Portrait of an Unknown Woman

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9780007224920: Portrait of an Unknown Woman

Passion, painting and politics in sixteenth-century England.

The year is 1527. Hans Holbein the Younger is at the beginning of his remarkable career when he travels to England under the patronage of Sir Thomas More. His arrival brings the Renaissance in painting from Europe to Britain. As a guest in the splendid More household in Chelsea, Holbein begins to paint their first family portrait. Little could he know that in a few short years, the family, Tudor society and England itself would have changed beyond recognition.

The great household of the courtier and scholar, Sir Thomas More, was famous for its liveliness and learning. More had taken under his patronage distinguished astrologers, artists, politicians and men of religion, as well as wards of court, protégés and many others. Two people visiting the great house find themselves irresistibly drawn to Meg Giggs, one of More's foster daughters. One of them is John Clement – dark, tall, elegant – an erstwhile tutor, now practising to become a medical doctor; a man of compelling presence and mysterious background. The other is Holbein himself – warm, ebullient, radical and foreign – sent by the great Erasmus to paint the More family portraits. Meg will find herself powerfully drawn to these two wildly contrasting men. She will love one, and marry the other.

The two Holbein family portraits frame this remarkable story with its background of love, family, and of religious and political turmoil. Vanora Bennett has created an exceptionally rich novel, presenting the atmosphere of this Tudor household as rarely achieved.

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Review:

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

‘Bennett has a fine grasp of historical detail and a light style’.
The Observer

'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

'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

About the Author:

Vanora Bennett is a journalist and writer. She lived and worked in Russia for 7 years, writing for Reuters and the LA Times. 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. She has written two previous novels: Portrait of an Unknown Woman and Queen of Silks. Her latest novel, Blood Royal comes out in May 2009.

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