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Portrait of an Unknown Woman: A Novel by…
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Portrait of an Unknown Woman: A Novel (edition 2008)

by Vanora Bennett

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7142718,898 (3.52)46
Member:JuliaGabriel
Title:Portrait of an Unknown Woman: A Novel
Authors:Vanora Bennett
Info:William Morrow Paperbacks (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Your library
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Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett

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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
When I read the book, the expression 'You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear' repeatedly came to my thoughts. This book is basically a Harlequin romance set in the time of Sir Thomas More and Tudor England. It is the story of Thomas More's ward, Meg Giggs - her education, her interest in medicine, her relationship with her husband (is he who he seems?). The book is set during a time of religious and political upheaval.

Twice, the painter Hans Holbein the Younger stays in the More home and paints a portrait of the family. The descriptions of the paintings and the clever descriptions of the hidden meanings in the paintings kept me interested and kept me reading. I even looked up the two More family paintings on-line and referred to them as I read.

The rest of the book? The boy meets girl, the unrequited love, the eventual marriage, the second love interest, the happy(ish) ending? Maybe not so much. ( )
  EvelynBernard | Jun 25, 2017 |
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 to hard to not be a romance because that is what it was. It was a historical romance. There is nothing wrong with that but since it kept trying to be something else the romance parts were lacking and so was everything else.

The book is about Sir Thomas More's foster daughter Meg Gigs and her two loves. It also largely deals with her conflicting feelings about More's fight against heretics.

I question the historical accuracy. I don't know how to go into that without giving away spoilers. I'll just say it goes into a really well known historical mystery and gives an idea of what might have happened playing it off as fact and a fairly large factor in the overall story. Now I don't mind this. It is a really interesting concept but the problem is, again, it isn't played out. It is touched on and than skipped over for other things.

There was one constant theme throughout and that was Sir Thomas More's growing extremism and anti-heretic craziness. This brings me to one of the reasons this review is a hard one for me to write. I know some about Sir Thomas More but mainly just in passing with regards to him and King Henry. I don't really know anything about the More's themselves and I was looking forward to learning more. What I read from other reviews would indicate that this is not the book to learn that from. I could see that as being true simply given Meg Gig's character's tendency to change often.

I will say I enjoyed the writing style. The overall flow, word usage, and descriptions all made this book pleasant to read. Honestly without those it probably would have gotten 2 stars instead of 3 but I have to give credit where it is due. ( )
  Alexis_D. | Sep 22, 2016 |
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). ( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
really wanted to like this book.
I ended much as I did with Figures in Silk....ok but that's as far as I go.
The tone of the language turned oddly modern at times.
I kept going hoping for a real spark of interest, but found none.
There were elements to the plot (secrets) that I thought could be interesting plot twists...but.....
I'll be looking for reviews from others who enjoy this period.
Perhaps I just wasn't in the mood.
I'm sure I'll try other Bennett; but, not for a while.
  pennsylady | Jan 24, 2016 |
In order for historical fiction to be really good, it must ring true which this certainly does. There is enough "fictionalization" to make it really interesting (yes, the premise of the two princes in the Tower may be a stretch)while at the same time leading the reader down an accurate historical path.

I especially enjoyed all the background material in the back of the book. A copy of the final More Family painting would also have been helpful.

I had never read anything by Vanora Bennett -- I love Sharon Kay Penman, but I would not pass by another by Bennett. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 17, 2013 |
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For Chris, with love
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The house was turned upside down and inside out on the day the painter was to arrive.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061251836, Hardcover)

The heart has secrets, but the canvas betrays desire 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. . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:07 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In an epic tale set against a backdrop of civil-war torn sixteenth-century Europe, portraitist Hans Holbein the Younger flees to the safety of Tudor England in order to escape artistic censorship.

(summary from another edition)

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