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The rose without a thorn .......
The Boleyn Inheritance - Philippa Gregory
Member Name: thehonesttruth
The Boleyn Inheritance - Philippa Gregory
Advantages: Absoultely gripping, real sympathy for the characters
I'm a huge fan of historical fiction, and the Tudor period in particular is incredibly interesting to me . I tend to guzzle up anything I can find on the period, fiction or non-fiction, and so when I saw that my favourite author, Phillipa Gregory, had written the Boleyn Inheritance, I was very keen to read it, not only because it was a favourite author of mine, but also because it would provide an almost direct continuation of the story of Henry VIII's wives, following on as it does from 'The Other Boleyn Girl'
It's not really a sequel, and there is a small gap in time, during which Jane, the wife that gave Henry a son, dies . You'll notice I don't refer to her as Queen Jane - she was never crowned, nor officially named as a queen consort. The book begins in 1539 with Henry looking for a new wife, following the advice of his counsellors . Trouble is, when you put one good woman aside to die in loneliness and ill health in a damp and dreary manor, and send another to die on the block on trumped up charges of witchcraft, incest, and adultery, not many women are likely to line up to follow in their footsteps . (One line in the book particularly summed this up, with Christina of Milan saying 'I'd be delighted to marry him, if only I had two necks!')
So, Henry looks to the small royal family of Cleves, settling on middle sister Anne as his wife. Anne, for her part, is desperate to escape her home, where she is routinely beaten and humiliated, and sees being Queen of England as a move that will ensure her future safety from such abuse, as well as giving her a role to fill. However, after she spits out his first kiss, things go a little bit pear shaped, and she soon finds the king is not the loving husband she had been hoping for, especially when his eye is turned by one of her serving maids, pretty little Katherine Howard (whom he would often describe as his ' rose without a thorn' .
The story is written from three different viewpoints - that of Anne , that of Katherine, and that of Jane Boleyn . It is Jane in particular that I found fascinating, as she's not so well known a historical figure. She is the sister in law of Anne Boleyn, and it was n part her evidence that led to the death of Anne, as well as the execution of her husband, George Boleyn . Now husband less, she is forced to live on the charity of her uncle Howard, also related to Katherine,and finds herself ordered to push Katherine forward at every opportunity, in the hope of bringing fortune to the family once again . She's very conniving, and always looking out for her own good over that of others, as evidenced by her decision to feign madness in the hope of ensuring her own safety.
Anne's narrative portrays her as a figure to be pitied initially - she's had a hard life, and it isn't made any easier once she comes to England. I found the story of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother and brother interesting, as few other books about her I have read mention any of this, although one other does mention her brother having a 'disordered mind' . Whether the abuse was added simply as a device to illustrate why she might have made the decisions she did, I don't know, but it certainly made the book very interesting, and explained her huge willingness to please everyone.
Katherine is portrayed as a foolish young girl , which is indeed what she would have been, having only been 15 when she married and 17 when she died. I feel this was an excellent way to portay her, and also this particular point illustrates why I enjoy historical fiction so much . You see, when reading non fiction accounts of the times, you are often presented with dry facts, and it is often so easy to forget that tragic figures like poor Katherine were simply very young girls, still children in my mind, that were forced to obey the orders of others. When the facts are presented in a first person narrative though, it becomes far easier to understand and to sympathise with her plight - after all, what attractive young girl wants to be married to a much older man, who is grossly overweight and has a stinking ulcer on his leg, especially knowing that he ordered the death of her cousin. Yes, it could be argued that she was stupid for then having an affair, and for hiding her past dalliances from the king, but it could also be argued that a girl that young, still going through puberty, would inevitably find herself in the grip of a passionate crush.
I really enjoyed this book., I loved the depth of personality fro the characters, and that way I was made to understand the way they thought and acted . The book itself kept a good pace, never becoming slow or draggy, and for the most part was historically accurate regarding all the key facts. 5/5
Summary: A fab read .