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VINE VOICEon 16 December 2012
I've read a couple of other historical novels by this author, which were quite enjoyable, but not great. I had to review this after finishing this morning as it was so much better and a really rewarding read.

The novel covers the reign of Henry VIII from the point of view of Will Somers, the man who becomes the king's jester or fool. This gives the book a totally different twist and insight from something concentrating on the usual courtly suspects. Will is in the thick of things, with a front row seat in the course of history, if you like, but he's not one of the players in the drama.

The novel is actually written in the first person, and it's very rarely that I like this because in the hands of most authors it is clunky, but here I had to go back and check that this was so, as it seemed so natural.

Obviously, hindsight is a wonderful thing in history and some of the points made are from the point of view of someone with historical hindsight, but there's also a lot of psychological truth in there and you can quite clearly see why characters act the way they do.

Now, my only problem is that MCB was not a writer of authorial afterwords, like many present authors. What I really want to know is how much of the story is true (within the bounds of fictional probability!) and what is fiction/surmise - and what happened to Will Somers next?!
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 7 August 2011
I have read and thoroughly enjoyed several of Margaret Campbell Barnes' historical novels. They are extremely well written and very readable; and they rest well on the shoulders of correct historical research and information. Although it is now quite some years since they were originally published, they do not read as at all dated; in fact, their accuracy, and sharp witty writing are preferable to many instances of `modern' historical novels.

This book is very interesting in that it gives the perspective on Henry VIII's reign from the perspective of Will Somers, Henry's Court Fool. This was a very well-respected position in a medieval court, and Will had the run of much of Henry's Court. He was thus privy to many conversations and secrets that others in the Court would not have known of. This is a good device in such a novel to be able to share directly with the readers, the contemporary impressions of the time, and the upheaval when Henry looked to be rid of his wife Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. Of course, this was not the end of Henry's marital adventures, and Will Somer was there for the remainder of Henry's reign, and into Edward VI's and Mary's reigns as well, before his death in 1560.

I am not aware of the romantic side of Will's life which is portrayed in this book, and have no idea if that is historically correct or not. However, generally the book is true to history as it is known, and the characters of the time are well-presented in this book - Cromwell, Wolsey, Cranmer, and others whose names dot the Tudor landscape.

This is a great story; although you may have often heard of Henry VIII's life and times, this book offers a new perspective. Events that are covered extensively in historical non-fiction books of Henry VIII are covered briefly in these reminisences of Will; it is a book of Henry's contemporary, written by a man who lived in his court, and saw the `real' Henry; and the events that are magnified in this story are those that were important to Henry and Will, not the pages of history.

Highly recommended, as are all of Margaret Campbell Barnes' books.
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on 12 January 2014
An enjoyable account of numerous plots and intrigues during the long reign of Henry VIII told by the king's 'all-licensed fool' Will Somers. All six wives feature as the narration unfolds, showing the gradual deterioration in Henry's character as he ages. The fool grows closer to his master as the king becomes a destructive monster, destroying all those he fears may threaten his son's inheritance.
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on 12 April 2014
Pacy tudor novel, spanning Henry VIII reign, seen from the perspective of his fool. A little bit 'mary-loving' heavy, but still describes many aspects of court life. Drama and emotion in equal measure. Worth a read if its cheap enough
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on 23 September 2012
I wasn't sure how this book was going to read when I first picked it up, however, I was very pleasantly surprised and enjoyed it so much I read it in one sitting. A great insight into the life of Henry VIII from someone who would have been close to him and probably saw and heard more than any one else would have done. This was brilliantly written and very enjoyable.
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on 18 January 2013
The good thing about this book is the history is fact unlike another book written about Will Somers the Kings Fool! This gives him a nicer character and is more plausible than others I have read.
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on 12 August 2014
Enjoyed reading this for a second time, appreciating the background detail of life in Tudor Times. Recommend for anybody with an interest in history.
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on 14 October 2013
Like all her books this is both interesting and well researched. Anyone who likes historical fiction should read this book.
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on 8 October 2013
A good read for those who like historical novels.I read this before many years ago & was delighted to find it again
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on 22 March 2016
Really interesting to read of familiar events from such a different perspective.
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