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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Book Review: 23:27 by H.L. Roberts

Friday, January 30, 2009

Book Review: The Last Wife of Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson

Title: The Last Wife of Henry VIII
Author: Carolly Erickson
Genre: Fiction - Historical
Finished: January 30, 2009

I picked up Erickon's The Last Wife of Henry VIII because Barnes and Noble had yet to receive that newest issue of Fangoria Magazine and I did not want to go home. I found myself at a shelf of historical fiction about the wives of kings, a simple endcap with about six books on it. I chose Erickson's after reading the backs of a few-- I went for Erickson because she had a background in history, which I felt the book would benefit from. The Last Wife of Henry VIII is about Catherine Parr, the wife of King Henry VIII. She was the only one to escape death, exile and divorce at his hand. The novel follows Catherine through her life from girlhood to death. It recounts her four marriages, not all true to life, to Ned Burgh, John Neville, King Henry VIII, and finally Tom Seymour.

Throughout the book, Catherine experiences much tragedy as she loses family, husbands, children, and homes. Always in the background is the King and his doings, told through the perspective of Catherine and other sources of information. Wives are disposed of one after the other and the King courts Catherine through the entire novel until their marriage. She does emotional battle and engages in struggles for power with relatives and other members of the court, which causes her much distress and adds to the drama of the novel. Yes, this book gives Catherine Parr and very full, very exciting, and very dramatic life.

I wasn't too long into the book that I had to apply one of the most important historical fiction rules: when reading historical fiction, keep in mind that it's not non-fiction and will, therefore, be less bound by the responsibility of accuracy and neutrality. Historical fiction may take as many liberties as it pleases to tell an interesting story, which Erickson certainly does in this novel. Historical fiction is usually based on the life of an important figure or on historical events, though not with the promise of total truth. Fiction is fiction, even with you tack on the word "historical" in front of it. To anyone unfamiliar with Tudor history, the story flows easily. For anyone who knows a little something about the Tudors, some of the inaccuracies or displays of character are a bit unsettling. For example, Catherine did not marry young Ned Burgh, though Erickson writes that he was her one true love. Also, Tom Seymour did not try to usurp the crown through starting his own army and waging a personal war. These things are added for romantic and dramatic effect only. What especially annoyed me was that when married to Henry VIII, the novel Catherine Parr was silly and stupid enough to commit adultery. Clearly, she had not been paying enough attention when other wives were executed for that very crime. It seemed out of character that such an intelligent and steady headed woman would give in to something so dangerous and, well, stupid.

Was this a good book? Yes. I couldn't put it down. The drama was great, the romances were hot, and the intrigues were very intriguing. I enjoyed the book and hope to find more of Erickson's works. Fortunately, while I enjoy picking through historical fiction and determining its accuracy, I don't get upset or overly bothered when a book is very inaccurate.

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