Tuesday, April 21, 2009

King's Fool: A Notorious King, His Six Wives, and the One Man Who Knew Their Secrets


Barnes, Margaret Campbell. 1959/2009. King's Fool: A Notorious King, His Six Wives, and the One Man Who Knew Their Secrets. Sourcebooks. 320 pages.

I'll be honest. I think you have to be a certain kind of reader to appreciate King's Fool. This is a novelization of the life of Will Somers, the court jester of King Henry VIII and all six of his wives. This is a man who knew the king, knew his advisors, knew his wives, knew his children. If you're like me at all--if you love reading fiction and nonfiction about these very turbulent yet intriguing times in the royal court, then King's Fool is almost as good as candy. Rich in historical detail--religious, political, and lusty squabbles--the book provides a thorough insider's look at the life and times of Henry VIII. Will begins his time at court--quite by accident it turns out--during the King's first marriage. Will became quite devoted to both Katherine and her daughter, Mary. Of course, as the novel progresses and Henry begins desposing and obtaining wives with an almost madness, Will is there as a witness to it all. Not always approving--far from it--yet remaining in a position when those around him are losing their lives right and left. The fact that Will remained a constant--that no one maneuvered and plotted against him is remarkable. It was dangerous to be present at Court. Whether you're innocent or guilty of treason mattered little if someone decided to oust you. You could be set up just like that and lose your life. True, his role as jester made him the funny man. The man whose words had no perceived "power." Whether his words were meant as a jest or in all seriousness, he could always be presumed to be making a joke. Thus his true witticisms, his biting sarcasm wasn't perceived as dangerous or treacherous. Though the king may not have always laughed. The book, I feel, is very interesting. As the story progresses, my interest deepened. By the second half, it was a book I had a hard time putting down. Long story short, I just loved this one. But it's not one that I could recommend to just anyone. I think you have to love history.

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7 comments:

Lynne 5:50 PM  

I love reading historical fiction so this one sounds right up my alley. Onto my wish list it goes.

Taren 6:30 PM  

That sounds really interesting! I'm a huge royalty nut and historical fiction about royals, with all the inaccuracies, usually pisses me off. This, however, sounds like a fun and different take on all that.

Kim L 7:43 PM  

Isn't it interesting how many books are written about Henry VIII? I think he is such a fascinating historical figure, and I am definitely not alone! Thanks for recommending

Amy 10:05 PM  

I enjoyed this because I loved the character of Will. However, I think you DO need historical knowledge not to get confused. Even having just watched the Tudors or something would help. :)

Becky 10:29 PM  

Amy, you make a valid point. Fortunately, like Kim said, there isn't a shortage of books on Henry and his wives and his children. :) And then there is that great PBS documentary that I watch every chance I get :)

Kailana 4:49 AM  

I have two of Barnes novels, but I haven't got around to reading either of them, yet! Not really all that surprising...

Page Turner 10:12 PM  

This looks fascinating! I'm certainly one of those people who loves history, and historical fiction from a unique perspective is something I can't pass up. This is definitely going on my TBR list!

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
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  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

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