I love history, particularly the tudors, and I love any kind of historical fiction centred around the famous figures of the period . Having exhausted the works of my favourite authors, (Phillipa Gregory and Jean Plaidy) I started looking around for something else to focus my attention on, and came across 'The Tudor Wife' in the works, competitively priced at £1.99 or available as part of a 3 for £5 deal .
Told from the viewpoint of Lady Jane Parker, this book centres on the court of King Henry VIII, beginning whilst he is still married to Katherine of Aragon, and ending just after the demise of Katherine Howard.This is a period of massive excitement, a time of huge changes, and Lady Jane Parker , a lady-in-waiting to each of the Queens, is perfectly placed to give us the juicy gossip, and tell us all the details of the intrigues behind the scenes .
Jane Parker is a figure who is often made into a villain in historical accounts - she did after all give evidence against her sister-in-marriage Anne Boleyn, that resulted in her execution for treason. She also dropped her husband, George Boleyn, right in the poop, by claiming that he and his sister enjoyed an incestous relationship, and made up a few scandalous tales about other people in the queens circle, most of whom died as a result of her evidence. She was a figure I was really prepared to hate upon starting this book, as every other book has her as a scheming crow of a woman right from the outset.
Surprisingly, I found myself quite liking her initially in this book -when she mentioned meeting handsome George Boleyn for the first time and becoming instantly smitten , I really felt for a young woman experiencing the first pangs of lust . And when, after much pestering and against her fathers better judgement, she managed to marry the man of her dreams, I could almost understand her jealousy when he chose to frequently ignore her in favour of his own sister.
However, shortly into the book it becomes aparent that her jealousy is not at a normal level - she has an obscene imagination that twists even the most innocent of events, and a voyeuristic nature that see's her spying through doorways at the antics of the court . Whilst I have no doubt that at least some of these incidents are coloured with just a touch of artistic licence in order to help the srory along, given that she is the books narrator, she soon becomes a thoroughly awful woman with a tendancy to bad temper, fits of rage and jealousy, and a shadow of madness .
The good thing with these kinds of books is that there are really never any spoilers - we all know what happened to the various wives of Hnery VIII. This could make the book potentially dull (and indeed has is many books I've read) but I found this book incredibly interesting throughout . This may be to do with the fact that the author , Emily Purdey, has an almost gossipy way of writing , making you feel as though Jane Parker, hateful though she seems, is sitting there telling you the tale. The book is at no time stilted, nor is ot overly bogged down with too many dates and facts to remember .
There are a couple of moments when I've been uncertain of the accuracy of some of the content . For example, Janes accusations against Anne, her husband George, and various other members of the court circle were, in this book, coerced out of her during a lovemaking session with Thomas Cromwell . Whilst I am certainly aware that Cromwell did gather evidence against the Queen, and that Jane was a witness, I've generally been under the assumption that the accusations were made only after Jane had been interviewed in the Tower of London, something that must surely have been terrifying given it's reputation as both a prison and a place of execution. The author, unlike many, has not included a section in the book where she seperates the fact from the fiction, so it is tricky at times to ascertain the accuracy of the content.
Overall though, this book was an incredibly good read, whether accurate or not . And indeed, there is a good level of fact in the book, and it would certainly aid in understanding the events of the time . It flows well, keeoing a good pace throughout, and I simply could not put it down once I started reading . Emily Purdy is not an author I have heard of before, but is certainly one I will look out for in the future . A fascinating tale of a jealous wife, and the lengths she will go to to exact her revenge.
Four stars - one off for not clarifying which parts are fact, and which are fiction or mere speculation .
In the point of view of George boyln's wife, Jane. She is jealous of the affection her husband dotes on his sister.
It starts with Jane in the tower, and she talks over her life, how she met the bolyns and how she got involved in there down fall. Her infatuation with George and his infatuation with Anne that eventually leads him to the tower. She talks about the flirtatious Anne, prudish Jane and reckless miss Howard, a book that spans four wives of Henry, including Katharine of Aragon and a significant historical event that changed the course of religious practice in the country for centuries to come.
A book of betrayal, heart break and sadness all centred from the view of a courtier ,Jane and how one young girl brought down the boylnn's and their dynasty of power.
This author is new and up coming. I enjoy other historical writers, and for a new comer, she has got her facts rights and defiantly done her research. I would recommend this to anyone who both enjoys historical and Tudor era of books
I adore historical fiction. I started on Jean Plaidy Books in my teens, but then for quite a while nobody really wrote this kind of fiction. Then a few years ago interest started up again, particularly for the Tudor period. Now people like Phillipa Gregory and Alison Weir are regularly in the bestsellers list.
But this book is by an unknown and is her first novel. But even more slightly disconcerting when you first read it and read the one line bio about the author is that she comes from Texas and still lives there. Can an American really write accurate historical English fiction?
This is the story of Jane Parker who became the sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn by marrying her brother George. Jane Boleyn was largely forgotten in history until Phillipa Gregory wrote 'The Boleyn Inheritance' but as we shall see she played a major part in the lives of George and Anne Boleyn.
The book is written mainly in the first person with the events narrated by Jane, even when Jane is not in the conversation she describes and dissects what it happening. This is extremely well done as we are also given the opportunity to judge and think abut what is happening in front of us.
The book is divided into 4 parts each encompassing a different queen of Henry VIII that Jane served as lady-in-waiting. These were Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard.
I do like the fact that each wife is divided into a different chapter. I have read books where this distinction hasn't been made and you're not sure which Katherine or Anne the author is talking about.
I'm very sorry but I'm going to be predictable and look at each part in turn. I think is important as Jane treats each bride differently and this is reflected in the language and narrative.
Anne is the biggest character in the book, ¾ is devoted to her whereas the other 3 combined merit only a quarter.
The first part concerns the meeting of Jane with Anne and George and their beauty, talents and flamboyance described in much the same language.
"a veritable rainbow of gorgeous gaudy colours"
" beloved, one-eyed, flame-haired rogue.
This rather flamboyant, some would say flowery writing continues through this first part. And whereas you would expect jealousy from Jane it seems to be astonishment instead.
This does change though, gradually resentment and jealousy creeps in, and Jane loses the admiration she initially had.
"She looked gaunt, haggard and drawn"
At this point Janes marriage with George has fallen apart whilst he lavishes attention on Anne. This admiration turns love to jealousy, to revenge, with a good dose of madness in there.
So Jane then carries out the actions for which she is most noted, she lets loose the rumours of incest, adultery, sodomy, witchcraft and making fun of the king. This gives Henry the excuse to rid himself of his troublesome queen by having her George and their friends executed.
Thus usually ends the story of Jane Boleyn, but she did continue to be a lady in waiting to the next 3 queens.
Jane is described in soft words and Anne was in flamboyance.
"Abundant waves of white-blond hair, crowned by a chaplet of pearls and white roses"
This part also describes the despair and emptiness Jane now feels using language such as jealousy, vengeful and quite a few references to the Devil.
Anne of Cleves
Anne of Cleves merits only 2 1.2 pages, Purdy's language is excellent is describing the bride Henry would not touch; "slack breasted", "greasy hair", "breath stinking of beer and onions"
Young, bright and a bit of a trollop!
Katherine played the innocent and was rather good at it when the King was present
"the wide eyed innocent of a child naïve and newly emerged from the nursery!
When he has left and his valet Thomas Culpepper remains the innocence disappears.
"she spread her thighs between her green silken skirts and laid the pink rose the King had given her in her lap so that its head pointed to her feminine parts"
But Kat is only 15 and despite all the sensuality (including a lesbian scene with Anne of Cleves!) is just a child and Purdy tries to convey this to us. Buying new clothes, playing hide and seek, playing with children but we do find out what has made her so sexual and the abuse she suffered.
But Jane finds out that Kat was no virgin when she married Henry, and was already considered married, she is also having affairs.
From this point Jane begins to descend into madness, the rest of the book is all doom and gloom, the narrative reflects this. Purdy expertly takes us down in a sudden changing world of deceit, anger, betrayal and madness.
When she is being questioned the voice of her conscience becomes clear as Anne Boleyn who she sees as a ghost, it is during the confrontations with a non-existent Anne that the truth comes out about Kat.
Needless to say this leads to the death of both.
Without a doubt this is an excellent book, Purdy brings alive English History. Her language is individual to each queen and reflects the personality of each queen in a fantastic way, each queen has different attributes highlighted by the colours she incorporates into each.
I have read 'classic' books which dont come close to Purdys ability to use language and colours to differentiate between characters.
It also brings the character of Jane Boleyn to life and her story from young unmarried woman to a traitor to the State.
For anyone who enjoys the authors I mentioned this is a must-read book. Even though most of us know the stories of Henry VIIIs Queens this book brings each character alive in new ways.
Buy it, you won't be disappointed.
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