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The Autobiography of Henry VIII With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers

by Margaret George

Reviewed by Coral

Told in a journal format, Henry, who would rule England as King Henry VIII, reminisces about his life and how he has gotten to where he is.

As the second son, Henry was never supposed to be king. That was for his brother Arthur. Also for Arthur, the beautiful Spanish princess, Katherine, to be his wife. But when Arthur dies, Henry is left as the heir to the throne, inheriting everything that was his brother’s.

Through years six marriages filled with pain, love, lust and betrayal, the friends he lost and had killed, Henry recounts the ups and downs of his pollical career and romantic life.

There always seems – to me, at least – to be this danger with books that only have one narrator where part of the story seems to be lost because we aren’t getting it from the other person/people’s point of view. I felt the same way here, especially when Henry is involved with Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. I felt like because we aren’t really seeing them from the perspective of other people – or even from their own – that I have no idea who they really were in this book. I think it would have helped Anne’s character especially, because Henry doesn’t seem to be in his right mind when he is talking about her being a witch who has cast a spell on him. In this book, was she supposed to have cheated on him? I couldn’t tell.

I have to admit, that when it comes to history, I was always more interested in the ancient times (mostly ending with the Vikings and Mongols). This book was my mom’s and I asked to borrow it because I had watched The Tudors and was curious enough to want to read more (and maybe have it be a little more accurate that I was given to understand the TV show was; comparing the two I can see there were tons of differences, like one of Henry’s sisters completely being written out of history in the TV show). I think because I didn’t have my own impressions of the characters from non-fiction reading (which happens to me lot with people like Cleopatra and Alexander the Great, for example) that I let myself rely too heavily on the impressions I had from The Tudors. I was picturing everyone as the actors who played them in the show; the characterizations of a lot of the characters in the book were, unfortunately, not strong enough to override the impressions I’d taken from the show.

Based on the title, I was expecting more notes from Henry’s fool, Will Sommers, but he didn’t really add anything. Considering he made his feelings for Anne Boleyn very clear in the prologue, I was disappointed that he was silent through most of Anne’s downfall. Like I said, I would have liked to have had something more than just Henry’s words to judge what was really meant to have happened.

Overall, it was an interesting if disappointing book in the end. There really wasn’t anything that stood out about the book, one way or the other.

Grade: C