Saturday, June 1, 2013

The enigmatic Anne Boleyn comes to life in this charming, brilliant portrayal by acclaimed British novelist Margaret Campbell Barnes. The infamous love of King Henry VIII and the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn undertook a rocky journey from innocent courtier to powerful Queen of England. A meticulous researcher, Margaret Campbell Barnes immerses readers in this intrigue and in the lush, glittery world of the Tudor Court. The beauty and charms of Anne Boleyn bewitched the most powerful man in the world, King Henry VIII, but her resourcefulness and cleverness were not enough to stop the malice of her enemies. Her swift rise to power quickly became her own undoing. The author brings to light Boleyn's humanity and courage, giving an intimate look at a young woman struggling to find her own way in a world dominated by men and adversaries.

"Brief Gaudy Hour" is an earlier Tudor fiction piece, and what you first need to bear in mind while reading this is that some of the language is going to be dramatically different from what you're used to. For instance, 'lovemaking' is courtship, not sex. I know I was certainly confused at first upon reading Henry saying that surely 'many men have made love to you before' (not an exact quotation) to Anne, and then going on and calling her a virgin. Anyway, there are many novels of Anne Boleyn so what makes this piece particularly unique? (Aside from the language of course.) "Brief Gaudy Hour" is romantic. Many authors get caught up in how the story of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII ends that they are already setting Henry up as a monster, so that Anne is without a 'Prince Charming' to fall in love with. Whether Anne was ever truly in love with Henry or simply working with him in a partnership of politics and ambition, we can never be sure, but their vivid and gripping romance in this book convinces you it was a passionate alchemy of both. If you've been looking for a book of Anne Boleyn that is as much history as it is love story, then "Brief Gaudy Hour" is the book for you.

Another impressive facet of this book is its inclusive coverage of the trials of Anne and particularly her brother George. If you're tired of the stereotypical 'gay' and 'obnoxious' George Boleyn, you'll be glad to know that he is portrayed kindly and accurately. "Brief Gaudy Hour" has a lot going for it, but its outdated language and fact (Anne Boleyn has a sixth finger) make it less likable. Naturally this was no fault of the author given the year of its publication. To me, the reason I have to subtract a star is the incompleteness the reader will feel at the ending. Given her harrowing journey and great legacy, it just was not satisfying to me. However, the ending is but one part, and detracts little from this romantic and emotional Tudor masterpiece.

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