Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that were published over a year ago. Not to mention those that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.
I wanted to share this book again because it was so different from anything I’d read before. A story which tells of the life and loves of Harry Lanchester, paralleling Henry VIII and his wives in a modern setting, with all the corresponding turbulence and romance.
Harry’s realm is his South of England property developing company, Lanchester Estates, while his ‘wives’ are the twentieth century sisters of their historic counterparts: Anne Boleyn is reincarnated as the equally intriguing Annette Hever, and Henry VIII’s fifth wife with the risqué past, Catherine Howard, lives again in 1999 as Keira Howard, a former lap dancer.
This novel promises to be uniquely different in its concept and delivery. And actually, that promise is fulfilled…in spades. The storyline and characters very artfully parallel the life and times of Henry VIII in a modern day setting.
Handsome and charming, Harry Lanchester makes his first appearance as a sixteen year old wannabe rock star and his story is told initially from the viewpoint of Harry’s best friend, Will. Thereafter we see Harry through the eyes of each of his wives in turn, combined with short chapters from Will, who acts almost as an impartial onlooker and supporter. Even when he disagrees with Harry and suspects him of a terrible act, Will feels unwilling and, possibly, unable to confront his friend.
Harry’s dream of rock stardom was shattered with the death of his elder brother. This tragedy meant Harry was next in line to head the family’s property development company, after the death of his father. Harry steps into, not only his brother’s shoes, but also his fiancée’s heart. He rises to the challenge of running the company, and being married, at such a young age with the complete belief his authority, charm and position would get him the wife, mistress or business deal he wanted.
Each of his wives, whose names were very cleverly adapted, have their own individual take on Harry as a man and husband. Their opinions are balanced by Will’s, coming from the perspective of a life long friend, and reading them all gives very differing viewpoints on the personality and conduct of one man. In doing so they also disclose their own characteristics and weaknesses.
Terry Tyler has, with a compelling and perceptive approach, brought the obviously very well researched historical characters to life in a contemporary guise. They all have depth and a realism that gives rise to the thought that, even through the ages, nothing much changes in human behaviours. Told with wit, humour and no small amount of pathos, the engaging narrative chronicles Harry’s life over almost four decades of decadent living. As Harry’s excesses continue unabated and accelerating, his decline begins in earnest after Keira’s death, the manner of which affects him to ever greater degrees as the years pass.
A fantastic interpretation, extremely well executed, resulting in a fascinating and enjoyable read.