A voluminous first novel--at 960 pages, it weighs almost as much as the jowly monarch himself--about the perennially popular King Henry VIII and his diverse ill-fated queens. Margaret George chooses to tell the King's story in the autobiographical fire person, punctuated by the narrative device of his Fool's commentary on and clarification of the royal ""manuscript."" The author brings a warmly sympathetic revisionism to the vivid but often blood-darkened pageantry and grand drama of the English 16th century; and, given her let's-be-a-little-nicer-about-it intent, it may be that her numerous historical clichÃ‰s can willingly be overlooked. Woven into the detailed soap operatics of marriages, divorces, executions, and domestic life in the palace are king's-eye-views of affairs of state: the Hapsburgs, the papacy, the Protestant Reformation, the dissolution of the monasteries, the Oath of Loyalty, Sir Thomas More, the King of France, the Queen of Scots, all make fleeting appearances. The form of the confessional diary--so the theory seems to go--supposedly reveals the innermost King Henry VIII as vulnerable, religious, fond of children, and ingenuous, though increasingly unstable; while the image of a morally monstrous egotist, glutton, and lecher fades before this new and not-unbelievable fiction. Prodigiously lengthy but, all in all, encapturing entertainment for the historical-novel audience.