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Extended Audio Sample Portrait of an Unknown Woman: A Novel, by Vanora Bennett Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,006 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Vanora Bennett Narrator: Josephine Bailey Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The year is 1527. The great portraitist Hans Holbein, who has fled the reformation in Europe, is making his first trip to England under commission to Sir Thomas More. In the course of six years, Holbein will become a close friend to the More family and paint two nearly identical family portraits. But closer examination of the paintings reveals that the second holds several mysteries …

Set against the turmoil, intrigue, and, tragedy of Henry VIII’s court, Portrait of an Unknown Woman vividly evokes sixteenth-century England on the verge of enormous change. As the Protestant Reformation sweeps across Europe to lap at England’s shores, relations between her king and the Catholic Church begin to plummet—driven by Henry VIII’s insatiable need for a male heir and the urgings of his cunning mistress Anne Boleyn—and heresy begins to take hold. As tensions rise, Henry VIII turns to his most trusted servant and defender of Catholic orthodoxy, Sir Thomas More, to keep peace in England, but soon the entire More family find their own lives at risk.

At the center of Portrait of an Unknown Woman is Meg Giggs, Sir Thomas More’s twenty-three-year-old adopted daughter. Intelligent, headstrong, and tender-hearted, Meg has been schooled in the healing arts. And though she is devoted to her family, events conspire that will cause Meg to question everything she thought she knew—including the desires of her own heart. As the danger to More and his family increases, two men will vie for Meg’s affections: John Clement, her former tutor and More’s protégé, who shares Meg’s passion for medicine but whose true identity will become unclear; and the great Holbein, whose artistic vision will forever alter her understanding of the world.

With a striking sense of period detail, Portrait of an Unknown Woman is an unforgettable story of sin and religion, desire and deception. It is the story of a young woman on the brink of sensual awakening and of a country on the edge of mayhem.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Bennett constructs lush backdrops and costumes, and has impeccable historical sense. She luminously shades in an ambiguous period with lavish strokes of humanity, unbridled passion, and mystery.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “This debut novel is a must-have for those readers who like literary fiction with a large dose of historical authenticity.”


Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Jess | 2/18/2014

    " Just don't do it !!! On the back this book is compared to the writing of Tracy Chevalier and Philippa Gregory, which is a terrible thing to do to these two wonderful authors. The writing is poor and the plot clunky, particularly annoying is her use of v modern terms and phrases in a 16th century context. Her plot is based almost entirely on Jack Leslau's theory concerning the presence of one of the two princes from the tower in a work by Holbein (the younger). This theory is widely discredited and the painting in question is not even confirmed as a work by Holbein. This aside the thing I found most irritating was the way the plot lead up to the beheading of More and then ended with no real sense of conclusion. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Lynn | 2/15/2014

    " This book was a more interesting way to learn about the politics of King Henry's court. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Kathy Baker | 2/7/2014

    " This was a good historical fiction book. It was enlightening about the situation Thomas More faced in England. I am sorry that there was so much romance in it. Was there so much sleeping around in those days? "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Alexis Villery | 1/31/2014

    " Both books are historical fiction but both have completely different time periods. Portrait of an Unknown Woman is about Thomas More's family, specifically Meg Gibbitt--one of More's foster daughters--and the two men who are infatuated with her. The book is beautifully written with just the right amount of detail. If you enjoy reading about the 16th century England during Henry VIII's reign. It is difficult to tell what is fiction and what is history but I love that about this book. The novel ends before More's beheading (he was beheaded on Henry VIII's orders for refusing to condone the King's divorce and marriage to Anne Boleyn. The characters are the best part of this novel. They have been beautifully drawn and have a depth that I can't help but admire. The relationships (and drama) make the book so hard to put down. "

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