TAS's Reviews > Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait

Anna of Kleve by Alison Weir
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This is the fourth novel in Historian Alison Weir's historical novel series on the wives of Henry VIII and, for me, the dullest of the lot, so far. The previous three I've liked much better.

I'm not sure it's Weir's fault, though. I think the story of Anna of Kleve (aka Anne of Cleves) just inherently contains less drama. (After all, her marriage to Henry only lasted six months.) As illustration, the annulment of her marriage to the King happens about half way through the 500 page book, yet there's still 250 pages to wade through.

The book begins when Anna is a child, a Catholic (though her marriage to Henry VIII is often incorrectly seen as a Protestant alliance), brought up by strict parents in a formal court atmosphere. And the novel ends with her death. Weir uses her considerable knowledge as a historian to enrich the narrative with lots of facts and detail-- perhaps TOO much so for my taste. During the last 250 pages I mentioned, for example, there is so much detail about her continual financial troubles (Poor Anna - it's just SO expensive to keep multiple castles going at once), about her interpersonal relationships with MANY minor characters, and the on-again, off-again court suspicions and gossip about her-- that it all seemed to me "much ado about nothing." I kept waiting to learn the point of all the detail. Only it never happened.

I suspect the biggest controversy of the novel is a storyline that Weir creates about a long-term and secret romance between Anna and an illegitimate cousin, Otto Von Wylich. Weir explains in the book's Afterword why she created this story thread and what she based it on. But I simply didn't buy it. While I won't include any spoilers, I simply did not believe it would have been possible for a public figure like Anna -- surrounded all her life by dozens servants -- to keep this particular plot development secret.

I suspect the book would have been better if it was 100 pages shorter. I can recommend it to die-hard Tudor fans, especially since you folks will probably read it anyway. You'll certainly learn more about Anna than you could possibly want. Otherwise, you might want to skip this one. And wait for the next book in Weir's series, about wife #5 --Katheryn Howard: The Tainted Queen. Scheduled to be published in May 2020.

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Reading Progress

July 19, 2019 – Shelved
July 19, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
December 3, 2019 – Started Reading
December 12, 2019 – Finished Reading

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