Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A review of Anne Boleyn by Evelyn Anthony

The cover of Anthony’s book claims it is a novel but many times it seems to struggle with its own identity. Is Anne Boleyn a novel or non-fiction? Clearly, Anthony bases her novel on the fact surrounding Boleyn’s ascension in Henry VIII’s favor to queen, to her fall and ultimately, her death. The fiction would most likely be the conversations that took place between the different factions at court and in the many theatres around the country as people conspired with or against the ill-fated queen. But the creative liberties Anthony took in writing give the novel a realistic edge, as if the reader were watching the drama from the shadows of the castles.

Anthony’s book, published in 1957, does not contain a bibliography but it appears to be thoroughly researched, since there isn’t anything that refutes or is contradictory to anything I’ve read or seen before on this era during Henry’s reign.

Anthony adds depth and feeling to the fiery passion Henry had for Anne in the beginning of their courtship; the cleverness and cunning of Nan as she manipulated and schemed to get Catherine of Aragon and daughter Mary out of the picture clearing her path to become Queen; Catherine’s obstinate refusal to bow to the King’s wishes and confess their marriage was illegal, and; the cruel methods Nan’s enemies employed to influence Henry into ending her.

In many places in the novel, reading becomes confusing since perspective shifts from one character to another within a scene. These are instances where the novel sounds like a non-fiction work. But what were Anthony’s sources? A bibliography isn’t necessary but helpful, even for a work of fiction. It helps the reader determine what is factual and what is pure fiction.

Despite the confusion, Anne Boleyn is a great read for fans of the Tudor era.

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