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During the reign of King Henry VIII, 16th-century England was the scene of great turmoil between Church and State -- a time of religious strife with voices clamoring for reformation, countered by charges of heresy and execution. In this crisis, one man stood out as the great defender of tradition: Sir Thomas More.
Portrait of an Unknown Woman is historical fiction at its best, rich in detail and observation that dares to choose as its setting the household of More. It is a novel that unfolds from an oblique angle, revealing itself not through More's eyes but through the eye of his young ward, Meg Giggs -- the unknown woman. Meg is a wholly realized creation, a young, headstrong woman schooled from childhood in the healing arts. A woman who, in time, will be torn between her loyalty, duty, and devotion to the More family and the call of her passions and conscience. Two men will vie for the heart and mind of young Meg: John Clement, her former tutor, a quiet man with a past shrouded in mystery; and Hans Holbein, the famous artist who twice painted portraits of More and his family.
In Portrait of an Unknown Woman, Bennett has penned a suspenseful family drama with countless twists and turns, a revealing lesson on art and painting, and a most satisfying love story, all set against and within the rich historical time and tapestry of Tudor England. A remarkable debut novel. (Summer 2007 Selection)