Book Reviews

So many books (you know the rest)

Wives of Henry VIII
by Antonia Fraser
Published in 1993 (I finished it on December 07, 2010)

For anyone enjoying the Showtime series The Tudors, this book is a must read—or any good historical biography of the era. It’s necessary to correct the problems, inaccuracies, and mistakes of the four-year series. Not that the series is bad—it’s actually a lot of fun. And the creators don’t claim, “This is 100% accurate!” They sought to entertain, and they did. I sought to learn the rest of the story.

The novel focuses on, yes, the wives of the king. In general, the series (and other recent movies) do well in summarizing and generalizing the key characters. Although Henry’s final obesity problem is practically ignored. That said, he was supposed to be a good-looking lad in his younger years. The book gives all the interesting details and really provides a good insight into each of the six women and her relationship with the king.

What makes this book work particularly well is the author’s willingness to keep speculation and fact separate. She notes when it might be myth and states when something is commonly believed to be true. This is quite helpful in that gossip and rumors were as prevalent back then as today. Many attributed quotes may not have actually been spoken, but at least were rumored to be true—either at the time, or in later years.

Overall, it’s a great novel and simply enlightens readers to that time period and those players. The events are better than most fiction and often hard to even believe. The guy certainly did have an adventurous life.