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Customer Review

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very good if you don't mind debunking, February 3, 2012
This review is from: The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty (Hardcover)
I have studied the Tudors intensively for nearly 30 years and I'm afraid I have reservations about this book and must refuse it top marks. Yes, it is well written and yes, the author knows his stuff, but from the beginning there was a slight aroma of debunking, a dislike of the main protagonists, a cynicism about the period, a dislike of our reverence for the Elizabethan era. Yes, the academic pendulum swings, and after all the fascination with the Tudors, it's time to point out that Henry was a raving megalomaniac, that Liz was a bitch and highly overrated, that what can you expect of Mary and Edward, children of a monster - you get the idea. It's faint but pervasive. So faint and pervasive that it began hindering my enjoyment of the many trenchant observations the author makes which I find to be valid. I'm all for not viewing the Tudors in a golden haze, but I think you must LIKE them, or at least find them interesting and worth learning about, to write about them well. The author, in this one respect, fails. So enjoy the book, but remember that his take on the Tudors is only that - an educated take. There are many other viewpoints and, I think, fairer ones (for example, I much prefer Alison Plowdon on Queen Elizabeth).
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 24, 2012 5:54:21 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 25, 2012 2:21:02 PM PST
I like terse reviews and this one delivers; my one reservation is the comment: "... but I think you must LIKE them," (ie. if you are going to write about them).

Much of serious history writing involves actually writing about truly odious people (Henry VIII, Napoleon, Stalin etc etc etc) and without losing one's sanity or self-respect. I don't know what any conscientious historian - Meyer or anyone else - is supposed to do with a family like the Tudors, other than maintain the delusion.

I would like, just once, for one of them to remember Edward 17th earl of Warwick (or his sister Margaret Pole or her grandsons who went "missing" in the Tower, or their cousin Edmund de la Pole, or loyal die-hard supporters like Sir William Stanley, Sir James Tyrell, even Thomas More and Anne Boleyn, or Anne Askew, the only woman ever tortured by a British king, before she was burned to death) with more than a pathetic, fleeting mention - how inconvenient they all were and are - disrupting for almost a moment - the glory that is Tudor mythology.

Posted on Mar 2, 2012 1:48:47 PM PST
Bookreader says:
Thanks for your review. I agree with your general observation of "debunking," what might also be called deconstruction and revisionism in the text, particularly in reference to Elizabeth's reign. According to the author, all of her decisions were selfishly motivated; she was indifferent, if not overtly hostile to the needs of her subjects; she was a master of manipulation and propaganda; and of course, the conflicts leading up to the battle with the Spanish Armada are entirely her fault. This was a bit of a stretch, and the author ultimately undermined his credibility with this kind of bias. There was little effort to construct a balanced portrait that fairly represented both her strengths and weaknesses. A disappointing end to an otherwise interesting text.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2012 1:59:28 PM PST
He does an even rougher job on Henry VIII, who apparently has no redeeming features whatever.

I should note in fairness that this same author has done a very good chronological history of WWI in which he is obviously deeply interested, and those irritating weaknesses seemed to disappear altogether.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2012 11:04:46 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2012 11:24:48 AM PST
Until recently I assumed that Elizabeth I was the only "good" Tudor - that is, until I read Leanda de Lisle's fine biography of the three Grey sisters, Jane, Katherine and Mary. The book itself was titled "The Sisters who would be Queen" and was a shock. Others may have been aware of Elizabeth's vindictiveness, (which I would characterize as maniacal if her treatment of the Grey sisters is any indication) but it was news to me - I guess that even I too have drunk the Tudor Koolaid!

In response to Suzanne's reference to Meyer's work on WWI I would like to check that out, ever since I read Le Grand Meaulnes by Henri Alain-Fournier I have been fascinated by the full scope of that conflict. (Fournier is one of those soldiers who simply disappeared late in the War, literally; they never found so much as a scrap of clothing, as if he had never been in the battlefield - not unlike the hero in his only published book, who also just wanders off into the mist and fog, as if he had never been there).
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