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The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  2,580 ratings  ·  405 reviews
A groundbreaking retelling and reclaiming of Anne Boleyn's life and legacy puts old questions to rest and raises some surprising new ones.

Part biography, part cultural history, The Creation of Anne Boleyn is a fascinating reconstruction of Anne's life and an illuminating look at her afterlife in the popular imagination. Why is Anne so compelling? Why has she inspired such
Hardcover, 343 pages
Published April 9th 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2013)
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Love her or hate her, Anne Boleyn is here to stay – even centuries after her execution. How much do we actually know about her is another story entirely: one which Susan Bordo attempts to capture in “The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England’s Most Notorious Queen”.

Bordo’s “The Creation of Anne Boleyn” is not a typical history piece and certainly not a biography. It instead combines elements of a cultural study, history, social history, psychology, and academic argument into one work.
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kobo
Aww those darn Tudors and their hold on all of us historical fiction fans especially King Harry and his six wives. This non fiction book has been on my TBR for a long time and maybe it just should have stayed there. I feel a bit sick in my stomach. The author totally lost points with me for arrogantly bashing the works of Philippa Gregory(who she just couldn't stop attacking), Allison Weir, David Starkey, Hilary Mantel etc. I think if you really don't like a work, say why you don't like it, make ...more
I should note that I am a fan of both Boleyn and Katherine of Aragon. It seems as if many of Henry VIII’s wives had many characteristics in common. There are exceptions – I’m not entirely sure how intelligent Katherine Howard was, but there seems to be more in common with the women, even ones as so opposed as Anne and Katherine of Aragorn.

I should also note that I am GR friends with a reader who had exchange with the author of this book. The exchange occurred prior to our GR friendship.

This bo
Claire Ridgway
May 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have been following Susan Bordo's journey into Anne Boleyn's story, and how her image has been reconstructed time and time again through the ages, since early 2011 so I was looking forward to the release of her book, particularly because she interviewed me as part of her research.

The Creation of Anne Boleyn is a very different Anne Boleyn book. It is exactly how it's described in its blurb, "part biography, part cultural history". The first half focuses on Anne Boleyn's life, and subsequent do
Mar 21, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I already know I'm a little sensitive, but reading this I'm getting a little defensive of one of my favorite authors, Alison Weir. I understand the purpose of Bordo's book - determining how Anne Boleyn got such a bad reputation; so, when she picks on Weir, I'm a little like, where the heck did you come from, because I've never heard of you writing several books about Tudor England?! Bordo also takes aim at David Starkey, whose books I haven't read, but have enjoyed the mini-series he's done on H ...more
Moira Russell
Really just flat-out enjoyable -- very intelligent, witty, well-written, thoughtful, all the things you'd expect from Susan Bordo. A lovely surprise is an interview with Natalie Dormer, who comes off as wonderfully strong, intelligent, well-read and very sympathetic to Anne (when she heard she got the role, she ran home and dyed her hair dark without permission -- freaking out the brass -- she nearly lost the role!). This book was a lot like The Bronte Myth, except much less disappointing. I lov ...more
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read just about every Anne Boleyn book I can get my hands on, but I admit it gets pretty repetitive -- all these examinations of one woman's life. But this isn't "just another Anne Boleyn biography." In addition to the "biography" part (which provides some insights and perspectives I hadn't seen before), the author studies the various ways Anne Boleyn has been portrayed in popular culture, from the earliest novels about her to the modern soap opera The Tudors. (I confessed I never got past Epi ...more
Apr 24, 2013 added it
Interesting book, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would. I thought from some of the excerpts that this would be an extended anti-Philippa-Gregory rant, but Bordo was more restrained and balanced than I expected. I thought the discussion about how Anne Boleyn has been portrayed in fiction over the years was particularly interesting. On the other hand, I thought the author was far too dismissive of G. W. Bernard, whose work (whether or not one agrees with it) hardly deserves to be lumped in ...more
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

“What do you mean different versions? She isn’t Catwoman!”

This was my boyfriend’s bemused reaction to hearing what I was reading about. Laughing, I went on to explain that, actually, yes, there can be just as many versions of a factual person as there can be of a fictional person, and Bordo does an amazing job here showing those versions.

What do we know, what do we think we know and why do we think that?

Excellent examination of the evidence – and lack of – surrounding the captivating Anne Boley
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
I honestly do not even know if I have the energy to write a review of this ridiculous 'scholarly' work. There are so many problems, such unprofessionalism, and even inaccurate historical facts, I don't know where to begin.

So, here we go:

Anyone who has read my reviews in the past know how I feel about Anne Boleyn. I do not see her as a victim or a heroine. I see her as an intelligent woman in love with a married man, who was able to advance her position socially into the very highest ranks in bec
Marie Z. Johansen
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
For me, this was a book like no other! I have not found myself underlining, making margin notes and dog earring a book for many years - but this book just ignited me so much that I had to make notes, notes and more notes! I did not merely really like this book, I loved it! No, I have none of those conspiratorial affiliations or associations - this book is just unique and very different. I'm a history buff, especially a British history buff, and I love the cultural aspects of history. This book c ...more
Apr 13, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A breezy book with some interesting, and some less interesting, parts. I most enjoyed the first section in which Bordo tackles several aspects of Boleyn's life and assesses the state of historical evidence, and the ways in which that evidence has been treated by historians. When the book moves to representations of Boleyn in literature and popular culture, it seems to lose focus a bit. It was fascinating to hear about some of the earlier representations of Boleyn in plays and novels but I feel t ...more
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone!

I’ve been anticipating this book and following Susan’s webpage for some time as she worked on it and posted tantalising snippets from its pages, and I must say, this is the book I’d been hoping someone would write about Anne Boleyn. Lucid, sensible, and cogently presented, The Creation of Anne Boleyn explains to the general reader why you shouldn’t believe everything you’ve heard about Anne, and, for the Anne enthusiasts, explores in some depth Anne in all her later interpretations over the cent
Caidyn (he/him/his)
This review can also be found on my blog!

First thing I want to say is that I’m embarrassed about how long it took me to read this. I started it in September and I finished it late November. The book isn’t bad! It’s an excellent read! But, it took me forever. Thanks, grad school.

Second thing, I’m extremely biased on this subject. Ever since watching The Tudors, I’ve been in love with Anne Boleyn and I’m extremely sympathetic to everything about her. Hell, I even have her signature tattooed on my
Audrey Terry
I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately most of it reads like a HBO guide. The first 2 sections were informative, and mostly entertaining, and then the last 1/3rd was mind numbing. I gave up and stopped trying to wade through paragraphs full of directors credentials and praise for costume design... It just feels like Bordo lost her focus, and her main point with this book.

I feel that this book had really good intentions, but Bordo got lost in herself while writing it. For one, she pres
May 08, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
(3.5 Stars)

Man, I wish the musical Six had been around when this was being written- I would have loved to read the author’s thoughts on that modernization of Anne.

It would have been 4 stars, but when it got into modern representations of women (Real Housewives ect.) and what would today be called ‘lean in’ or white feminism I thought it sort of fell flat. I would have included a discussion of capital/ism and how it interacts with what is ultimately a very privileged conception of feminism.

Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After reading the definitive "Anne Boleyn Bible," also known as Eric Ives' masterpiece The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, I did not expect to come across another work that made such monumental strides toward interpreting--deconstructing--describing--Anne until I buckled down and read Bordo's sociological study of the many manifestations of our beloved Anne. I came across her website last May coincidentally and was initially dismayed at the thought of yet another "study" of Anne that would draw i ...more
Leanda Lisle
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Anne Boleyn is ‘an enigma writers want to solve’, how Henry VIII’s second wife ‘came to be, to reign, to perish’; ‘I have my own theories’ Susan Bordo forewarns us ‘and I won’t hide them’. The result is a survey of Anne Bolyen’s life and after life that is alternately maddening, moving, disconcerting and exhilarating.

Bordo is an American feminist academic, as open about her feelings as she is about her theories. Although biographers often fall in love with their subjects it’s rare to have a wri
Julia (Shakespeare and Such)
5/5 stars, full review to come! I think Bordo said it best here: “Anne the real woman may have been silenced by Henry, but her restless spirit refuses to remain quiet, as she uses our shifting fancies, fantasies, and anxieties to write and rewrite her story over the centuries.” Even if you find yourself feeling lukewarm about Anne but you have interest in the Tudors as a whole, this is a must-read.

Organization : 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Enjoyment of subject/ideas: 5/5
Apr 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
Wow, I am surprised by how much I didn't like this. I love Tudor history and Anne Boleyn, so this should have been right up my alley. And while, like the author, I do sympathize with Anne Boleyn and though the premise of this book was interesting, the writing was terrible and so unprofessional.

The book is divided into three sections, the first being a short biography of Anne. The tone here is bipolar. On one page the author tries to sound like a scholar and researcher, on the next she's talking
Karen Witzler
May 02, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a great introduction to the Anne-story for all of those Annie-come-latelies who've been turned on by Natalie Dormer and the television production of "The Tudors". Bordo gives both an overview of and her own opinions on contemporary accounts, historians, movie directors, novelists, artists, and most interestingly, actresses who have played a role in shaping the cultural perceptions of Anne Boleyn. Bordo, herself, seems obsessed with Natalie Dormer's portrayal. I, myself, loved her segment ...more
May 02, 2013 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this more than I did. Bordo is splendid in her critique of the "received" history of Anne Boleyn, pointing out the pernicious tendency of even objective historians to color the tale with their own prejudices. It was fascinating to trace the historical evolution of Anne's image, from scheming sex crazed heretic, to soulful Reformation martyr, to Victorian victim, to power feminist. Bordo's interviews with two of the most influential Anne interpreters: Genevieve Bujold and Natalie ...more
Rio (Lynne)
I am a Anne a Boleyn fan. I agree there are lots of fabricated, untrue books and movies out there about her and yes, I don't like it either. I enjoyed Claire Ridgeway's The Anne Boleyn Collection: The Real Truth about the Tudors because she debunked the myths without sounding haughty about it. This book had an undertone I didn't like. There is a way to disagree with another author without sounding childlike. Am I glad pro Anne books are out there, yes. Is there a market for this kind of book, ye ...more
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
When Anne of A Thousand Days was screened in London recently, audiences cheered Anne's defiant speech when she said that her daughter would be a great Queen. No one who saw Genevieve Bujold make this speech could ever forget it, because she is so fiery, independent and proud.

The Anne of this film became a feminist icon for many young girls and women who saw this film. Before this, Anne had often been represented as a nasty, scheming, ambitious woman who was venomous to Queen Catherine and her da
Who was Anne Boleyn? I can never think of her without thinking of Scarlet O'Hara as well, because that's how I picture Anne, as strong willed, determined, feisty, and unafraid. Anne was real, though, and she's come through history as a scarlet woman, an unscrupulous home wrecker who probably deserved to be executed. Susan Bordo has tackled the question of who/what this woman truly was and why Henry VIII, once so besotted with her, came to feel compelled to wipe her off the face of the earth.

Karin Slaughter
Apr 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fascinating. It gave me such a clear understanding about how powerless women through history have been, and how when they are perceived by others to have even the tiniest bit of control, they are vilified and often destroyed for it.

As a side note, I feel like I use the word "fascinating" a lot. I will try to do better.
Girl with her Head in a Book
For my full review:

You know that feeling when it’s as if the book finds you, rather than the other way around? Maybe you don’t – but this was definitely what The Creation of Anne Boleyn felt like to me. I am always interested in how perceptions of historical figures can shift over time and this year, how changing social and cultural expectations can lead to the same person being perceived in a different way, decades and even centuries after their death. T
Morgan Dhu
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is a fact that when Henry VIII of England had his second wife executed, he tried to erase all record of his life with her. He was eager to wed his choice for wife number three, anxious to forget the woman who made him do a great many things he might not have wanted to do, and then failed to give him the one thing he desperately wanted, a son. Even though his agents did not succeed in making Anne Boleyn disappear completely, there are few primary sources that remain to tell us who she really w ...more
Jan 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Welcome to a biography of ‘The Tudors’ – that funny, sex-filled TV show, desperately trying to cling on to its label of ‘period drama’.

I’m joking, but sometimes it feels as if ‘The Creation of Anne Boleyn’ is just a promotional book for ‘The Tudors’; yes, it was written after the show ended but that won’t stop Susan Bordo from trying to get her readers to watch the boxset!

A lot of reviewers have claimed that Bordo spends too long complaining about other historians; I completely disagree, but th
Whether you believe Anne Boleyn was the tragic pawn of powerful and ruthless men or a manipulative whore that stole a crown and spent her days scheming to murder her enemies, or something in between, you have to admit that Anne Boleyn was fascinating. Susan Bordo's "The Creation of Anne Boleyn" discusses how Anne has been portrayed in both fiction and non-fiction, TV, movies, and documentaries and how that has changed over time. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the author explored and compared the m ...more
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Susan Bordo is known for the clarity, accessibility, and contemporary relevance of her writing. Her first book, The Flight to Objectivity, has become a classic of feminist philosophy. In 1993, increasingly aware of our culture's preoccupation with weight and body image, she published Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, a book that is still widely read and assigned in classe ...more

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