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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: June 2007 ISBN: 9781400174690
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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. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • Bennett…creates a multidimensional work of fiction. Readers of Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring will enjoy this…novel…. Highly recommended. Library Journal Starred Review
  • “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.”

    Booklist

Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 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 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 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 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. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 iamtedae | 1/31/2014

    " Ahmmmmm.... I think I liked it! It was incredibly detailed as far as the history goes, the people were very human and believable. The writing brings a very real, breathing presence and life to a period of history that's probably used to being considered from very different angles... "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Stephanie | 1/30/2014

    " I really tried, couldn't even finish it. I sold it on amazon. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kelly | 12/31/2013

    " A book about the adopted daughter of Thomas Moore. This book is a fictional tale about this famous family. The author created this story based on paintings of the family by the famous painter Hans Holbein. I wish they had included some of the paintings that were described in the book. I ended up looking them up on the internet out of curiosity. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Megan | 12/24/2013

    " This was a great book if you want to read about a mixture of politics, love, secrets, and art. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I would have liked the author to extend the tale to Thomas More's death. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katiebee | 12/18/2013

    " A different angle on the story of the reign of King Henry VIII...historical period drama narrated from the view of the adopted daughter of Sir Thomas More. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Yonina | 12/10/2013

    " One of the best stories of a real man of the era.Thomas More.....with an unknown woman, daughter of a family which befriended him while out of his native England in Holland. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Holly | 12/5/2013

    " taking forever, struggling through it... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cindy | 10/4/2013

    " Great additional perspective on the period and the people after reading Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Donna | 10/3/2013

    " A fine look into life and events of those outside the court of Henry VIII. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jessica | 12/5/2012

    " Good period piece...but I dont think I ever really understood the title. I liked the use of real people in a work of fiction - well researched. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wendy hughes | 7/28/2012

    " I think you would enjoy this one too Kerry - good story - historical fiction "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Chrissy | 7/24/2012

    " This was a very nice book- it covers a lot of history and offers a supposedly true theory on what happened to the princes in the tower. I would love to know if that is true. I really enjoyed the book and loved the history behind the story! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Helen Pye | 5/23/2012

    " Not a good book, at all. The plot is non-existent and the characters have no actual character. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bekah | 3/14/2012

    " Every time I read historical fiction, especially this with the turbulent religious reformation figuring into the plot, I am so grateful I live now! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kay Stopforth | 2/24/2012

    " Absorbing concoction of history and speculation, with a decidedly un-saintly Thomas More and lots of religious and political turmoil. Some hefty slabs of exposition and a slightly cop-out ending were the only downsides. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Patty Jump | 11/13/2011

    " Fascinating historical fiction on the Sir Thomas More family. I enjoyed the art history as well as the storyline from the perspective of More's adopted daughter, Meg. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mia | 10/11/2011

    " Another era book, it tells the story of a step-daughter in Sir Thomas More's family during the reign of Henry VIII and the intricacies of her great loves. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lee Vermillion | 9/11/2011

    " A little slow at the beginning but very interesting story of a young woman living during the reign of Henry VIII. Very enjoyable but slightly unbelieveable, especially the relationship she has with Hans Holbein. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jaci | 4/25/2011

    " Good historical fiction (Henry the 8th, Sir Thomas Moore, Hans Holbein). Fictional answer to what happened to the two brothers, Edward and Richard, in the tower. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marilyn | 3/6/2011

    " Interesting look at art, religion, politics during the time of the Tudors. Historical fiction with non-fiction elements ties in. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathy | 2/20/2011

    " 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? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cara | 1/30/2011

    " This book was pretty good. Some interesting thoughts and I generally enjoyed the characters. Not the best historical fiction I've read, but not bad. It kept me engaged and entertained. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lucy | 1/20/2011

    " More fiction than history, but a good read about family life in England in the early to mid 16th century (King Henry the 8th, and the religious turmoil. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Emily | 12/17/2010

    " Not the most captivating plot but the history was fascinating concerning Thomas More and his family as well as a new explanation for the mystery of the princes in the tower. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anne | 12/11/2010

    " great historical read. If you like Phillippa Gregory, this is for you. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Boo Kworm | 8/2/2010

    " Started reading this, got about 50 pages in, died from boredom. The whole idea was just.. lame. "

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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

Josephine Bailey’s impeccable narrations include the British classics Jane Eyre and The Secret Garden. She has also used her subtly nuanced style to enliven historical fiction and light romances. She has won nine AudioFile Earphones Awards and been a finalist for the prestigious Audie Award.