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Showing posts from June, 2010

The King's Secret Matter by Jean Plaidy

This is a sympathetic portrayal of Catherine of Aragon who suffered so much at the hands of Henry VIII. Plaidy paints a vivid picture of the splendour of Henry's court and the life that Catherine is forced to endure after her downfall.

Catherine is depicted as proud and determined to fight for her daughter's legitimacy. She is a very loving wife and mother, and remains very fond of Henry even when he subjects her to great trials. She is, perhaps, shown as a little bit too saintly, but Plaidy does an excellent job of making the reader feel very sorry for her.

Plaidy's character analysis of Henry is also excellent. He could be kind and loving, but quickly change to being nasty. His mercurial nature must have been extremely frightening! Henry was capable of turning against people very quickly, and the fear of death became ever-present for those close to him.

Plaidy also wrote well about Wolsey, but I got a bit tired of reading about him. He wasn't a very likeable charac…

Six Wives by David Starkey

This is a clearly written and interesting book in which Starkey attempts to get rid of many misconceptions about Henry VIII's wives. These misconceptions have existed for centuries. Catherine of Aragon has always been regarded as saintly, for example. Although Starkey agrees that she was very religious, he does think that she probably lied about her first marriage. She did spend a long time with Henry's brother, Arthur, who was quite healthy. It is unlikely that the marriage wasn't consummated.

He also writes sympathetically about Katherine Howard. She is usually regarded as a rather stupid tecenager, but Starkey's book shows that she really wasn't stupid. She also had a mind of her own and spoke up for some people whose lives were in danger.

I did think that Starkey got carried away by speculation at times. He writes that Anne Boleyn, for example, had her bed hung with richly embroidered crimson velvet of the 'Bed of Alancon'. He thinks that Anne may…

Library Loot

Like many book readers, I haunt my local library. I should read the books that I have at home, but I have to supply Mum with books too. She devours them so I really don't have enough books for her as well, unless I get them from the library. I often find books that I want, though!

Here's what I got today:

An Education by Lynn Barber;

The Lost Mona Lisa by R.A.Scott; and

How To Be Free by Tom Hodgkinson.

They all look good, especially An Education.


I just saw the movie and greatly enjoyed it. Falling in love with a wealthy thief has its advantages, apparently! Still, I'd like to see a film about a female student at Oxford.

Tuesday Teaser!

I haven't done this for ages. If I remember correctly, I write two sentences from the book that I'm reading and then tell you what it is! I hope that's right. I think that they're supposed to be some of the best sentences from the book. Here they are:

"To the young Louisine, the strange, almost abstract image of stage-flats, dancers and specks of light resembled nothing she had ever seen before on canvas. 'I scarcely knew how to appreciate it, or whether I liked it or not, for I believe it takes special brain cells to appreciate Degas."

That's from page 150 of The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe.

Huge Readathon!

Kristen of Bookworming in the 21st Century is holding a huge readathon until this Sunday. You can obtain points if you join. (I haven't worked it all out yet, but I'm going to join).

Here are some books that I hope to finish:

The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe;

Six Wives by David Starkey;

I am Madame X by Gloria Dilberto;


The King's Secret Matter by Jean Plaidy.

Books Read in June

Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed by Paul Mason

This was written just after the GFC hit so it has the value of immediacy, but it's out-dated now in some ways. Paul Mason describes the fall of Lehman brothers, the bank bailouts, and the sub-prime mortgage crisis clearly and reasonably simply. However, I still found the book a bit difficult to read.

He attributes the crisis to the failure of neoliberalism, deregulation, a share market that was allowed to run wild, and various other factors. His analysis of the causes of the crisis is probably the most interesting part of the book.

Mason writes about the crisis from a left-wing point of view. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not will probably depend on your politics to some extent. Right-wing commentators have often argued that the GFC had completely different causes.

Mason does draw conclusions and suggests that the answer is a completely new form of hyper-regulated capitalism. I couldn't be bothered reading this…

Young Bess by Margaret Irwin

Young Bess by Margaret Irwin

By the time that this book begins, young Princess Elizabeth has had a lot to cope with, including her mother's brutal death, different stepmothers, and her father's changing moods. She has, understandably, become guarded and somewhat distrustful. Now she finds herself dealing with her father's death and her feelings for Thomas Seymour.

Ebullient, handsome Thomas Seymour, played brilliantly by Stewart Granger in the movie, is the real star of this book. Mercurial and ambitious, he has his eye on the Crown and he falls in love with the young Princess. This naturally upsets his sweet wife, the late King's widow. Elizabeth struggles with her feelings, torn between her love for Thomas and her love for his wife, Katherine. Thomas Seymour, has 'wit, but little judgment' and his love for Elizabeth places him in great danger. It also places him in grave danger, from his equally ambitious brother, the Lord Protector.

The rivalry between the two …