Friday 6 November 2020

Book Review ~The Secret Diaries of Jean Luis Vives by Tim Darcy Ellis



My thanks to Ben at Cameron PR for my copy of ths book

Based on the true story of Vives, a secretly Jewish Spaniard, brought to England by his friend Thomas More to tutor Princess Mary and subsequently embroiled in the divorce between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.

It is 1522. Juan Luis Vives, a renowned academic, flees Spain to avoid the fires of the Inquisition. When England's Sir Thomas More offers him the role of tutor to Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII, he eagerly accepts. While publicly navigating life as a 'New Christian’, Vives is quickly drawn into the secretive and dangerous world of London's Jewish community.

Inside the Tudor court, the king and queen separately seek Vives's assistance to support their opposed demands. He must betray one to help the other, knowing his decision could cost him his life. Whom will he choose? Not only his survival, but that of his family and his entire people hang in the balance.

What did I think about it..

This interesting historical novel uses the fictional secret diaries of Jean Luis Vives, a Spanish Jew, and humanist philosopher, who escaped the inquisition, and on the recommendation of Sir Thomas More became the tutor to the Princess Mary, and confidante of both King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.

The diaries encapsulate both the tumultuous political and religious upheaval that was so prevalent in the early part of the sixteenth century and takes us into those hidden places at the English court, and also in Europe, which were filled with subterfuge and dangerous intrigue. This particular time in history was filled with plots, counter plots and malice, and getting on the wrong side of those who mattered was to play a dangerous game.

The author writes well and brings a detailed historical authenticity to the story and I think that basing the historical content on fact, and also around diary entries, allows the story to evolve slowly and in intricate detail. Throughout the story we are given a personal and intimate glimpse into what was happening in England, and beyond to Spain, in the years between 1523 and 1529.

Overall The Secret Diaries of Jean Luis Vives is an interesting and thought provoking historical novel.

About the Author

TIM DARCY ELLIS has always loved history. He grew up in Surrey, studied Archaeology at the University of York, and as a professional archaeologist, worked extensively on sites throughout England and Wales, including the excavations of London's Roman amphitheatre. He also held posts at the Museum of London and was a tour guide at the British Museum. 

Tim has a particular interest in the small, often secretive Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities of Tudor and Stuart London. The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives is the first part of his Sephardic trilogy that explores the role of the key players who ultimately allowed for the readmission of Jews to England in 1655. 

Tim later qualified as a physiotherapist in Australia where he has his own practice. He is also the Chief Writer of Excel Life health and wellness magazine.


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