy [...]


    14. Rich in detail and historical fact (and fiction) this is at times a quiet book but very engrossing. A real insight into the family of Thomas More and which delivers a real clanger of a surprise nearly half way through Holbein’s paintings come to life so much so I have to make a trip to the National Portrait Gallery to see for myself. Vanora Bennett is definitely another author added to my historical novels favourites list.


    15. This could have been a great book. Thomas More was a key figure during the reign of Henry VIII and played such an important role in shaping posterity's negative view of Richard III that the story of his family should have been a compelling one. And "Portrait of an Unknown Woman" has plenty of admirable qualities (I'd like to have given it 2 1/2 stars). The main character, More's adopted daughter Meg Giggs, is well drawn, and Bennett has clearly done a lot of research on the period and on the pai [...]


    16. Alright all now I am 90% convinced it is me. I have yet another 3 out of 5 book here. Although with this one it wasn't another case of a rushed ending at least.I don't really know why they called it Portrait of an Unknown Woman since the art aspect of it played precious little role in the book over all. Maybe it is my fault for expecting something similar to Tracy Chevalier's books, one of the best known of those being Girl with a Pearl Earring. It seemed to me that this book was possibly trying [...]


    17. "Portrait of an Unknown Woman" promises a story about one woman's relationship with the painter Hans Holbein. It's actually about Holbein, the lady (Meg, adopted daughter of Thomas More) and marital drama, with More's increasingly fanatical politics a a backdrop.Right off the bat, I'd like to express my relief at the fact that the saintly Thomas More myth perpetuated by "A Man for All Seasons" and even "The Tudors" seems to be wearing off. Hilary Mantel's Cromwell-sympathizing trilogy has played [...]


    18. “Portrait of an Unknown Woman” is told from the viewpoint of Meg Giggs, adopted daughter of Sir Thomas More, sometimes in the first person, sometimes in the third. When the book opens the More family is awaiting the arrival of Hans Holbein, who is to paint a family portrait. Just before Holbein arrives John Clement, former tutor to the family, arrives. He has been studying medicine on the Continent and he and Meg hope to marry. Meg herself is something of a physician only her learning is mor [...]


    19. This book is based on a picture by Hans Nolbein, a portait of Thomas More and his family. Thomas More was a philosopher in King Henry VIII's court, during the Reformation. He was a humanist, and ended up being a persecutor of Martin Luther's followers. The story is told from the perspective of Thomas More's adopted daughter, Meg, who appears in the fam;ily portrait. The author gets quite graphic when describing the persecution. It's funny that in history we are studying the Pilgrims and the Puri [...]


    20. Ever since I read the second book in Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' Morland Dynasty series, I have been completely and totally in love with English historical fiction. I will happily read just about anything set in England prior to 1945. Yum! So far, this novel is filling the basic requirement of filling my appetite, without really tempting my palate. My main issue with this book is that it is set in the 1520s, and yet the author has no compunctions about putting modern words and terms into the mouths o [...]


    21. I would really give this book 3.5 stars. I picked it up randomly at Barnes & Noble and had low expectations -- let's face it, most historical fictions are cheesy and lacking any depth.I agree that the book would appeal to those who are interested in a conspiracy theory, but I must admit, the author exceeded my expectations with the depth of her characters. The book focuses around the main character and 3 supporting characters, one of whom is an artist. I particularly appreciated the depth th [...]


    22. Portrait of an Unknown Woman revolves around the family of Sir Thomas More, the famous humanist and Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII. In the late 1520s, tensions in the country are rising between the Catholics and the reformists. Bennet skillfully works together the politics and everyday life of the period, and the dilemma faced by Meg Giggs, the adopted daughter of the More family, who is torn between her former tutor John Clement, and the young painter Hans Holbein, who visits the family. Some of [...]


    23. Set in the time of Henry VIII the title is slightly misleading. The book is about the family of Thomas More, the famous courtier who opposed the marriage of the king to Anne Boleyn. Hans Holbein arrives to paint a family portrait and falls in love with one of More's wards who has been brought up as his daughter. The book is about far more than a painting and a family, it includes a fanciful story of what may have happened to the Princes in the Tower. It is an interesting novel but should never b [...]


    24. Just arrived from USA. Hans Holbein, the Younger, who had been recommended to More by his friend, Erasmus, arrived in England in 1526. Next year, he began a painting of Sir Thomas More and his family. A preparatory sketch for the original survives, but the painting itself was destroyed by fire in the eighteenth century. Fortunately, paintings which were created based on it by Rowland Lockey in the late sixteenth century, survive.


    25. This book isn't for everyone; I love history, I love painters, and I love great thinkers. This book is historical fiction, based on Thomas More, the chancellor for Henry VIII, told through the eyes of an adopted daughter. It is long, not very exciting, but I enjoyed it despite its simplicity and lack of mental challenge.


    26. This book tried to tell too many stories, and therefore ended up not telling any of them very well. The writing wasn’t bad, but it didn’t give me the insight into the life of Thomas More I was looking for - and don’t get me started on the character development (or I will have to break my self-imposed minimum snark rule).


    27. I ruined the book for myself because I had an inkling Elizabeth was a huge bitch and I needed to find out before I continued with the book. So I did the unforgivable and read the ending. I went back and read most of the rest, but of course it wasn't as good anymore. It was a bit too much like a soap opera and I'm not sure what the point of it was, but it was entertaining.



    28. I should have stopped reading when the Princes in the Tower angle was revealed because I knew only craziness could ensue from there. I find it hard to swallow that these boys would not have mounted a resurgence against Henry vii there would have been tons of support as their father Edward was a wildly popular king particularly with the commoners and Tudor was an unknown commodity having spent most of his life in exile. This was a time when kings felt they were chosen by God to lead and so I thin [...]


    29. I listened to this book over a period of several weeks in the car. This may have contributed to the fact that I found the story lacking. Also, with a large part of the narrative speaking in detail about Holbein's paintings, I kept expecting a portrait to be introduced that would link with the title. In hindsight the 'portrait' in the title is figurative, I gather.I don't know enough about Thomas More to comment on historical accuracy, but I suspect that most of the conspiracies and intrigues rev [...]


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