Sunday, February 17, 2008

Book: The Boleyn Inheritance

The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory


My last Amazon order got slightly held up due to an item that wasn't currently available (should be here any day now).  Since I was worried I might run out of books to read, I picked up The Boleyn Inheritance while I was in the PX.  They don't have a large variety of books, so given the choices between Dean Koontz, Danielle Steele and James Patterson/Dan Brown type stuff, I figured this would probably be the best they had to offer.


My mom's read a few of Philippa Gregory's novels, so I had read one of them before (The Queen's Fool) but I hadn't liked it that much (I think it had more to do with the fact that I disagreed with the way she chose to portray Queen Elizabeth).  I was surprised to find that I liked this one enough to actually consider ordering The Other Boleyn Girl (yep, there's another movie tie-in, of course).  The novel focused on a three year period spanning from the betrothal of Anne of Cleves to King Henry to Katherine Howard's execution for adultery.  It switched back and forth between Anne, Katherine and Jane Boleyn, sister-in-law of Anne Boleyn.  While it was historical fiction, there were a few things the novel pointed out that I hadn't quite been aware of: Katherine Howard's extreme youth (she was between 15 and 19 when she married almost 50 year old Henry, and died before she turned 21 - I double checked on Wikipedia - another very reliable source, I know), as well as all the intrigue surrounding Anne of Cleves and Henry's annulment.  The other books/novels I've read that address this topic treat it as a quick episode but Gregory referred to some plots that could have potentially accused Anne of Cleves of witchcraft and led to her beheading as well if the annulment hadn't come through. 


I read The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George a long time ago (I used to read a lot of historical fiction), and her portray of Henry was generally sympathetic.  Gregory sees him as a tyrannical monster, and throughout the novel, the women refer to him as death to his wives.  Of course, he executed "only" two of them, but the characters in Gregory's novel also blame him for Katherine of Aragon's death (due to the conditions of where she was banished to) as well as Jane Seymour (improper postnatal care).  In addition to their views of Henry, the portrayal of Katherine Howard between the novels is rather different.  She wasn't much of a character in George's novel, but she seemed more calculating.  Gregory portrays her as a young, greedy, shallow girl that becomes the pawn of her family to help them gain power.


As far as historical fiction is concerned, this book was pretty decent.  It wasn't a master piece, but it was engaging, and it might inspire people to do further reading on the topic to find out the real facts vs. fiction.  It's been a long time since I've actually read anything about the time period but I remember Antonia Fraser's The Wives of Henry VIII being rather accessible.


Anonymous said...

Books a Million is cheaper than Amazon for almost every book and has better shipping options.

Jen K said...

Thanks for the tip.