Friday, 26 September 2014

The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

Reviewer: JD Smith, author of Tristan and Iseult and The Rise of Zenobia.

What We Thought: It's been a long time since I read The Other Boleyn Girl, but I distinctly remember the court, menacing, unforgiving, moulded and manipulated by the strong families surrounding Henry VIII, that Gregory created. And now I entered that world once more with The Boleyn Inheritance. The year is 1539 and Henry Tudor must take yet another wife following the death of Jane Seymour and the birth of his only legitimate son. Anne of Cleves takes the crown.

Only Gregory can make the world of Tudor England appear as dangerous through the eyes of its women as it must have been. She builds a world through the voice if its women, in this case Anne of Cleves, a young girl who is tormented by her brother, Katherine Howard, a silly girl who is naive right to the end, and Jane Boleyn, sister in law to Anne Boleyn and wife to George, who betrayed them both to save herself. She is perhaps the most complex character, the one who is not innocent, who would do anything to live, who professes her constant and undying love for her husband and sister despite her betrayal.

It is the characters who make the story, their accounts and retelling in their own words. For without their distinct voices, without the smell and texture of a court life that draws you in and keeps you reading until the very last page, this would not be as engaging as it is, for we all know what happened to Henry's six wives.

You'll enjoy this if you like: fine gowns, the Tudor court, lots of description.

Avoid if you dislike: Lots of repetition, first person narrative, silly girls.

Ideal accompaniments: A glass of port and a plate of cheese and crackers, a warm fire, visits to lots of Elizabethan manor houses.

Genre: Historical Fiction.

Available from Amazon

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