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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (901 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Vanora Bennett Narrator: Katherine Kellgren Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2009 ISBN: 9780061805608
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“Bennett’s medieval England comes alive in ways a reader can immediately relate to, even while being transported away from the modern world.”
Christian Science Monitor

 

The story of two sisters caught up in the maelstrom of historic events, Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett combines the fascinating art and history of silk making with political intrigue and a sweeping, unforgettable love story. A breathing immersion into a Tudor England torn asunder by the War of the Roses, Figures in Silk is historical fiction at its finest—a rare and welcome treat for readers captivated by the fiction of Tracy Chevalier, Sarah Dunant, Geraldine Brooks, Susan Vreeland, and the Boleyn novels of Phillipa Gregory.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Bennett weaves a richly textured historical novel.” 

    Times (London) 

  • “Readers of historical fiction will be pleased with Bennett's sure-handed storytelling.” 

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Bennett’s second novel stands out for its engrossing storytelling, multidimensional characters, and intriguing interpretation of everyone’s favorite love-him-or-hate-him monarch, Richard III.”  

    Booklist

  • “Mysterious, romantic, turbulent, and rich in historic detail, Bennett’s engrossing story of medieval England during the War of the Roses should appeal to fans of Sharon Kay Penman and Tracy Chevalier.” 

    Library Journal

  • An Indie Next Notable Title

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kayla Baldwin | 2/18/2014

    " Though it wasn't as good as I thought it would be, I still liked it. There were a few parts where I was kind of bored, and one long part where Isabel was just pining for her guy which kind of drove me a little nuts. The origins of the English silk trade were rather interesting though. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tonya | 2/12/2014

    " I enjoyed the historical look at business and the lives of the people of London. The characters were well written, and there were some unexpected quirks. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jill Knight | 2/10/2014

    " A great love story historical portrayal of a very strong common girl and a would be King of England. They main character takes you on a journey of a life that was lived to the fullest even when doubt and lies step in to destroy her. I would have liked to haved learned even more about the silk making process in addition to the selling and marketing within the first portion of the book so that relating to her everyday life would have seemed more real. The genuine giving of her love to someone so unlikely to receive it kept me wanting to know the true basis of his love towards her. I was not disappointed and I highly recommend this original take on figure of history that is so often written about. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jenn Nelson | 2/3/2014

    " Ok, this book is very well written. You can tell that she did A LOT of research on silk weaving and the silk trade during this time period. However, I found myself skipping over the explanations about silk so I could get to encounters between the lead character, Isabel and Dickon, (Richard III) I would have loved to see a lot more develop there. The author wrote from multiple view points, but never from Dickon's perspective and through out the book, his was the mind you wanted to unlock the most. Still a really good book though. Nice to see more historical lit on the War of Roses. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Leslie | 2/3/2014

    " Fans of Chevalier et al. will love this richly detailed work by Bennett, who almost succeeds in making Richard of Gloucester sympathetic. Good book club read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lydia | 2/3/2014

    " i am a huge fan of british history, and historical fiction. am enjoying this book filled with intrigue and the domestic arts during the time before henry viii. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Nicki M | 1/29/2014

    " I stared reading this but had to give up as it felt like it wasn't going to go quickly enough to keep my attention. Lots of descriptions about feelings but not enough about who the main character was. I like to get to know the characters of a book pretty much straight awy so that I know whether I'm going to enjoy the book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Siobhan | 1/23/2014

    " Not your average historical romance. Took me a while to realize it was about THAT Richard and the young prince was one of THOSE little princes. Who knew Richard might have a girlfriend? A pleasure to read about ambitious woman who isn't the run-of-the-mill plucky, nice heroine, but is still accesible. well done. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Darlis | 1/17/2014

    " I lost it so I didn't finish it, but I was enjoying it "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Margo Brooks | 1/16/2014

    " This was the third book I read in close sucession of the War of the Roses time period in medieval England. The other two were The White Queen by Philippa Gregory and The King's Grace by Ann Easter Smith (see previous review). Reading all three provided an interesting perspective on Edward V, Richard III, Queen Elizabeth Woodward and the future Queen Elizabeth, mother of Henry the VIII. Each book presented the main characters as villians or heros while sticking to the historical facts surrounding the War of the Roses. My favorite by far was Figures in Silk because although these historical characters were front and center, the book focused on the merchants of London--especially the female silk workers, who often were declared freewomen in their own rights and were allowed to make deals, take out loans, and hire their own workers. Loosely based on real characters, the plot focused on a scheme to bring silk weaving to London, as well as the craft of silk embroidery. It brought 15th-century London alive in a way that a novel focusing soley on the nobility cannot and showcased the strength that these women had to petition for their livelihoods and work to better their lives. A good read if you are interested in learning more about this time period, or in the lives and trials of women trying to make their way in the world. With characters such as the formidable Queen Elizabeth, her cowed but crafty daughter, one of the King's mistresses and silk women ranging from apprentices, to rich merchants, you get an in depth look at how the mideival world viewed women and how they survived in a male-dominated society. The best part, however, is the discussion of the silk. You will fall in love with it, just as the main characters do. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Vanessa | 1/14/2014

    " I really enjoyed the story. However, I thought the book took a very long time to get to the point. Also the writing was good, but the sentences were extremely long which I believe lent itself to the reader losing the jist of what is being relayed. Nonetheless a good read and story. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rebecca | 1/10/2014

    " This book was interesting historical foil to Philippa Gregory's The White Queen, which I read earlier this year. Overall, I enjoyed it, though sometimes the descriptions of the silk trade got a little long-winded for me, and I skimmed over them. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carrie | 1/8/2014

    " Great historical fiction account of the silk trade in London, mid to late 1400's. Story's center is around one of two sisters that were part of arranged marriages. Throw in the royal court, an affair or two w/ the king, merchant scandal and you have a great story. GOOD READ! :>) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mary | 1/8/2014

    " I thought this book was great because of the author's writing and how authentic and informative historical information was blended into the story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michelle | 1/1/2014

    " Very enjoyable... will look for other books by this author! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Karen | 12/30/2013

    " I love historical fiction ... this was interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patzia | 12/29/2013

    " I was fascinated to learn about silk women and the silk industry. I also understood a bit more about The War of the Roses. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jane | 12/27/2013

    " Who knew there was a silk industry in London in the 1400s?? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alexandra | 12/24/2013

    " I liked Isabel...and to have her Jane's counterpart in every way was a genius touch! Loved reading about the production of silks as well... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stephanie | 12/23/2013

    " A captivating historical novel of the tail end of the War of the Roses and the monarchs who were in power, their mistresses and the silk industry in London. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lydia | 12/6/2013

    " i am a huge fan of british history, and historical fiction. am enjoying this book filled with intrigue and the domestic arts during the time before henry viii. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Daylin | 12/2/2013

    " liked how Isabel was so independent, but I don't know how accurate that actually is considering it is placed in the 1400's when women didn't really have a lot of say in things. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mslogar | 12/2/2013

    " loved the main character and her villainous boyfriend! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jocelyn Green | 11/22/2013

    " Amazing book! Loved learning about the silk trade, plus got an interesting perspective on teh "evil Uncle Richard" who allegedly locked the two princes in the London Tower--but no one ever found them. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Naomi | 11/4/2013

    " This was an enjoyable read and I learned about an English King that I previously didn't know much about. The fact that his body (bones) were recently discovered lent an added interest to this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah | 8/28/2013

    " Not bad. Not too much "romance" and not too little history. The ending seemed awfully rushed, but it was no great mystery, was it? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jules | 7/1/2013

    " I read the Romanian version by Radu Trif, published @Editura ALLFA (2010). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Becky | 6/5/2013

    " I realized how much I love fabric while reading this book. Fabric enthusiast aside, a riveting story of love and betrayal. Clever indeed. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathleen | 1/20/2013

    " The writing is okay, the characters are a little thin, and some aspects of the story stretch my belief (all those years and no one gets pregnant?), but the basis in history makes it really interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amy Siegfried | 10/20/2012

    " I enjoyed this book- a different time period than I usually choose as well as subject matter. Overall I found the book well written and an enjoyable read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Beverly | 10/16/2012

    " I enjoyed this story. Although I tend to think of the position of women in England in the 1400's as limited, this story tells the tale of a woman who works hard to find power within the defined roles for women and class. Very good read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gretchen | 8/26/2012

    " I loved this one! Though I didn't like the outcome. I love the history of England's Kings and Queens, and generally enjoy most book that have to do with that genre. I would read more of Bennett's books, she wasn't too flowery, or repetitive. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathleen | 1/27/2012

    " The writing is okay, the characters are a little thin, and some aspects of the story stretch my belief (all those years and no one gets pregnant?), but the basis in history makes it really interesting. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jocelyn Green | 1/26/2012

    " Amazing book! Loved learning about the silk trade, plus got an interesting perspective on teh "evil Uncle Richard" who allegedly locked the two princes in the London Tower--but no one ever found them. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stephanie | 1/15/2012

    " A captivating historical novel of the tail end of the War of the Roses and the monarchs who were in power, their mistresses and the silk industry in London. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tebafin | 12/10/2011

    " Another spin about the story of the War of the Roses.... I liked the perspective it gave.... well done "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cstewart801 | 8/31/2011

    " Very interesting and informative historical novel. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Becca | 8/3/2011

    " I abandoned this book 2/3 of the way through...I just didn't like this portrayal of Richard III, and the story started waning...very disappointing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mary | 5/3/2011

    " I thought this book was great because of the author's writing and how authentic and informative historical information was blended into the story. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ellie | 4/30/2011

    " I enjoyed it, was a little jumpy, but nice historical fiction. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anne | 4/5/2011

    " solid historical beach read along the lines of philippa gregory "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mslogar | 3/24/2011

    " loved the main character and her villainous boyfriend! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathleen | 3/23/2011

    " The writing is okay, the characters are a little thin, and some aspects of the story stretch my belief (all those years and no one gets pregnant?), but the basis in history makes it really interesting. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kirsten | 2/14/2011

    " I just couldn't get into this story. I thought it would be like the novels of Phillipa Gregory, but while the cultural details were there the characters didn't really develop. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Belinda | 1/31/2011

    " I was really excited about this book after having read the fantastic The Other Boleyn Girl, but it was an immediate disappointment. It did not live up to my expectations at all but it wasn't terrible as well. I guess it'll be good for a holiday read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gretchen | 1/20/2011

    " I loved this one! Though I didn't like the outcome. I love the history of England's Kings and Queens, and generally enjoy most book that have to do with that genre. I would read more of Bennett's books, she wasn't too flowery, or repetitive. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Malerie | 1/4/2011

    " Only made it to pg 79..I wanted to like it but it just didn't capture me. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Beth | 12/27/2010

    " I didn't finish it. It started really strong but I lost interest. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Beverly | 11/3/2010

    " I enjoyed this story. Although I tend to think of the position of women in England in the 1400's as limited, this story tells the tale of a woman who works hard to find power within the defined roles for women and class. Very good read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lynnette | 10/30/2010

    " I would actually suggest reading "A Portrait of an Unknown Woman" by this author before reading this one. That was an excellent book. This one was interesting reading, but had some implausible parts. Plus I hate when the main character falls apart over a man--get over it! L "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Francesca Clark | 10/17/2010

    " I've read a lot of romantic historical fiction and this is amongst the best. Well written and the most unlikely historical figure is the love interest. Well worth a read if you want to dip your toe into the world of romantic historical fiction. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Polly | 10/16/2010

    " Historical fiction based in the period of King Charles and King Richard of England. The main character is the daughter of a silk merchant whose life becomes entwined with the kings and with the business of weaving silk. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Crystal | 10/6/2010

    " Fun read. Interesting look at 15th century London. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mom | 8/31/2010

    " Listened to this on audio books. Interesting history that I knew nothing about. The love story got a bit tedious, however. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Allie Cross | 8/28/2010

    " It's alright, but the characters were so dull I was more interested in the silk. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patzia | 8/24/2009

    " I was fascinated to learn about silk women and the silk industry. I also understood a bit more about The War of the Roses. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kimberly | 6/4/2009

    " I very much enjoyed this book and loved the main character who was an independent woman. I highly recommend for women to read but definitely not a book for guys. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marti | 5/18/2009

    " Listened to this on audio books. Interesting history that I knew nothing about. The love story got a bit tedious, however. "

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About the Author
Author Vanora Bennett

Vanora Bennett is a journalist and writer. She lived and worked in Russia for seven years, writing for Reuters and the Los Angeles Times. She has been a foreign correspondent and feature writer and has contributed to such publications as the Times, Los Angeles Times, Guardian, Observer, and Evening Standard. She lives in London.

About the Narrator

Katherine Kellgren has appeared onstage in London, New York, and Frankfurt. Her work includes the role of Laura in a regional production of The Glass Menagerie and appearances on Comedy Central. She is an Audie Award and AudioFile Earphones Award–winning narrator of audiobooks and has also received the Peabody Award.