The Secret Diaries Of Juan Luis Vives chronicles the epoch-making adventures of Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives. The novel begins as Vives writes in self-imposed exile in Bruges, Spanish Netherlands in 1522. He is on the run from the Spanish Inquisition which has devastated his Jewish family in Valencia. Later, Thomas More invites Vives to the English court to tutor princess Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. The plot reaches its climax as Vives navigates the murky world of English politics during the reign of King Henry VIII, ever trying to negotiate an escape from Spain for his family, and for the Jewish people. The early modern period in Europe was a time of incredible instability. Economic depressions were the norm in Northern Italy, the Holy Roman Empire, and large swaths of England and France. Wars were endemic, with power politics and religion playing leading roles in massive bloodletting. Despite the darkness, great men and women of courage and intellectual curiosity also defined the age as one of scientific discovery, humanism, and scholarship. One of the great titans of the early modern period was Spanish scholar Juan Luis Vives. In the novel, Vives is the embodiment of the cosmopolitanism of the intellectual elite during the Renaissance. As a secret follower of Judaism, and thus a major outlaw according to the thinking of his own Catholic monarch, Vives walks a swaying tightrope. He was a genius and a philosopher who had a lot to say (he has since been dubbed ‘The Godfather of Psychoanalysis,’ Zilboorg 1941, and the ‘Father of Psychology,’ Watson, 1915), however, if he speaks too loudly not only his survival but that of his entire people hangs in the balance. Along the way, the reader is given close up and intimate and unique views of well-known figures such as Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More and his devoted daughter, Margaret Roper.
The Secret Diaries of Juan Luis Vives
by Tim Darcy Ellis
Length: 246 pages
Genre: Literary fiction, historical fiction, religious historical fiction
Content Rating: PG-13 + M. Includes some f-words, religious profanities, and mature themes (addiction, adultery)
Tim Darcy Ellis (BA BSc, MHSc) is a writer, physiotherapy business owner and formerly a professional archaeologist. Tim studied Archaeology at the University of York (BA Hons 1988) and as a professional archaeologist, worked on sites throughout England and Wales. He held posts at the Museum of London and the British Museum’s medieval galleries. Tim is currently Managing Director and Principal Physiotherapist of Excel Physiotherapy and Wellness. He qualified as a physiotherapist at the University of East London in 1998. He moved to Sydney in 2000 where he completed his master’s degree in 2002. Tim is chief writer of Excel Life magazine: writing and teaching extensively on health and wellness and specializing in the treatment of complex hip and pelvic pain.
Author Interview with Tim Darcy Ellis, author of THE SECRET DIARIES OF JUAN LUIS VIVES
What motivated you to write your book?
I was researching my family – the Elisha family who lived in the Jewish quarter of London in the eighteenth century. In my research of London’s Spanish Jews, I stumbled across this incredible figure, Juan Luis Vives. Vives was born to a family of forcibly converted Spanish Jews in 1492, the same year that Jews were expelled from Spain. He fled the Inquisition there at the age of 16, never to return. Vives visited England in the 1520s where he became the tutor to Princess Mary Tudor and a confidante of both Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, playing a dangerous game of double agent. He was a visionary, a man ahead of his time, and when I found him, I felt compelled to tell his story.
If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?
I would be the best-friend of Vives, Alvaro de Castro: he didn’t have the cares, concerns and worries of Vives, preferring to stay in the background, whilst still working to higher orders. He has a great sense of humour, an inner confidence that is almost a swagger, and he doesn’t need constant external validation. He’s a great guy!
Do you have another profession besides writing?
I actually own a physiotherapy and wellness business in Sydney, where I relocated from London in 2000. I was formerly a professional archaeologist at the Museum of London, and I moved here for personal reasons and changed careers. My writing is my way of keeping connected to my previous life as an archaeologist and historian.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve always written poetry, short stories, travel, and magazines (such as my business magazine, Excel life). I have been writing historical fiction for about ten years.
Do you ever get writer’s block?
If so, how do you handle it? Occasionally, mostly when I am distracted by too many conflicting demands. I have to give myself space form others, go for a long walk, and then find it easy to re-immerse myself in my work.
What is your next project?
I am working on the second book of my Sephardic trilogy. The trilogy is about the great men who eventually persuaded the English monarchs and government to allow the resettlement of Jews into England, and her colonies, something that ultimately transpired in 1665.
What was the last great book you’ve read?
I very much enjoyed Sarah Bakewell’s ‘At The existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being and Apricot Cocktails’. It is about the life and adventures of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. I really felt that this was a great book, both her subject matter and her writing inspired me!
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