Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Portrait of an Unknown Woman

Second book in the 100+ book reading challenge:

Portrait of an Unknown Woman
by Vanora Bennett

Outer back cover: The Year is 1527. Hans Holbein makes his first visit to England to paint Thomas More, courtier, scholar, patron, and his family. More's splendid house on the river in Chelsea is at the centre of Tudor society, frequented by distinguished astronomers, artists, politicians, men of religion and many others.
Two visitors o the great house find themselves irresistibly drawn to Mel Giggs, one of More's foster daughters. John Clement - dark, tall, elegant - is a man of compelling presence and mysterious background. The other man is Holbein himself - warm, ebullient, radical and a painter of great renown. Meg finds herself powerfully drawn to these two wildly contrasting men. She will love one and marry the other.

I had never heard of this book before, or the author. I just picked it up at the library and thought it sounded exciting by the back cover. But I was really disappointed. Normally I won't read what it says on the back cover before I read the book, because I don't want to be "prejudiced" when I read the book, but this time I would have been disappointed even if I hadn't read it.

It took me ages to get into the book, I had to read passages over and over again because it wasn't holding my attention well enough for me to actually notice what it said. Then it was exciting for a while in the middle, before it got boring again. The most exciting part of the book was probably the last 50 pages or so, when suddenly I got "overwhelmed" by secrets being revealed. If you enjoy Philippa Gregory's writing style then you will probably enjoy this book, since I don't like Gregory's writing style either their writing styles are very similar.

The book is written mostly in first person, told from Meg Giggs' point of view, but also sometimes in second person, when looking more closely at other characters, like Holbein and Clement. I enjoyed reading about Meg's personal life, but a lot of the book was about Thomas More and the whole battle that was going on at that time between Catholics and Lutherans. I still can't put my finger on what the true plot of this book is and what the purpose of the author was. It seemed like a cheap soap opera plot riddled with dramatic character interactions that were melodramatic and annoying.

I didn't actually know that these people were real historical people, until I noticed that the writing style was kind of a non-fiction-fiction one (if you know what I mean..?). Just to defend myself I want to say that I don't need to know British history because I'm not British! Although one more "good" thing about the book is that it made me want to learn a little bit more about British history, and also learn more about Holbein and see some of his paintings.

I doubt I will ever read this book again, as it was just too boring to read. The writing style just didn't suit me.

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