BOOKS ✸ Figures in Silk Author Vanora Bennett –

BOOKS ✸ Figures in Silk Author Vanora Bennett – The Plot Of My Latest Novel Brings Together The Silk Business Of Fifteenth Century London And The Personality Of King Richard III, Suspected Throughout History Of Having Murdered His Two Nephews, The Princes In The Tower My Story Begins With Silk Merchant John Lambert S Decision To Marry Off His Two Beautiful Daughters At The End Of The Wars Of The Roses Elder Daughter Jane Starts A Notorious Liaison With King Edward IV Richard S Older Brother While Her Sister, Isabel, As The New Silkworker To The Court, Becomes Privy To Its Most Intimate Secrets Could The Sisters Hold The Keys To Power At This Time Of Uncertainty I couldn t get into this book, unfortunately I had a hard time empathizing with the characters that Bennett sets in 15th century England The protagonist, Isabel, never really seems to seize the day and attempt to carve out her own destiny.Often I say, Not my favourite book, but if you have the time, give it a read There s nothing about Figures in Silk to recommend itself as one of those books, however Its historical scope is narrow while set during the War of the Roses and involving several of the important players in that game, there are many interesting books set during this time period Even the details on the silk trade are lacklustre.You could do much better than spend time reading Figures in Silk. Set in the second half of the 15th century London, during the time when Edward IV is restored to the throne and later his brother Richard III takes the reign.This story brings to light the world of silkwomen of the 15th century London and their partnership with mercers to do business together Inevitably, training in the same households and marrying.Isabel, a daughter of silk merchant, gets married to Thomas Claver, a son of wealthy silk family dynasty In Isabel s father s eyes embroidery of church vestments is the only appropriate thing to do for women her station Once she marries Thomas, her role changes She gets to learn the business of silk She starts from the very bottom, learning repetitive, menial tasks of retail silkwork first Next she accompanies Alice, Thomas mother, to meetings with foreign silk merchants and aristocratic clients Then, she travels with Alice to the trade fairs at Bruges and Antwerp, where she learns how to make the large scale wholesale deals considered the pinnacle of achievement for a silk merchant With time her experience expends as well as her dream She dreams about the secretive silk weaving business for which Venetians are famous for.The first part of the book seems to be concentrated on the story of Alice and her ambitions The second part brings history of the ending conflict of the Wars of the Roses Isabel is a fictional character, but her sister Jane is based on a true character of Jane Shore, mistress to King Edward IV The house of Alice Claver, Thoma s mother, is heavily based on wills and bills of sale and other documentary evidence in the archive of the Merchers Company This beautiful story sheds light on two things, the secretive world of the silkweaving and the character of a strong woman who goes below her status to gain her freedom in the world dominated and controlled by men And the only way to gain that freedom was once woman became widow, she had her choice.This is a story for those who have appreciation for arts, especially handcrafts If you liked The Lady and the Unicorn or Girl with a Pearl Earring both by Tracy Chevalier, then you most likely will appreciate this book FB BestHistoricalFictionhttps bestinhistoricalfiction.blogs With so many novels now revolving around various players who also feature in this novel Richard III, Edward IV, the Tudors it is a relief to find that Vanora Bennett s focus in her second novel is not on life at court itself but on how the political machinations affect and disrupt the lives of London s ordinary citizens and particularly its powerful merchants. While I started reading Vanora Bennett s Figures in Silk because of the Ricardian aspect of the plot, I actually found that part of the narrative rather thin compared to the rich and detailed story of life in the London silk trade which is the primary focus of the novel Bennett s protagonist Isabel Claver is a young widow who becomes an apprentice to her successful mother in law Alice Claver, one of the foremost silk merchants in London She learns the trade well and, in partnership with Claver and an Italian silk merchant, embarks on a crown supported endeavour to bring the secrets of the Italian silk weavers to England Isabel s access to the court and to royal patronage and significant commissions is due to two things First, her sister is Jane Shore, the mistress of Edward IV Second, an accidental meeting with an intense young man in a church where both have gone to seek consolation turns ultimately into a secret royal liaison when Isabel discovers that the young man is Richard of Gloucester.I have to admit that I didn t really buy Bennett s characterisation of Richard III, or the love affair between him and Isabel Even Richard s contemporary enemies acknowledged that he seemed not only much in love with his wife, Anne Neville, at least up to the point where he became King, but also unusually faithful to her The infrequent and furtive meetings between the two give us no sense of who Richard is as a man, and thus we have no background for the things that Richard does once his brother is dead Bennett presents Richard as laving been loyal to Edward until his death, but then forming an almost immediate plan to seize the throne from his nephew She does not, however, go so far as to make him the murderer of the young princes Rather, she has them spirited out of London at his design by the knight Tyrell, and raised in secret Because Isabel learns of most of the major events of the coup through rumour and the accounts of others, the story of Richard and the princes has no strong dramatic impact we are caught up in her confusion and growing shame at having taken as a lover a man who she comes to see as capable of disloyalty and cruelty.While the greater political matters of the time are given a less than satisfactory treatment, it is as an account of life among the merchant class of London, and of the spirit and determination of a young woman to succeed in her craft despite many personal and professional setbacks that Bennett finds her voice and makes the book worth reading. Another vivid, engrossing historical novel from Vanora Bennett, chock full of period detail and fascinating characters. While I was on the treadmill this afternoon, I watched as Gordon Brown, his wife, and his two children took their leave of 10 Downing Street Brown stood in front of the hoards of photographers, smiled, then climbed into a car, streaking through London toward Buckingham Palace to give his resignation to the Queen I m not British, nor have I paid much attention to British politics since I spent the spring of 2007 in Scotland, but I got a lump in my throat watching his car make his way down the city streets It s amazing to me that some of us are lucky enough to live in countries where the our leaders step down after public elections when history has shown us that it s just as easy to hold your position through battle and murder Say what you want about politics and politicians, but there are times when the system is beautiful I just finished another one of my historical fiction novels, one that shows us what happens when the established system just breaks down Vanora Bennett sFigures in Silkyet another novel based in the Ricardian period centers around Isabel, a wealthy girl turned silkwoman after the death of her young husband during one of the many skirmishes of the War of the Roses As she labors to break the Italian stranglehold on the silk market and establish a manufacturing center in London, she enters into a relationship with a secretive man, Dickon To say any would be a spoiler, so I ll let things go here.What I find so interesting about this period of Plantagenet decline is how people lived with what was essentially the same war through several generations Yorkists and Lancastrians faced each other on the battlefield time and time again, two sides of a single family warring for the throne at the cost of their country and their people In this novel, we experience the deaths of three kings four, depending on whether you re counting kings that made it to their coronation or not , each time throwing England into a tizzy of changing dynasties and loyalties Such instability stifles intellectual and industrial growth I don t think that I can be faulted in thinking that England s renaissance happened mainly due to the relative calm of the Tudor period When our governments are stable, so are we A good percentage of our politicians know this and graciously remove themselves from a seat of power when called to by the peopleFigures in Silkis not a novel that will go will be touted in literature classes ten years from now, but it bears a read if only to appreciate what we have now. If you are bored by descriptions of the 15th century European fabric industry, this is not a book for you.However, if you re interested at all in the role thread and cloth played in the late medieval world, as seen by a character on an apprentice to master journey storyline, I think you would enjoy this book.15th century London teenager Isabella Lambert finds out in Chapter One that her father has engaged her to a man she hardly knows for economical political reasons She is advised by a new acquaintance that even though she is pawn this marriage is just the first move, and there are many possible moves in the future.So, working with what she has at any given moment, Isabella continues to make moves, and very smart, strategic ones at that After all, as she learns later on, a pawn can take a king And this book could have just as easily been titled Queen of Silk Meanwhile, her sister, Jane Shore yes, that Jane Shore has made different life choices in response to a patriarchal world, and is living a life of luxurious ease Isabella has to come to terms with the fact she is jealous of her sister while at the same time benefiting from her sister s connections And we see Jane working as hard as Isabella, in quite a different way, as she makes things happen at court with a few carefully placed coos and kisses What I thought was awesome was that these two sisters demonstrate This Is How Business Works The economy is, at its heart, a meeting at a party, the right people taking a few minutes to discuss a proposition over a glass of something, a word here, a nudge there, and, at the very center, the courage to speak up with a New Idea.As the book moves forward, we also see how much business is influenced by politics, and everyone keeps a wary on the royal family, worried about what each regime change will mean in the very real form of taxes and riots.The main characters gets close to the heart of events that marked the end of the War of the Roses, but even she, with her insider trading, is left in the dark on a few issues, giving the reader some tantalizing theories to chew on.Amazing, really, how so many writers can take the same set of facts and every single one of them adds them up to a different sum Fascinating One last note hard core fans of the true love romance of Anne Neville and Richard of York that pops up so often in a lot of the War of the Roses fiction will hate how their marriage is portrayed here Just saying. Get thee to an editor Seriously While I understand the copy I have is an ARC and thus an uncorrected proof what I read in this book goes way beyond the pale Twice I found a duplicated sentence, one right after the other Run on sentences with way too many commas, colons and semi colons, along with short disjointed sentences that went nowhere picture Snoopy writing his classic it was a dark and stormy night Frankly I felt I was always on the outside looking in and that s the last place I want to be when reading a book Jane and Isabel are daughters of a wealthy London merchant who has arranged for both their marriages Jane to Will Shore where she subsequently becomes the infamous Jane Shore, mistress to Edward IV, and Isabel to the lazy son of silk merchant Alice Claver Isabel s husband dies shortly after the marriage leaving a mountain of debt and not wanting to return to her father s household and another marriage she signs on as apprentice to her mother in law and begins to learn the silk trade Isabel s path eventually crosses again with a dark man she met on her wedding day and finds the attraction is still there although there is much to this man than she realizes I won t be a spoiler but that twist is as plain as the nose on your face As Isabel s fortunes grow, she and her mother in law plan to bring the secrets of Italian silk weaving to London and corner their own market, and her skills at embroidery bring her into contact with the Princess Elizabeth, and a most implausible friendship is born There is actually a scene where Elizabeth makes a monkey face in Isabel s presence in disrespect to her mother Perhaps well bred young princesses might have done that behind their mother s back, but with their dressmakers While the main characters aren t quite as black and white in their goodness and or badness as some recent authors have chosen to write this period they don t exactly come across as terribly interesting either Jane Shore, who has such a fascinating history of her own, was vapid and quite dull when she was in the story at all as a matter of fact Edward IV came across that way as well Isabel was over the top in her 21C female independence except when it came to Dickon, then she was dumber than a bucket of rocks Of course the Woodvilles were all evil and wicked, but we didn t even get the pleasure of being shown how bad they were, we were just told that they were bad and everyone hated them I m not even touching what she did with Richard III, but I think the author read up a bit on Shakespeare before writing the book As for the historical setting, I m not that well read on this period but things just didn t ring true Calling the King and Queen Your Majesty I believe that started with the Tudors , Richard traveling alone with no attendants whatsoever where was Francis Lovell, let alone a squire or two to name two And ROFL for the coronation meetings they were all having As for the silk trade and how well it s portrayed Again I haven t a clue but since the author didn t provide any notes to back up her story lines, I m taking that with a grain of salt as well If she d just stuck with Isabel and Jane s stories and the silk trade in London, made the two sisters half way interesting and kept the Royal family and it s intrigues out of it she might have had something here As it is now, I can only recommend it as a sedative to help you to sleep at night If you re set on reading this, I strongly urge you to get it from the library first and then buy it if you love it A very very generous two stars. A splendid blend of romance and history as the author takes one into the world of silk making Set in the late 1400 s, the story is based around two sisters, Jane and Isabel, who are the daughters of a silk merchant in London, John Lambert Lambert s business is suffering and in desperation, he resolves to marry off his two daughters to rich husbands.Jane, the eldest of his daughters, marries Will Shore, but then later divorces him when she becomes romantically involved with Edward Plantagenet King Edward IV and she continues to be his mistress for several years.Isabel marries Thomas Claver, a goldsmith, who is the son of Alice Claver, another silk merchant Thomas later dies, making Isabel a widow, but Alice Claver is impressed with Isabel s obvious skills involving the manufacturing of silk and teaches her everything she knows about the silk industry, from producing the finest quality silk to the business end of marketing the silk.Isabel then becomes involved, in a business sense, with King Edward s plan to bring in workers from Venice, their competitor, to make the finest quality silk.After Edward s death though, Jane goes to prison, which is a surprising twist in the story Another twist is that Isabel later becomes involved with Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, who eventually becomes King Richard III.I found the weaving of a fictional story plot into the well researched history of the time era to be quite impressive The romantic involvements of the two sisters plays a very important part in the story plotting, while the setting is really the main focus point of the novel, as the reader learns about the rulers of the land and how important the silk industry becomes to their success or demise.I believe there may be a few discrepancies in the historical part and a few plotting avenues that were not totally believable, however overall the story itself flows quite smoothly with just enough romance and mystery interlaced with historical accuracy to make for a very good storyline for anyone who enjoys history or historical romance.I also found the blending of the setting and plotting to accentuate each other nicely, keeping the reader s interest in the two women, Jane and Isabel, and their very apparent affluence in the silk industry, while also learning the importance of that industry to the politics of the land s government.

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