- Series: The Lazy Historian (Book 1)
- Paperback: 197 pages
- Publisher: Tomfoolery Press (March 24, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1775256006
- ISBN-13: 978-1775256007
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
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Showing 1-7 of 7 reviews
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If however you've come to the Tudors through the TV show or just remember a little bit from history classes then this book is a great introduction. It is written in a very casual easy going style. It actually feels as if you're sitting on the porch with someone chatting about characters - it has that "And then Henry did this..." feel to it. The author's emotions are very evident and it is clear that she had a lot of fun writing this book and that she knows the material pretty well.
Factually it seems on point and as my caption says it is an easy read so you could actually read it at one sitting. It's Tudor Light which is fine because after you finish reading it then you can go and take a more serious look at whichever of the characters has caught your interest. In that regard I think that the title is perfectly revealing.
This book is very brief and really functions as a general introduction to the lives and times of Tudor England's most famous royalty: King Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katheryn Howard, and Katherine Parr. Each chapter is devoted to one of Henry's wives and gives a short biography of her life BH (Before Henry), then delves into her relationship with the king and her ultimate end. It also includes a basic intro to the Tudor dynasty as a whole, and ends with a postscript about the fates of Henry's children. I particularly enjoyed the many asides Hamilton included in separate text boxes, which gave interesting historical tidbits related to the main text, such as marriageable ages, Tudor bridal traditions, tuberculosis, and mental illness in Tudor England.
Hamilton does a wonderful job boiling down the key points in an often complex and confusing history, and presents the facts clearly. There is not enough room in her book for much in-depth analysis, as that is outside the scope of her work, but her research is well-grounded and her narrative makes you feel like you're getting a beer with her and listening to her talk/rant about Henry and his wives. I don't know if she drinks beer, but in my imagination she totally did.
The best part about this book, and what makes it stand apart from other introductory book about the time period is Hamilton's sense of humor and sassy mockery of historical figures. She injects a lot of her own personality into the text, which I liked, and her sarcastic remarks made me laugh out loud more than once. I especially loved her translation of medieval teenage letters into modern teenage English! Beyond the humor, I found her narrative style to be lighthearted and relatable, and I enjoyed the juxtaposition of her contemporary idioms with this 500+ year-old history. My favorite part was when she quoted a letter from Jane Seymour (Wife # 3) to Henry VIII before their marriage, and then interpreted it as "...a sweet but subtle way of telling Henry that he better put a ring on it." What a funny way to resonate with new generations of young historians! I also enjoyed her comment that the young Henry "...wanted to throw some wicked parties." I've never heard it put that way before, but it's so true!
The self-stated focus of Hamilton's research and attention is on women's history. In that vein, understandably, she is ever so slightly anti-Henry. However, I was impressed with her fairness in her assessment of him, and how she never took cheap, non-factual shots at him like some people I could name (cough*philippagregory*cough). In all her analyses she did, however briefly, examine both sides of an issue and leave room for a different interpretation of Henry, which I really appreciated. I noticed this especially in the debate over whether Catherine of Aragon was a virgin or not when she married Henry. (If I was the type of person who wanted immortal fame and to have people still talking about me 500 years from now, it sure wouldn't be about a topic like this. Poor Catherine.)
The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII covers all the best parts of this history: The royal weddings, the royal beheadings (I couldn't resist), love, war, jewels, tragedy, and a nearly uncountable number of miscarriages. Also royal incest and other gross sexual encounters. Not because these are actually good things, but because Hamilton's reactions to them are so funny. This book will easily engage young readers in this fascinating history with its wit and sense of fun, and will hopefully remind older historians why they were passionate about the Tudors in the first place.