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Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review: The Boleyn Inheritance



The Boleyn Inheritance
Phillipa Gregory

Three Women Who Share One Fate: The Boleyn Inheritance

ANNE OF CLEVES
She runs from her tiny country, her hateful mother, and her abusive brother to a throne whose last three occupants are dead. King Henry VIII, her new husband, instantly dislikes her. Without friends, family, or even an understanding of the language being spoken around her, she must literally save her neck in a court ruled by a deadly game of politics and the terror of an unpredictable and vengeful king. Her Boleyn Inheritance: accusations and false witnesses.

KATHERINE HOWARD
She catches the king's eye within moments of arriving at court, setting in motion the dreadful machine of politics, intrigue, and treason that she does not understand. She only knows that she is beautiful, that men desire her, that she is young and in love -- but not with the diseased old man who made her queen, beds her night after night, and killed her cousin Anne. Her Boleyn Inheritance: the threat of the axe.

JANE ROCHFORD
She is the Boleyn girl whose testimony sent her husband and sister-in-law to their deaths. She is the trusted friend of two threatened queens, the perfectly loyal spy for her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, and a canny survivor in the murderous court of a most dangerous king. Throughout Europe, her name is a byword for malice, jealousy, and twisted lust. Her Boleyn Inheritance: a fortune and a title, in exchange for her soul.




Star Rating:


Review:
Where I loved The Constant Princess, it took me a little while to get into The Boleyn Inheritance. Part of my problem with this was the separation of narrative - I was immediately drawn to three different characters, none of whom I found immediately interesting. It was not until about halfway through the book, after Kitty Howard was already on the throne, that I began to care in the least about Anne of Cleves, whose fight to survive entrapped me, and I knew already Kitty's fate (even though I have not thoroughly studied the Tudor dynasty, there was really only one end which Kitty could have met).

Gregory admits that she has taken certain liberties with the narrative of all three women - instead of presenting Anne as "ugly", Kitty as "stupid", and Jane as "evil," she has allowed all three of them speculative, complex backstories. History has a habit of laying out people in the plainest, briefest way imaginable - good historical fiction takes those cold, hard facts and builds the complexity that is a human being around them, and that dance is one whose steps Gregory has mastered.

I think that the flow in this novel was not as masterful as her previous ones, because the first half of the book moved incredibly slowly. I understand that Gregory's aim was to make this story about the "inheritance" and not about the queens themselves, but even them I feel as though those book could have been two. Nonetheless, Gregroy did a fantastic job creating sympathetic characters out of those who have been stereotyped and have little definitive fact known about them. For me, it is the characters that mean the most, and I believe that Gregory did an honor to three women who have had only dishonor shown to them. After all... all the people who know the REAL truth about any of these ladies is long dead....

I give her three stars, only because the first 200 pages were a struggle for me to get through. It's still good historical fiction, but it isn't comparable to some of her other works.

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