Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Wives of Henry VIII

1992, 1993 Knopf edition
Antonia Fraser
The Wives of Henry VIII
Possibly purchased new for $25.00
Hardcover in good condition

This is not as good as Fraser's 1969 book on Mary Queen of Scots, although it's about on a level with George's novel about Henry VIII.  The problem is not so much that Fraser has to describe six queens rather than one.  (This American edition omits the "six" of the original title.)  There are redundancies, but not because of overlapping stories.  In fact, Fraser does a nice job of keeping track of who is ex-queen, current queen, and would-be queen at any moment.  (As in 1536, "the year of three queens.")  I just didn't feel like it all came together.  Even the "character" who runs throughout the interlinked stories, "monstrous" King Henry never quite made the impression that the Scottish Queen did, or Victoria in Fraser's mother's book.  And Fraser's daughter Rebecca managed to make the whole Bronte family, including aunts and uncles, interesting and believable.

That said, there are nice observations, including on the six women's appearances, interests, personalities, and education.  The book has fewer noticeable historical errors than George's novel, although I suppose George has the excuse of artistic licence.  I also appreciated that Fraser doesn't really play favourites, finding good in each queen, and occasionally even in King Henry.

Fraser would examine a French queen in Marie Antoinette: The Journey, which we'll get to in 2001....

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