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The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers Paperback – September 15, 1998


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 960 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (September 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312194390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312194390
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (277 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

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.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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More About the Author

Margaret George specializes in epic fictional biographies of historical figures, taking pains to make them as factually accurate as possible without compromising the drama. Her THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HENRY VIII will have its 25th anniversary this September, and continues to be popular. ABC-TV based its 1999 Emmy-nominated "Cleopatra" miniseries on her THE MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA. All of her books have been bestsellers, with twenty-one foreign translations.

Margaret's father was in the Foreign Service and so she lived overseas for her early life, in such different places as tropical Taiwan, desert Israel, and cold war Berlin, all of which were great training for a novelist to be. She started writing 'books' about the same time as she could write at all, mainly for her own entertainment. It was a diversion she never outgrew. Her published works are: THE AUTOBIOGAPHY OF HENRY VIII, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTLAND AND THE ISLES, THE MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA, MARY CALLED MAGDALENE, HELEN OF TROY, ELIZABETH I, and an illustrated children's book, LUCILLE LOST.

Margaret lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and Washington DC, and has a sextagenarian tortoise as a pet.


Customer Reviews

I look forward to reading more of her books.
Linda L. Roy
I highly recommend this historical fiction novel to anyone who loves English history; this book is in my own library and I've read it twice.
E. Brothers
Kudos to Ms George for this well written and researched work.
T.F.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 91 people found the following review helpful By AntiochAndy on June 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
My knowledge of Tudor England is certainly not comprehensive, but this book appears to have been very thoroughly researched and to be very solidly based on the factual information that has come down to us. Of course, being a work of fiction, the author has taken the liberty of putting her own interpretation on the facts and supplying private thoughts and words as she thinks appropriate. Nevertheless, the reader can probably learn as much about Henry and his times from this book as from a casual perusal of the historical record.
In many ways, this is a dark book. Henry was a complex man, and dangerous to get close to. A number of those closest to him lost their heads. Life was relatively short in those days anyway, though, and I found myself feeling for Henry by the end. In a very superstitious age, he was driven by his own inner demons. And it is apalling how superstitious these people were. There was a strong tendency to attribute every significant event as an act of God. Given the misfortunes that dogged his life, Henry was often left to wonder what he had done to offend his "God". Hence, he can convince himself that his marriage to Katherine of Aragon was incestuous when there was no hope of her giving him a son, despite many years together and the possibility that she was one of the few who really loved him. Later, he is able to convince himself that Anne Boleyn is a "witch". Disagreeable she might have been. She comes across as vain, selfish, greedy and vengeful. But, she certainly wasn't directly responsible for any of the deaths and illnesses in Henry's family. Nor is it likely that hismarriages were provoking angry responses from any vengeful deities.
If you have any interest in the life and times of Henry VIII, then you should definitely read this book.
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72 of 75 people found the following review helpful By nto62 on January 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
Margaret George has three historical novels in print, Henry VIII, Mary - Queen of Scots, and Cleopatra. All are wonderful reads, but in Henry VIII she hits the pinnacle. This is an enthralling book which takes you back to the 16th century in all its splendor. Magnificently hefty, Henry VIII fills every page with artful words and one heck of a story. There are a handful of authors whose newest works I eagerly wait upon. Margaret George is one of them. And, The Autobiography of Henry VIII holds a very dear position among the 500+ historical and historically-based books in my library. Read it. You'll be thankful that you did.
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Anne on October 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
I do not typically read historical fiction, being more of a mystery fan myself. However, I recently read Philippa Gregory's "The Other Boleyn Girl" and enjoyed it, and my interest was piqued enough to seach out other books about Henry VIII. I came across George's book quite by accident in a bookstore one day, and decided to purchase it, vaguely remembering that it got good reviews on Amazon. I'm certainly glad I did!

George's "The Autobiography of Henry VIII : With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers" is an amazing book. It's quite daunting to look at (being more than 900 pages long!) but I can assure you that, once started, you will fly through this book. As the title implies, this book is from Henry's point of view, and it is written as a journal.

In the opening pages we hear from Henry's fool Will, who is writing to Henry's illegitimate daughter Catherine (Anne Boleyn's sister Mary is the mother). Will explains that he is sending her Henry's journal, a journal that he, Will, found after Henry's death. He admits that he has read through it and added notes of his own in some sections, which is George's clever way of adding a more objective opinion to some of "Henry's" ramblings.

This book presents a fascinating, and markedly different, view of Henry than is usually presented in history books. Instead of seeing Henry VII as a mean, vindictive, overweight slob, he comes across as a mostly kind man who is haunted by inner demons (especially near the end of his life).

If you're at all interested in Henry VII (and even if you're not!), I strongly urge you to pick up this book.
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Ted Ficklen on December 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you are interested in the adventures of Henry VIII or you enjoy thick, historical novels, you will probably want to read this book. Margaret George is a good genre novelist and has done gobs of research, but she does not show us the mind of Henry as vividly as some of the great historians, like Antonia Fraser, or Alison Weir. Part of the problem, I think, is the gimmick of autobiography--Henry never sounds convincingly English. It is as if you went to see Anne of a Thousand Days, and instead of Richard Burton playing Henry, its Tom Hanks.
George does better with the character of Will Somers, whose critical comments intrude on Henry's "manuscript" from time to time. She also does a pretty fair job of explaining a long and complicated span of English history. Character development tends to be limited to Henry and his six wives and several mistresses, but that is part of the historical romance genre. The important men in Henry's life: Wolsey, More, Cromwell, Cranmer, come off as cardboard sticks. ( I would have loved to have seen more of the inscrutable Cranmer--now THERE'S a novel for you.)
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