September 4, 2012

History by Threes: The Tudors

I know. You thought this day would never come. I've only been hinting about this post for, um, four months? But finally - here it is, a new History by Threes post!

First up: fiction. This was a slightly tough call for me, since there are approximately one billion historical fiction books set in Tudor times. I almost picked the Matthew Shardlake Mysteries by C.J. Sansom, because those give an excellent view of the dissolution of the monasteries, and the historical accuracy is spot-on. But, I didn't want another mystery (see the kid pick below), so I finally settled on Her Highness, the Traitor which tells the sad story of Lady Jane Grey's nine days on the throne. You can read my full review of it here.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Sure! It's interesting and historical.

My nonfiction pick was G.J. Meyer's The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty. This is a massive book that gives a detailed look at all of the Tudors, starting with Henry VII, and ending with Elizabeth 1. Probably about half of the book is about Henry VIII, but since his reign was significantly longer than Edward, Mary, and Lady Jane Grey's reigns combined, I didn't mind. There was a vast amount of information about the dissolution of the monasteries and Henry's split with Rome that I found completely absorbing. I'd always thought of the schism as fairly quick -- I never realized how long and painful it was, and how the level of separation went back and forth. 

Each chapter also included a section that was a detailed look at some aspect of Tudor life, not necessarily about the monarchs; such as English monasticism, English theater, public education of the era, etc. These sections did break up the flow of the history a bit, but I liked them anyway.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Yes! It's fascinating and well-written.

My kid pick was only loosely related to the Tudors themselves. The Playmaker is set toward the end of Elizabeth's era, and stars Richard Malory - an orphan who comes to London and finds himself acting on the stage at the Globe, alongside Shakespeare and many other (now) famous actors. Unfortunately for Richard, someone seems determined to kill him: and he must figure out why.

It's a bit of a complicated mystery, so it's probably more of a young adult book than a kids' book, but it gives a really interesting look at how the theater worked, and what society was like for Richard. And, his troupe even gets to perform before the Queen! I think I would've loved this book in 7th or 8th grade, when I used to (yes, yes, pretentiously I know), read Shakespeare's plays from my parents' copy of his complete works.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? If you want to. But your niece might like it better.

Phew! I finally did it. Check out my other History by Threes posts here.

What's your favorite book about the Tudor era?

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