Although the fact that Henry VIII had six wives is remarkable alone; even more interesting is the unique personalities and lives of these six women. AAlthough the fact that Henry VIII had six wives is remarkable alone; even more interesting is the unique personalities and lives of these six women. Alison Weir opens the door to the marital ups and downs of Henry and his partners in, “The Six Wives of Henry VIII”. Note: I initially read this book over a decade ago when I was less versed in Tudor history than I am now. Thus, this review is based on the impressions of one who has more knowledge on the topic during a second reading.
Alison Weir’s books can be divided into two categories: her earlier works which are more in the vein of objective, scholarly pieces and her more recent books which are in the popular history realm (intermingled with opinionated text and a more novel-like narrative). “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” fits into the former category, having been published when Weir’s approach was more academic. This means that the text is heavy with detail, facts, and a less biased view of Henry VIII’s wives.
With that being said, don’t expect an argumentative thesis comparing the wives to each other or even conclusive biographies. Instead, Weir offers a more overall look at the relationship of each wife with Henry and how it flowed into the next wife. Even with this marital focus though; Weir explores some of the politics of the reign in detail making “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” an excellent secondary source for research and as entertainment for both novice and well-versed readers.
There are moments when Weir is too detailed and sidetracks on the topic. Granted, these meanderings are related and therefore aren’t tangents; but they still slow the pace and create a feeling of clustered confusion. Oftentimes, this can be interpreted as Weir having too much information to present and messily trying to squish it into a small space.
Another issue—a big one, in fact—is a complete lack of notations. Weir includes many quotes, chunks of documents, and full sources; but these aren’t notated at all (the book lacks a notes section). This doesn’t question Weir’s credibility per se, but one can see the author’s own interpretation of the original sources due to this absence.
On a positive note, Weir showcases some of her detective/sleuth skills which is more prominent in her earlier works and thusly debunks some myths by setting records straight. This certainly creates excitement in the piece and helps the text not feel so dry (which it is sometimes guilty of).
“The Six Wives of Henry VIII” becomes increasingly compelling throughout with Weir becoming more passionate and confident in her writing. Furthermore, with some exceptions, much of the content is historically accurate taking the publishing date into consideration. On the other hand, there is a noticeable emphasis on Anne Boleyn and the lives of the wives are merely retold versus truly bringing them to life resulting in a level of detachment within the piece.
The chapters after Anne Boleyn are rushed and less detailed. Granted, there is more information concerning Anne but she seems to be Weir’s focus and this is supposed to be a book on ALL of the wives. Also increasing with the progression of the pages are more opinions by Weir; the major being her feeling that Henry VIII was coerced and cajoled into his selection of wives by other ambitious factions versus his own feelings (as though he was too weak in character to make his own decisions) and that his wives weren’t much at fault for their actions. Those readers not agreeing with this school of thought may find slight aggravations with this.
The conclusion of “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” isn’t as powerful as one would hope. However, there is a more detailed page covering Catherine Parr’s daughter (with Thomas Seymour) than most history books convey. Plus, readers will come away with a true sense of how amazing each of Henry’s wives were.
As previously mentioned, there are no notes and only a bibliography (which is messy). The book is supplemented by color plates (in black and white) and genealogical tables which depict each major family mentioned in the text. Also to be taken with a grain of salt: Weir mentions The Spanish Chronicle not being a dependable source but uses it when it suits her arguments.
Time may have weakened the strength of Weir’s writing but luckily “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” remains steadfast with its readability and facts for both new readers and those already familiar with the topic. Yes, there are some flaws but otherwise the book is recommended for everyone interested in Henry VIII and his wives. ...more
This was one of my first Gregory books read and still one of my favorites. Henry VIII's wives are still a topic which capture's the imaginations of maThis was one of my first Gregory books read and still one of my favorites. Henry VIII's wives are still a topic which capture's the imaginations of many people and the entertainment world (ie films, TV, etc). The Boleyn Inheritance is a glimpse into the world of the "other" wives after the (in)famous Anne Boleyn and her sister-in-law Jane Parker (Lady Rochford) who went to her grave for helping Catherine Howard commit adultery.
Gregory created a magnificent read which tells the stories of wives after Anne. Each is depicted with rather strong historical accuracy and the characters are brought to life before your eyes. Each has a strong personality which will linger with you after you finish the book and read other ones on the wives of Henry VIII. Basically, it is a strong novel. The section of Lady Rochford are a bit lacking in my opinion; being the least colorful, but to give Gregory some credit, not much information exists on her personality (no diaries, letters, etc) versus her actions as a lady-in-waiting.
The world of Gregory and the Tudors is always a dramatic one and this is no exception. Fun and intelligent; a must-read for Tudor fans....more
Much of Catherine of Aragon's stubborness and pious behavior reflects back to her own heroic mother and upbringing. Some Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth supMuch of Catherine of Aragon's stubborness and pious behavior reflects back to her own heroic mother and upbringing. Some Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth supporters shun Catherine's refusal to accept Henry VIII's concubine while her own (and daughter Mary's) fans applaud her audacity.
In The Constant Princess, Gregory told the story of the strong female versus the hysterical, sobbing, heartbroken girl. Catherine wasn't deluded into thinking she can still be Queen, she merely stuck by what her birthright and vows attained her. As she should have.
One of the highlights of this novel is the behavior and actions of the young Henry VIII. Showing his love and companionship with his then-sister-in-law, Gregory shows how Henry did truly love Catherine before Anne Boleyn came into the picture. The question is whether one believes that Catherine's marriage to Arthur was consummated or not. We will never know.
Another great work from Gregory and a lovely look into Catherine....more
If 60 Minutes, the late 20/20, and "How to Catch a Predator" existed in Tudor England, then this novel would be the transcript.
We all know the storyIf 60 Minutes, the late 20/20, and "How to Catch a Predator" existed in Tudor England, then this novel would be the transcript.
We all know the story of the famous concubine turned queen to Henry VIII: Anne Boleyn. We also know how she was accused of adultery and witchcraft (although her trials were only regarding the accusation of adultery and witchcraft was never even mentioned). If you seek to dig deeper into the story, then The Lady in the Tower will become your new best friend.
This piece is seriously absolutely fascinating. Weir presents solid research, extensive and never-before-mentioned discoveries, and smooth paths to guilt or innocense which would make any detective bow their head in shame. Seriously a stunning piece. Plus, she never comes off as biased or partial and simply demonstrates an arguementative and all-emcompassing work on both sides of the situation. Weir explains why event A couldn't have happened because event B didn't or Event C is incorrect because Event D was fabricated ahead of time. I won't get into detail because I seriously don't want to ruin the read.
This is a stunning book and one of my favorites of all time due to its intelligence and informative nature with the added spices of Tudor intrique. You will NEVER look at Anne Boleyn's beheading the same again....more
Shockingly, I read Harper's "The Last Boleyn" before I read the famous "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory now even more famous due to the actShockingly, I read Harper's "The Last Boleyn" before I read the famous "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory now even more famous due to the acting of Natalie Portman. What does all this mean? That is was my first insight into the world of the Boleyns and a nice side-step into the thoughts and feelings of Mary versus the over-abundance of Anne text available.
Most people tend to forget that Mary (the older sister) had a rendevous with Henry VIII before Anne was pushed by her father and uncle, the Duke of Norfolk into Henry's bed. She discreetly curtailed court and lived the remainder of her life in the country with her nicely matched husband and there, she sort of blended into the background of both Henry's court and of Tudor history. In The Last Boleyn, Harper brings her world to life in an easy-to-understand and entertaining way. There were some historical errors with dates but historical fiction autohors tend to play with these a little to keep the story going (or we would be reading 600 page books regularly).
After reading this book, I grew to love Mary and instantly thought of Anne as merely a "slut" so perhaps it resulted in some anti-Anne bias but this didn't last because I have since read tons of Anne literature.
A great book by a great author. Worth a read!...more
This is one of my favorite Carolly Erickson books. Although like all of her works, she took many historical liberties to enrich the story; it worked.This is one of my favorite Carolly Erickson books. Although like all of her works, she took many historical liberties to enrich the story; it worked. The novel is rich with imagery, emotional context, and personifications.
Yes, some of the timelines and facts are a bit off and the readers whom read history book on the Tudor times will notice these instantly but hey, so did "The Tudors" on TV and you still watched that! In fact, this books reads sort of like an over-dramatic episode of The Tudors focusing on Cathering Parr and her obsessive love with Thomas Seymour (another dirtbag who got the ladies. Ew).
Interesting, vivid, and entertaining. A delicious bite of historical entertainment. ...more
Ugh. Seriously, I am done trying to give Robin Maxwell a chance. The topics are delightful but the writing style and the actual storylines are that ofUgh. Seriously, I am done trying to give Robin Maxwell a chance. The topics are delightful but the writing style and the actual storylines are that of a yougn adult's imagineering mind. Not for the intellifent.
Most people know little Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife. She survived an-almost beheading, married Thomas Seymour, cared for Elizabeth, and dieMost people know little Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife. She survived an-almost beheading, married Thomas Seymour, cared for Elizabeth, and died shortly after childbirth. What else is there to know? Lots. Linda Porter’s (author of “Bloody Mary” which I loved) “Katherine, the Queen” strives to be the full first-scale Parr biography, attempting to open up the world of this “final” wife.
Much of the early chunk of “Katherine, the Queen” is a background look at the Parr family from the forefathers to their estates, the scandalous behaviors (or lack thereof) to the rise in royal service; resulting in a dense work. This “big picture” portrait endeavors to create the environment of Katherine’s upbringing but since there clearly isn’t a large amount of direct record of her during this time; it is ultimately speculation and can be considered rambling or tangents from Porter. Albeit, those readers interested in the Parr family will learn extensively about the Parrs in a clear and concise way. Porter’s language is eloquent and flowing, making it accessible but scholarly at the same time. This adds somewhat of a narrative feel versus just a history re-telling.
An insight into Katherine becomes clearer upon the description of her marriage to Lord Latimer (Richard Neville) which reflects the more-ready available sources on this period of her life. Porter still tends to stray into too much detail regarding politics or other aspects which do not involve Parr but it can be argued that the overall landscape is well observed (the Parr family genealogical tables comes in very handy). It does become tedious; however, that Porter focuses more on the environment Parr lives in versus an insight into her actual thoughts or psyche. The book would be substantially shorter if all of this was eliminated (not to mention, there are repetitious areas).
Plus, I noticed several areas in which Porter stated debatable testaments as facts even though I have read otherwise in several other sources. Even as “Katherine, the Queen” progresses, the focus on Katherine is either slim or reaped with speculation. The text is filled with “could of”, “possibly”, “must have”, “unknown”, and “can be assumed” phrases which isn’t quite hard-hitting information and doesn’t satisfy the reader seeking a deep Katherine biography. The information which does actually regard Katherine is more in the nature of her account books/lifestyle than noteworthy events; causing her to be perceived as boring versus a noteworthy queen or female.
Porter does embark in some detective work involving Parr’s publications/authored works and her relations to Anne Askew. Not only does Porter re-tell the events but argues John Foxe’s accuracies of them. On the negative end, Porter can sometimes be filled with too much conviction which can be unsettling, meaning: she makes firm statements without allowing or raising debate. For example, Porter mentions how the Seymour and Dudley factions may have changed Henry VIII’s dying will but simply says it is because Henry’s wishes wouldn’t have “worked” for the realm realistically, and then moves on to the next topic. This leaves much to be desired from the reader.
The ending of “Katherine, the Queen” is quite bluntly: ridiculous. It begins with a solid effort to wrap up the impact/lives of Thomas Seymour and their daughter, Mary, after Katherine’s death. This was interesting especially involving the rather forgotten-about Mary. However, the ridiculous portion comes into play with Porter’s strong insistence and epitaph that Elizabeth’s reign and personality was “created” and influenced by Katherine. This gives Katherine too much credit and unfortunately resulted in a weak ending.
Although Parr used strong research sources (primary, secondary, unpublished, private tours/interviews, etc) and the book contains two sections of color plate illustrations; “Katherine, the Queen” fails to bring Katherine to life or provide the “remarkable” description included in the title of the book. For most Tudor-readers, this book can be skipped as nothing new is learned or formulated. Sadly, Porter’s work is not a strong Katherine biography. ...more
For some reason, I feel a loyalty bond with Carolly Erickson. Although, we all complain about her “historical entertainments” and her use of speculatiFor some reason, I feel a loyalty bond with Carolly Erickson. Although, we all complain about her “historical entertainments” and her use of speculation and inaccuracies; something draws me to read her books (I still haven’t read her non-fiction works but plan to). Sadly, as much as I tried to push myself, I couldn’t finish The Favored Queen. Yes, it WAS THAT bad.
I truly gave The Favored Queen a hearty attempt (I was around page 100) but after much debate, I closed the book. The Favored Queen simply lacks any depth and character development. Never did I feel like I “knew” Jane Seymour. It was more like words on a page with no emotional back-up. The image which was presented of her didn’t fit inline with any other texts I have previously read. Erickson portrays Jane as Catherine of Aragon’s most trusted companion and further, as a high-born lady who doesn’t want to be at court but merely wants to marry. Basically, she was given a saintly image. I have encountered such views of Jane Seymour (including ones which give her doses of ambition); but my problem wasn’t necessarily with the personality she was given but the fact that Erickson didn’t support the view or back it up. Jane is basically one-dimensional and, well, boring.
Anne Boleyn plays a large role in the novel. Expect a haughty, sex-obsessed, prissy girl. Perhaps this stereotype is not far from the truth in some eyes, but also very one-dimensional.
The text is easy to understand and a very quick read so perhaps I could have trudged along to the end but it truly reads like a bad episode of The Tudors. In fact, I think even The Tudors gave Jane more “to work with” than The Favored Queen.
I generally write long, detailed reviews but I don’t know what much to say except that sadly, this novel is terrible. I would suggest it for an entry-level reader into the world of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and Jane Seymour but if you have read other novels or historical works, this isn’t for you. ...more
“Predictability” is the main term which can be used to describe Diane Haeger’s “The Queen’s Mistake”. Although Haeger’s other works such as “The Perfe“Predictability” is the main term which can be used to describe Diane Haeger’s “The Queen’s Mistake”. Although Haeger’s other works such as “The Perfect Royal Mistress” (which I loved) and “Courtesan” are also simple reads; The Queen’s Mistake is even more simplified and ‘dummied’ down.
We are immediately introduced to a portrayal of Catherine Howard which is quite one dimensional: the naïve but promiscuous girl who turns to sex to fulfill a missing void from an absent father, dead mother, and cruel grandmother. Catherine’s characterization is simply too restricted and not explored. Plus, if I may venture to say, she is simply annoying.
There is where predictability already comes into play. Even if I was unfamiliar with Catherine’s fate, Haeger makes it very obvious in the beginning of the book which basically causes a lack of eagerness to read on. The thread of predictability also intertwines with Catherine’s interactions toward other characters with Haeger’s over-dramatized foreshadowing. Again, even if new to the topic, one could figure out what happens. If you are a Tudor expert? Well, you will find yourself groaning here and there.
Oddly enough, some of the other characters (such as the Duke of Norfolk) encompass a bit more depth. It appears Haeger was too afraid to explore Catherine but had more lenience with other minor plotline figures. Truth be told, the dialogues NOT involving Catherine are more engaging than her own storyline. This is helped by the novel being told by various characters’ perspectives which adds depth and intrigue.
There are some issues with the other characters, though. Anne of Cleves is also too stereotypical (ugly, horse-looking, smelly German) who in this novel has a great relationship with Catherine (suddenly they are best buddies!); while Culpeper is a hopeless romantic in love with Catherine. Henry barely even has any depth in the novel but is also just searching for love. Basically, everyone is portrayed as far too innocent: Catherine feels so much guilt at stealing Anne of Cleve’s husband and just wants to be a country wife with Culpeper while Culpeper plans to ask Henry for permission to marry Catherine (before Henry marries Catherine). Once Catherine does marry Henry, she regularly voices how she just wants to be a good wife and that she has never done more than kiss Thomas while she was married (pleeassee!).
Even more annoying are the constant references to Anne Boleyn (which is inaccurate) and Henry’s CONSTANT insistence that Catherine call him Hal.
Surprisingly, even with a lack of complexity; The Queen’s Mistake does illustrate scenes rather well. However, it isn’t much better than an episode of The Tudors. Actually, the novel reads much like the season of The Tudors with Catherine Howard and I even pictured some of the actors as I read; which NEVER happens to me! On the positive side, unlike some other historical fiction authors (ahem, PG!), Haeger did not repeatedly explain character relations/titles and instead gave background information in a seamless and educational way.
The buildup of Catherine’s fate takes much to long as the book drags and could have been told with far less pages. Yet, the climax ending is rushed, barely described, and packed into less than 5 pages resulting in a very disappointing ending. As for historical accuracy? The main events are accurate but the ratio of ridiculous, fictional occurrences are much too high: sexual liaisons between Francis Dereham and the Dowager Duchess (ewww), a poisoned kitten, Henry slapping Catherine, Catherine trying to get a pardon for Margaret Pole in the tower, etc.
Clearly, The Queen’s Mistake is not a historical fiction masterpiece but it is a somewhat entertaining novel. If you approach it not expecting much and just seeking a quick amusement, then it isn’t bad. Honestly, it IS better than some of the other recent historical fiction contributions (ahem again, PG). Haeger’s work is also recommended if you oppose the traditional view of Catherine basically being a slut and want to see her viewed as more innocent of any wrong-doing. However, if you are seeking depth, accuracy, and are annoyed by falsified fictional events; then this book can be skipped. ...more
Everyone knows the fate of Anne Boleyn. However, few know the story from the viewpoint of Anne’s childhood friend: Meg Wyatt (sister of Thomas Wyatt,Everyone knows the fate of Anne Boleyn. However, few know the story from the viewpoint of Anne’s childhood friend: Meg Wyatt (sister of Thomas Wyatt, known for being a speculated paramour of Anne’s). Sandra Byrd takes this creative angle of Anne in “To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn”.
“To Die For” caused instant weariness due to the genealogical tables firmly asserting that Mary Boleyn’s offspring were sired by Henry VIII. Although this may be a minor detail to some; such a deliverance of speculation questions the historical accuracy of both Byrd and the novel.
Although the angle of “To Die For” is creative and unique; the execution is flawed. The setting is not vivid and lacks true historical context making “To Die For” feel more fictional than history. The text also lacks cohesiveness as the language (in terms of character dialogue) is beautiful and historical but then too modern, clearly demonstrating inconsistency.
Furthermore, Meg’s character development is also lacking. Missing depth, dimensions, and a look into Meg’s psyche; the reader doesn’t grow a relationship with her. This reflects on “To Die For” which is a very light and quick novel and feels like a YA piece. In fact, “To Die For” is too fast-paced causing the book to be more of a summary of events rushing toward some large event rather than living the events and building excitement and tension.
“To Die For” slightly improves as the story progresses but it still lacks complexity and the full exposure which could be provided via Meg. The novel is best suited for those new to the topic versus well-versed Tudor readers looking for more. Although, on a positive note, Byrd includes letters and poems in full which are accurately quoted and add historical accuracy.
Another (minor) detail which irked me was Byrd’s use of the phrase “of certes” MULTIPLE TIMES ON EVERY PAGE as if she just discovered it and wanted to stress its usage. The Author’s Notes also had a spelling error on page 329. Again, these are minor perhaps, but it wonders where the editor was…
Byrd’s view on Anne is refreshing as it doesn’t procure her as vindictive or scheming; but her role is “too” good and lacks a middle ground. Byrd even offers that Anne tried to be friends with Princess Mary. Plus, the relationship between Meg and Anne is hardly explored which seemed to be the point of the novel and the special element that it claimed to have.
The conclusion (and we all know how Anne’s story ends) was the most emotional, and in turn, memorable portion of the novel although it was too rushed and not in depth. The Author’s Notes also didn’t fully clarify the historical liberties which could have been useful to a non-Tudorphile.
Overall, “To Die For” is a light, filler novel which is best as a more mindless read for those versed on the topic or best for those who are not. I would (and will) reader Byrd’s other works but I won’t expect more than a fast, quick novel (which, I admit, is sometimes needed: mindless entertainment). ...more
Katherine of Aragon is known for suffering in the hands of Henry VIII or more accurately… because of Anne Boleyn. Juana “the Mad” is known for simplyKatherine of Aragon is known for suffering in the hands of Henry VIII or more accurately… because of Anne Boleyn. Juana “the Mad” is known for simply being crazy and spending 46 years incarcerated, resulting in us never knowing what the Spanish Empire had been like had she been able to rule in her right (at least her descendents spanned two centuries). There is more to these two sisters, however. Julia Fox attempts to show their characteristics and legacies in “Sister Queens”.
Fox’s “Sister Queens” begins in a very colorful and illustrated manner which can satisfy the reader whom doesn’t welcome overly-scholarly history books, however; it can also be perceived as too narrative and fictional. This is cemented by Fox’s tendency to describe thoughts and emotions more than annotated facts. For instance, as early as page 14, Fox asserts that, “Katherine shared her mother’s joy…” and on page 16 states, “Katherine and Juana would have seen…” These are comments which have no factual merit. Fox’s writing style is simply better suited for a historical fiction novel in which she could implore glitter and emotionally-packed statements. In fact, I could see it as a strong book…it just isn’t best used for history, per se.
“Sister Queens” is very fast paced which also relates to the historical fiction-like attributes. This results in an easy-to-read page turner. However, there is a veil between the reader and Katherine and Juana. Fox’s work is more of a historical re-telling of events than a strong biography/portrait and there is a blockage to become close to the sisters, as they are less in the fore-front of events in terms of their personal psyche. The essence of “Sister Queens” and Fox’s writing style is better targeted toward newer readers to the lives of Katherine and Juana. For those more versed: there isn’t any new information and the book is more of a light, refresher course.
Although seemingly minor, I was quite annoyed by the constant habit of beginning a sentence with the word, “and” and calling Margaret Beaufort the “King’s Mother” every time she was addressed. This then continued with calling Mary, Henry’s sister, the “French Queen”. The use of quotations with these names simply degrades their roles. Diving further on Fox’s language; it is oftentimes too flowery to take seriously. Plus, her vocabulary is rather narrow constantly using the same words such as “extant”. Fox suffers from learning a new word and trying to incorporate its use into every line.
Another annoying feature? Each chapter begins and ends with a character epitaph/eulogy. Fox tries much too hard to create a cliff hanger leading into the next chapter but in reality, the efforts are over-the-top.
As “Sister Queens” progresses, it sadly forgets about Juana. Clearly, there are more resources available regarding Katherine’s life but the book is supposed to be a duel biography and is not convincing. Juana barely received ¼ coverage and is hardly mentioned during the second half. Fox’s goal of presenting Katherine and Juana as strong but tragic figures fell short. In fact, they were almost desensitized. The major irony of Fox’s work was her attempt to show the sisters’ links to each other with not only their blood bond but through the events of their lives and yet, Fox stressed how they barely spoke or knew about one another’s trials and tribulations.
At least from an accuracy standpoint, “Sister Queens” wasn’t terribly ill-conceived. Although I did come across some small errors (mostly chronology/dates) and an error is an error no matter what its size; overall the facts were solid (although I do wish some new facts were unearthed). However, some minor views were aggravating such as Anne Boleyn’s coronation being portrayed as a happy feast for the Londoners when in reality, they weren’t that impressed and even joked about the “HA” look of Henry and Anne’s intertwined initials.
Although I would have liked more Juana facts, there were some Katherine areas which could have been more captivating, had they been further explored and executed (such as Fox’s interest in whether Katherine’s letter written to Henry during her final hours was indeed authentic or not).
The Notes were not up to my personal par, as they weren’t organized in an easily identifiable way and neither was the Bibliography split into primary and secondary resources like most books of this nature. But… that is just me nit-picking.
Despite my long list of complaints, “Sister Queens” isn’t terrible, as I did finish it and I did NOT skim. It is also much more enjoyable than Fox’s “Jane Boleyn”. Fox’s writing style and works are suggested for those newer to the topic or for a little breathing reprieve for the brains of the Tudor-obsesses. Just don’t expect hard-hitting, world-rocking facts. ...more
The story of Anne Boleyn as mistress-turned-queen to Henry VIII is well-known. However, lesser known (quite near nonexistent), is any evidence of herThe story of Anne Boleyn as mistress-turned-queen to Henry VIII is well-known. However, lesser known (quite near nonexistent), is any evidence of her personal stance on the situation and the state of her heart. Margaret Campbell Barnes allures readers with an introspective view of Anne Boleyn in, “Brief Gaudy Hour”.
True to traditional Barnes style, “Brief Gaudy Hour” suffers from a slow start with large lapses in chronological storytelling. There is a sense of detachment in Barnes’s work both in terms of the characters and the plot. However, don’t give up on “Brief Gaudy Hour” just yet; as it noticeably quickens in pace and improves in its plotline around page 80.
“Brief Gaudy Hour” has a narrative voice which won’t satisfy all readers, reminiscent of a theatrical play with an external narrator. Yet, this is softened by a tone strong in historical settings, making the novel vivid and illustrative (albeit, sometimes it is too stiff). Also delightful is Barnes’s ratio of literary language with accurate historical speech. “Brief Gaudy Hour” is more akin to literary historical fiction novels than many contemporary novels (this was published in 1949).
“Brief Gaudy Hour” focuses on an embellished plotline of Anne Boleyn’s relationship and love for Henry Percy. In Barnes’s novel, Anne doesn’t strive for the King’s bed or to necessarily rise on the Court ladder. Nor does she instigate Henry’s divorce from Queen Katherine with Henry VIII already following that path on his own. It is quite refreshing to not have Anne be either too much of an angel or oppositely too much of a whore, as most novels depict her. This is one of the strongest HF novels in terms of depicting Anne as a ‘real person’ with regular growth.
In fact, all of the characters in “Brief Gaudy Hour” are well-rounded and have ample arcs. Another highlight is Barnes not embarking on the “As you know, Bob”- method of explaining historical figures and events which is so common in HF novels; making “Brief Gaudy Hour” great for both novice and expert readers on the topic.
Barnes does takes historical liberties in the novel (with the relationship between Anne and Henry Percy, with Anne’s governess being the one to push her into the King’s bed, and with the existence of a stepmother, etc); and also displays dated errors in the historical timeline of events. Despite these issues, “Brief Gaudy Hour” is tolerable with these negatives and is still far from fluffy.
One of the major annoyances with Barnes - and she does the following in all of her novels- is her obsession with starting sentences with the words, “And” and “But”. Grammarian readers will not be pleased. Barnes is also guilty of overly foreshadowing events which is unpleasant when most readers already know the true outcome of Boleyn’s life but want to be kept in temporary, imaginary suspense.
Barnes successfully weaves creative explanations of well-known events into the plot (such as how Henry’s love letters to Anne arrived at the Vatican) while also including emotionally-charged climaxes (for instance, the reunion between Henry Percy and Anne); strengthening the fictional-end of “Brief Gaudy Hour”. On the other hand, much of the story acts too freely and smoothly; lacking enough complexity to make it “real”.
Approximate three-quarters through, “Brief Gaudy Hour” weakens noticeably becoming even more predictable with heightened foreshadowing and turns Anne into an angelic victim of circumstances. Barnes also straddles more into pure fiction territory and is completely incorrect with many historical facts. The novel is still enjoyable but loses pizzazz in comparison to the path leading to this point. Similarly, the concluding chapters are rushed while the ending scene depicting Anne’s execution isn’t as poignant as other HF Tudor novels. Regardless, it still stirs some emotions.
For staunch history lovers, Barnes disappoints by not including notes explaining her historical liberties or any genealogical charts. There are also some spelling errors sprinkled throughout the text.
Although novels on Anne Boleyn saturate book shelves; “Brief Gaudy Hour” stands out. Although not 100% accurate and not a masterpiece; Barnes illuminates Anne in a new way versus simply as a stereotype. “Brief Gaudy Hour” is recommended for both Tudor and Anne Boleyn fans. ...more
Each wife of Henry VIII left behind quite a legacy, to say the least. Divorced, beheaded, died… not necessarily a great one, but a legacy nonetheless!Each wife of Henry VIII left behind quite a legacy, to say the least. Divorced, beheaded, died… not necessarily a great one, but a legacy nonetheless! It can be agreed that Anne of Cleves was probably the luckiest of all the wives. Yet, there are many misunderstandings surrounding Anne, her marriage with Henry, and of Tudor marriages, in general. Retha M. Warnicke studies this compelling topic in, “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves: Royal Protocol in Tudor England”.
“The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” has a double-fold thesis aiming to discuss (1) the marriages of Henry in terms of protocol and (2) the marriage of Anne of Cleves and Henry, specifically. Warnicke’s work has a somewhat slow and inauspicious beginning, covering the general state of marriages and the rituals involved. This is a bit of a disappointment if seeking an instant focus on Anne of Cleves. Warnicke has the habit of venturing on tangents and spending pages on topics which feel unrelated and can be skimmed.
On a related note, “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” is very scholarly and academic (one could argue that the text is even slightly dry) with an overload of information. Thus, “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” may be a bit overwhelming for new readers with too many names, dates, and events noted. However, this is great for those readers seeking a more in-depth viewpoint and a heavy-history slant. Even as a well-versed Tudor history reader, I still gained some new knowledge. At the same time, there are some noticeable factual errors and inaccuracies which do not concur with other authors and are not explained thoroughly.
Annoyingly, Warnicke addresses the reader in every chapter (and often several times in a chapter), announcing what will be “discussed next” or “…in the upcoming chapter…” This breaks attention and also makes the piece feel like it is Warnicke’s notes versus the final product.
On the other hand, there are some very positive moments in “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” where Warnicke explores common Anne topics (her appearance, lack of musical talent, inability to speak English, etc); and with detective-like stealth debunks myths and presents proper backing arguments. These will cause Tudor fans to re-think the marriage with Anne and even reconsider some of Henry’s actions; therefore providing a solid, well-rounded view.
The highlight of “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” are the chapters studying the marriage, Cromwell’s fall, and the divorce; as they contain many “ah-ha!” moments. However, this text is often filled with Warnicke quoting contemporary historians’ secondary material instead of primary documents resulting in a college research paper-feel.
The final chapter of “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” focuses on Cromwell instead of Anne making for a weak ending. However, the conclusion summarizes the entire marriage and is thus a good reminder of the entire text. “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” is also supplemented by two sections of (black-and-white) color plates plus a notes section (although this isn’t detailed and is more of a source list).
It should be mentioned that some of Warnicke’s conclusions are odd and biased but stated with vindication: take these with a grain of salt.
“The Marrying of Anne of Cleves” is a bit distracted, inconsistent, and somewhat overwhelming but terrific in its subject and information presentation. Although not recommended for those new to the topic (due to information overload); the book is a tasty morsel for academic lovers of Tudor England and Henry VIII’s wives. I would read another work from the author based on “The Marrying of Anne of Cleves”. ...more