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Portrait of an Unknown Woman


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/ Key title Perfect for fans of 'Girl with a Pearl Earring', this is a remarkable love story with a background of religious and political turmoil in Tudor England. / This debut novel received amazing reviews in hardback across all the broadsheets, women's magazines and fantastic reader reviews on Amazon. / Vanora Bennett writes a weekly column in the Daily Mail. / A major Holbein retrospective at the Tate Britain raised awareness of Holbein in the UK. Menorca Bennett wrote pieces about Holbein around publication to tie in with the publicity for the exhibition. / 'Portrait of an Unknown Woman' sold for a high six-figure pre-empt in the United States and translation rights have already been sold at auction in Germany and pre-empted in Italy. / Competition: Tracy Chevalier, Philippa Gregory ,Sarah Dunant, Rose Tremain

About the Author

Vanora Bennett is a journalist and writer. She has been a foreign correspondent and feature writer and contributed to publications including The Times, the LA Times, the Guardian, the Observer and the Evening Standard. She lives in London with her husband and two sons. Portrait of an Unknown Woman is her first novel and she is currently writing her second novel for HarperCollins.


British journalist Bennett (Crying Wolf: The Return of War to Chechnya) makes her fiction debut with a sweeping reinterpretation of Sir Thomas More's family as it coped with the vicissitudes of Henry VIII's reign. Narrated by More's brilliant foster daughter, Meg Giggs, the narrative is framed by two paintings crafted five years apart by husky, ebullient German artist Hans Holbein; commissioned by the family, each was completed at radically different periods in the More clan's turbulent history. As the book opens, family tutor John Clement stimulates both Meg's apothecary interest and engages her in a love affair; she eventually marries him and bears him a son, though aware that Holbein also has romantic potential. As John, whose origins are shrouded in mystery, grows distant, Holbein returns to London to paint the More family again. Meanwhile, the Reformation bleeds across Europe, inciting religious upheaval, and Meg's staunch Catholic father continues to violently defend his faith against Protestant heretics. Duplicity involving Meg's flirtatious sister, Elizabeth, provides the novel's rousing climax. The vernacular doesn't quite hold, and the religious-political speechifying can be heavy-handed. But 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. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Praise for 'Portrait of an Unknown Woman': 'Bennett's background detail is impeccable -- part love story, part thriller, all excellently imagined and written.' The Times 'There is plenty to admire and enjoy in Bennett's portrayal of a society convulsed by radical change!Vanora Bennett is a writer to watch.' Times Literary Supplement 'There is much to admire in this curate's egg of a novel.' Sunday Telegraph 'Distinguished!Romance, intrigue and art history are confidently blended, and Holbein canvases are afforded starring roles.' Daily Mail 'If you want a classier-than-average romantic read, one contender is this fine historiccal debut, a 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'-style tale.' Sunday Times 'An atmospheric, passionate novel set against a backdrop of religious and political upheaval.' Woman and Home More praise for 'Portrait of an Unknown Woman': 'Fans of Tracy Chevalier and Philippa Gregory will lap up this meticulously researched historical tale!A brilliant study of passion, politics, religion and art.' Eve magazine 'Fans of Girl with a Pearl Earring will greet this with open arms: it's a similarly intriguing, clever web of art, passion and historical characters!atmospheric and alive with philosophy and treachery -- exhilarating.' Easy Living 'Rich in period detail, full of human passion, 'Portrait of an Unknown Woman' mingles art, politics and family drama to evoke the period when humanism was taking root in England. A fascinating tale, skilfully told and highly recommended.' Iain Pears, author of 'The Portrait' 'An enjoyable read.' Guardian 'If only history was taught by people like Vanora Bennett!I loved this book.' Penny Smith, First magazine

In 1527, portraitist Hans Holbein fled a Europe ravaged by religious ferment and journeyed to Henry VIII's England under commission to Sir Thomas More to paint a family portrait. Journalist Bennett has written a novel as oblique and layered as a Holbein painting, brilliantly depicting this turbulent time in English history through the eyes of More's adopted daughter, Meg Giggs, who becomes physically attracted to Hans despite romantic links to her former tutor, John Clement, who himself becomes a medical doctor and hides a mysterious-even royal-past. John is attracted to Meg, admiring her inquisitive mind and interest in herbal medicine, and knows they can make a successful, quiet life together. Meg must come to terms with the secrets of her adoptive father, her feelings for Hans, her suspicions of her sister, Elizabeth, and her longing for happiness in a world bubbling with the beginnings of religious strife. Award-winning narrator Josephine Bailey brings a rich, husky voice suggestive of smoke and chocolate to the reading of this book, which is further enhanced by her ability with accents such as the heavy German of Hans. She modifies her own voice in dramatizations of many characters, including the slightly shrill, nasal voices of several children and of the somewhat smug voice of Elizabeth. Recommended for libraries with historical fiction collections.-David Faucheux, Louisiana Audio Information & Reading Svc., Lafayette Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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