Figures in Silk

Figures in Silk

by Vanora Bennett
3.8 117


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Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett

Two sisters discover passion during the War of the Roses—one in the arms of the king, the other in the world of silk

From the author of the acclaimed novel Portrait of an Unknown Woman comes an epic tale of love and intrigue. The year is 1471. Edward IV, who won the throne with the help of his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is restoring law and order after years of war. Under Edward IV, life in England begins to improve. Business is booming once more and the printing and silk industries prosper in London.

When silk merchant John Lambert marries off his two beautiful daughters, their fortunes are forever changed. Elder daughter Jane Shore begins a notorious liaison with the king while industrious and clever Isabel finds herself married into the house of Claver, a wealthy silk dynasty. Fate delivers Isabel a challenge when her new husband is killed and she is forced into apprenticeship to her mother-in-law, Alice Claver.

It is from Alice Claver that Isabel learns to love silk and the exotic and passionate fabrics from Italy, Persia, Spain, Tunisia, and beyond. Isabel learns to make her way in this new world of silk—to find friends and enemies—and she strikes an alliance with her sister's lover, King Edward IV, that will bring the secrets of silk-making to London. As Isabel grows in power and her plan for a silk industry run by Englishwomen is set into motion, the political landscape shifts in dangerous ways. One sister will fall as the other rises and choices must be made that will change their lives forever.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061689857
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/02/2010
Pages: 475
Sales rank: 363,187
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)

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, Queen of Silks and Blood Royal.

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Figures in Silk 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 117 reviews.
Albionfaire More than 1 year ago
As a reader with an interest in all things regarding Richard III and as an embroiderer myself, I was curious to see how successful this particular venture in Ricardian fiction would be. The primary character, Isabel, and her sister Jane are truly fascinating and the author has put flesh and bones on them. Isabel is understandable and likable. The premise, the establishment of a productive silk industry in England in the 1400's, even though that didn't happen until the 1600's and even then only with marginal success, is well constructed and believable. The sidebar characters, such as Will Caxton, add depth to the tale. The writing is excellent, with one annoying exception...the relationship between Isabel and the Duke of Gloucester. The more intimate conversations between them are awkward and stilted; they disrupt the flow of the story, though Isabel's thoughts about the relationship do work. And even though the author does not attribute all of Richard's supposed crimes to her character, she introduces doubts about him which are questionable historically if one has really read a great deal of material on Richard III. That being said, I would still have to recommend the book for its own merits, that being the well-written story of a competent professional woman in an age when women had few choices other than marriage.
CLSR More than 1 year ago
I have read most of the historical novels about the Royals, so many of the characters already have a place in nmy mind. This story has a tale of the rich, the poor and the powerful from a new and intrigueing angle. I loved it and so will you.
Flounce More than 1 year ago
Although not the best written book of historical fiction I've read the plot is quite interesting. It follows the life of a London silkwoman during the last years of England's War of the Roses and tells the story of her years long affair with a man who was not only reviled in his own day but through Shakepeare's storytelling has become history's most deformed and depraved monarch. Not rich in description of place - you don't smell the markets or feel the cavernous halls of Westminster - you do come to understand the cloth business of London and its relationship to Italy as well as the characters and their motivations. As the story unfolds, you come to understand the choices made by Isabel, the main character, as she defies the expectations of her family and winds up with a most unlikely lover. I enjoyed the way the author mixes the history of the mercantile class with that of the monarchy as both struggle to establish themselves in 15th century London. Word of caution - that depraved king I spoke of earlier? Well, he's not so depraved after all...
rachie05 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to someone else. It touched on early women in business, as well as forbidden love. There was some suspense as well as drama.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've ever read. At first I wasn't sure, in the beginning I was afraid it was going to more about silk and silk making than I wanted to know, but it wasn't. This was a fantastic book, very original - I didn't want to put it down and I didn't want it to end. I hope this author will hurry and write more books.
Danielle084 More than 1 year ago
This was an amazing book. It pulled me in right away and I couldn't put it down. Vanora has an amazing way of writing and I can't wait to see what she writes next.
harstan More than 1 year ago
The House of York English King Edward IV is out of money so must find new sources to replenish the treasury. Though young to be a monarch, the Plantagenet ruler knows the only group with cash is the affluent merchant class who control power based on their manipulating the rivalry for the monarchy between the Houses of York and the Lancaster. In 1471 wealthy silk merchant John Lambert suffers an economic setback, which forces him to marry his two daughters to rich spouses rather quickly. However, his offspring do not quite see life as dire as he currently does. His older daughter Jane starts a heated scandalous affair with the young monarch; eventually becoming his mistress. Thus he turns to his other child Isabel who he pressures into marrying obese silk merchant Thomas Claver. As Isabel struggles with the horrific thought of marriage to odious Claver, a stranger provides her comfort in a church. Even after doing her duty, Isabel has not forgotten the unknown person who was kind to her. When Claver dies, the stranger returns, but he is not quite the Good Samaritan the widow thought he was. Though the romances of the siblings are critical to the story line, the key to this deep fifteenth century tale is the power struggles between the aristocracy and the rising merchant class. Jane rises in influence through her being the king's mistress while Isabel's rise to power is through her knowledge of silk-weaving and global trade as she leads an effort to supplant Venice as the silk trade center. Together John's offspring appear to be the most influential figures in England as they "control" the king and the silk. Fans will relish this powerful historical as real persona embellish the look at an early globalization era with internal partisan strife that sounds so twenty-first century as history in general terms repeats itself. Harriet Klausner
Morris19 More than 1 year ago
I found the story historically interesting, lots of colorful characters, romance in the kings court and bed...good read!
MotherNatureKG More than 1 year ago
The book dragged and to be honest it became a chore to wade through it. If you want to know everything, and I mean everything, about the silk trade, how to weave silk, and so on in medieval times then buy the book. If you are looking for a nice romance book then takes you away, forget it. This book is best borrowed from a friend, borrowed from the library, but not bought. If you have a project due on making silk, coloring silk, weaving silk, selling silk, and want it set in medieval times well then use this book as a reference. The author was trying to write a historical romance along with authentic touches but went too far in detailing the silk trade. Come on already! Bring on the romance! Enough of the silk!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the best of "historical novels" and fun to read. Easy on the eyes.
katknit More than 1 year ago
"The more things change, the more they stay the same." Figures in Silk, a book about surviving life in London during the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III, certainly validates the old saying. Sisters Isabel and Jane experience first hand the effects of political turmoil, one from the outside, and the other from the inside, of court life. Both girls are unwillingly married at a young age, but neither marriage survives. One sister goes into the silk trade with her dynamic mother in law, and the other becomes mistress to the king. The plot is fairly standard issue for historical fiction with womjen protagonists, but its emphasis on political infighting, intrigue, and machinations, is its driving force. The author's treatment of Richard III is balanced, and major and supporting characters alike are well developed. Three dramatic but credible surprises make for a satisfying conclusion and an enjoyable reading adventure.
Hammbone More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the storyline, characters, and learned a lot about the time period and merchants of this era. It had some surprising twists and turns.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Vanora Bennett manages to capture the atmosphere of the 15th Century with great success. Entertaining subject matter and storyline. I am looking forward to reading "Portrait of an Unknown Woman".
beachpolly More than 1 year ago
I liked the part about the silk industry the best. Stories about the English royal families have been over done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. It is about a girl who works her way up in the weaving/sewing trade in 1400s London, but it is also about love, friendship, commerce, history, mystery, arts, and more.
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debralmartin More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of historical fiction and when I saw FIGURES IN SILK in the bargain pile, I grabbed it. From the description on the back book cover, I thought I'd be enjoying the story about two sisters, but I was sorely disappointed. The book focuses mainly on Isabel who we first meet as a 14-year-old sheltered girl from a wealthy family and her fears about being forced into marriage with Thomas Claver. In the first scene she is praying/sobbing in church when she meets a "hard" stranger with a "wolfish" smile. She is instantly captivated by him and so begins her decade plus affair with Dickon (aka Richard, Duke of Gloucester). When she agrees to share a meal with him, it feels unbelievable that an innocent girl with no worldly experience would agree to do this. Isabel goes on to marry Thomas Claver and her life is set on a path of silk merchants. There are some good parts in the book especially Isabel's determination to find her place in the Claver household when her husband is killed after only two weeks of marriage. I was rooting for her at this point in the book, but the endless descriptions of silks, fabrics and the intricacies of the silk trade were boring and I ended up skipping pages at a time. The author clearly misses the mark in not focusing more on the sisterly relationship of Isabel and Jane. I actually thought Jane's story was quite interesting, but there were only snippets of how she became the mistress of King Edward, survived being arrested as a witch and imprisoned in Ludgate Prison. Even with this turn of events, Isabel remains enamored with Dickon/Richard and never once believes that he has done despicable things to become King. For such a smart business woman, Isabel can't seem to connect the dots. Another point where the reader must suspend belief is throughout the book both sisters are having affairs for 10+ years, but neither one ends up having a child. That seemed totally unrealistic along with the scene involving the arrest and execution of Lord Hastings. For this one scene only Richard is portrayed as the "mad" king. It was totally out of character with how Richard had been portrayed throughout the story. The ending of the book seemed contrived and not satisfying at all. I didn't care what Isabel did. This book could have been a fresh take on Richard III's rise and fall during the War of the Roses, but it falls short on so many levels that I cannot recommend it
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I wish the ending would have been different, but it was a great book.
ilovebaking2 More than 1 year ago
This is the first novel I have read by Ms. Bennett and was pleasantly surprised. The story kept me fully engaged from the start. The premise revolves around the Lambert sisters and their relationships with Edward IV and Richard III. Will be reading more by this author as I thoroughly enjoyed her style and delivery of material.