Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: The Boleyn Inheritance

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.

The Boleyn Inheritance is a novel drawn tight as a lute string about a court ruled by the gallows and three women whose positions brought them wealth, admiration, and power as well as deceit, betrayal, and terror. Once again, Philippa Gregory has brought a vanished world to life -- the whisper of a silk skirt on a stone stair, the yellow glow of candlelight illuminating a hastily written note, the murmurs of the crowd gathering on Tower Green below the newly built scaffold. In The Boleyn Inheritance Gregory is at her intelligent and page-turning best.

Philippa Gregory's "The Other Boleyn Girl", ridden with biases, historical inaccuracy, and propaganda, is the most infamous novel in any Tudor history buff's world -- and so it was with sincere shock that I found myself actually enjoying TOBG's sequel. The prejudices toward and slut-shaming OF Anne still exist, distinctive as the Boleyn ghost who is created in Lady Rochford's, Anne of Cleves' and Katherine Howard's interweaving stories, but, having been dead for more than three years, she is no longer the focus.

The three stories of the Boleyn 'heiresses' start out strong, as three women, all doomed in their own ways, make their journeys to the dangerous court of Henry VIII. Yet, once Anne of Cleves is divorced and left behind -- so is her story. Directionless, stiff, empty and unconvincing, the reader is reminded WHY Anne is the 'forgotten wife', and her chapters dull out what would otherwise be a fantastic plot. On the other hand, Katherine Howard innocence and childish selfishness make her story all the more tragic, all the more romantic -- and all the more fascinating. Love transforms her from girl to woman, and the age old question is presented -- is true love worth dying for? On the other hand, there is some genius in the split perspectives of Jane Boleyn and K.H. While having two characters tell the same story can be dangerous -- who likes redundancy? no one -- their POVs actually enhance the novel's characterization, with emphasis placed on Jane's dark experience and poor Katherine's sincere naivety. Fast-paced, full-blooded, intriguing and tragically romantic, "The Boleyn Inheritance" is more than a historical flick -- it's almost a psychological thriller.

Pages: 518
Publisher: Touchstone
Year Published: 2006
Kylie's Rating: ♛♛♛/♛♛♛♛♛ (3/5 Stars)

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