The powerful, evocative new novel by the critically acclaimed author of The Handfasted Wife, The Woman in the Shadows presents the rise of Thomas Cromwell, Tudor England's most powerful statesman, through the eyes of his wife Elizabeth. When beautiful cloth merchant’s daughter Elizabeth Williams is widowed at the age of twenty-two, she is determined to make herself a success in the business she has learned from her father. But there are those who oppose a woman making her own way in the world, and soon Elizabeth realises she may have some powerful enemies – enemies who also know the truth about her late husband… Security – and happiness – comes when Elizabeth is introduced to kindly, ambitious merchant turned lawyer, Thomas Cromwell. Their marriage is one based on mutual love and respect…but it isn’t always easy being the wife of an influential, headstrong man in Henry VIII’s London. The city is filled with ruthless people and strange delights – and Elizabeth realises she must adjust to the life she has chosen…or risk losing everything.
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About the Author
Carol McGrath taught History and English for many years in both the state and private sectors. She left teaching to work on a MA in Creative Writing from Queens University Belfast, then an MPhil in English at Royal Holloway, London, where she developed her expertise on the Middle Ages.
The idea to tell the story about the death of King Harold told from the viewpoint of his common law wife, Edith Swan-Neck, first came to her on a visit to Bayeux with the Launton/Gavray Twinning Society, which she chaired. Carol is married with two children and runs a business with her husband. She also reviews books for the Historical Novels Review.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“... Learn to question the world and find your own sense of light.” I felt he had given me advice of great value as I whispered my thanks. The Madonna had answered my prayer. She had sent me a good omen. I would thrive.” Mistress Elizabeth (Wylie Williams) Cromwell, Gentlewoman, tells this tale of growing up a cloth merchant’s oldest daughter. Her first marriage was an arranged one to cement her father’s dealings in cloth. Widowed at 22, with no children, she chooses, as is her right, to continue to run her husband’s business, much to her father’s chagrin. As she struggles with her responsibilities, she makes alliance with Thomas Cromwell, himself a well known merchant who, after becoming her champion, marries her. Thomas Cromwell is many things, but in this historical fiction, it is very obvious that he loves his wife. But Cromwell is ambitious and he makes and uses friends easily. Some of his choices historically put him and all he loved in danger. He is a man torn by love of country, love of family, and respect for some people and not for others. More than once, McGrath shows her knowledge of this in how she presents both Elizabeth and Thomas’s lives woven into a time of great upheaval in politics and the expanding world. When news of this book first reached me, I was excited. I am an unabashed Tudorphile, intrigued with the era most of my life having written major papers on Elizabeth I. The familial history around Henry and his predilections and politics are a bit more muddled. And people like Thomas Cromwell lived well by knowing which way the wind blew. Was Thomas Cromwell a Catholic, a Humanist orsimply an intelligent politician? This book is marvelously imagined within a small amount of actual known history.Cromwell was a commoner who rose to prominence because of his intelligence. This book is a nod to a fascinating man looking through the eyes of the person closest to him, his wife. This book is highly recommended. 5/5
Enjoyed reading this book which, although a novel, portrays a visual life of a woman in Tudor times. Also a different view of Thomas Cramer, one I'd not heard before.
"When beautiful cloth merchant’s daughter Elizabeth Williams is widowed at the age of twenty-two, she is determined to make herself a success in the business she has learned from her father. But there are those who oppose a woman making her own way in the world, and soon Elizabeth realizes she may have some powerful enemies – enemies who also know the truth about her late husband… Security – and happiness – comes when Elizabeth is introduced to kindly, ambitious merchant turned lawyer, Thomas Cromwell. Their marriage is one based on mutual love and respect…but it isn’t always easy being the wife of an influential, headstrong man in Henry VIII’s London. The city is filled with ruthless people and strange delights – and Elizabeth realizes she must adjust to the life she has chosen…or risk losing everything" I have called this novel "powerful", and it was to me..and "groundbreaking" because few facts are available to the public about the wife of Thomas Cromwell, excepting for her name and her death date. Additionally, again for me, this family has not been "overdone" in fiction although the Tudors themselves perhaps have been. I preface this review to say two things: one is that I received this ARC for a review and secondly, that I hope there is a sequel of some sorts ( Gregory Cromwell and/or Richard Williams). This author's prior work that I am most familiar with, was a family series involving three book. This evocative story begins with a preface, that shows how Elizabeth's life will be in 1526, then jumps to Part One, which is when she is widowed from Tom Williams. On that occasion she is reintroduced, as an adult with Thomas Cromwell ( who she may have met in childhood). Carol McGrath,in her fine author note, indicates that any "inventions" are a novelist's prerogative, but emerge from facts which are in existence, from her historian perspective. She also handles "time jumps" adroitly and in a way that enhances the story. It was very satisfying to me to be able to read about the Cromwells' life together, and to put flesh on their bones, as the saying goes. It seems to have been a good life lived in very difficult times, poised as they were on a religious reformation with many societal norms being thrown asunder. Many of the associates and staff of Thomas Cromwell and "Lizzie", as she was called, had their life station rise as their employer's did. We do know that in these perilous times life was precarious. This family dared to challenge some norms and consequences occurred. I recommend this book to all historical novel lovers as well as some Tudor fans, although Henry and his queens were only backdrops to how this story is told. Masterful!