All posts tagged Philippa Gregory

EPIC Review: The War of the Roses

The War of the Roses Series by Philippa Gregory

Because this will be the first of, I hope, many EPIC reviews, I’ll quickly explain the premise: one series, one review. In this case, one review for FIVE novels! What was I thinking!? Read more…

Hasn’t been a lot going on here, but coming soon I have a new blog post! The EPIC review!! What is that you say? You’ll just have to keep your eyes on the site, but I’ll give you a hint: it involves my current sequential reading history. 😉

Review: The Boleyn Inheritance

The Boleyn Inheritance

In terms of historical periods, my interests tend to lean more towards the periods that face the most upheaval. Tudor England, with all the scandals, executions and religious uprisings, never seems to fall short of delivering. The man who started it all, and who will be forever remembered for the things he probably didn’t want to be remembered for, is Henry VIII.

Material is everywhere when it comes to this period. There are even television movies and shows made, the most current of which is The Tudors starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as King Henry. Books are aplenty, but the fiction writer that I keep going back to for my Tudor fix is Philippa Gregory. Her latest Tudor England novel, The Boleyn Inheritance, is in my opinion, the best of the series.

In The Boleyn Inheritance, the reader is faced with the stories of three women: Anne of Cleves, Henry’s fourth wife; Katherine Howard, Henry’s fifth wife; and Jane Boleyn, the sister-in-law to the late Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife. What makes this novel great is the way that Gregory chose to deliver the story. Told in first person from the perspective of each woman, the story is presented by jumping back and forth between the women. It is almost like you are reading three diaries at once. And Gregory provides something that isn’t ever really seen during Tudor England; the female perspective of what is unfolding. You get a first-hand account of what it was like to actually be married to King Henry and what it was like to live in the court of a King that was slowly slipping into madness. You knew and felt what it was like to tiptoe around the court, or even the country (Anne of Cleves lived in Richmond Palace, out of sight from the King and court and she still lived in fear. She would only feel safe when King Henry had passed away.) And best presented of all, the reader finally knew what it was like to be a woman in King Henry’s court. How it was a curse to be noticed and how, if married to the man, the slightest of things could send you into exile as a newly created family member (Anne of Cleves became Henry’s sister after the marriage was annulled) or to the scaffold (so many people, including many women, were beheaded for crimes such as being from the wrong family line [the Plantagenets] or for adultery, which was made to be an act of treason if the woman involved was married to the King.) After the public execution of Anne Boleyn and the men charged with her, the role of wife to King Henry VIII was a dangerous thing. Gregory portrays this with amazing ability and even though it was written in first person (a perspective I don’t usually enjoy) I found myself completely immersed in the stories of these three women.

There are two things, besides the story and the delivery of such, that are great about this novel:

  1. For the first time in Gregory’s series, the reader is met with the perspective of Jane Boleyn, the woman that was essentially responsible for putting two queens on the scaffold; nearly sending one to her death but, in the end, only into exile; and watching one die without help. The story of her that Gregory portrays is from history as even she states that few authors would dare to invent such a horror that she seemed to be. You get a personal account of her insanity that drove her to act as cruelly as she did.
  2. Even if you know the history of the Tudor dynasty, you will be biting your nails as the events unfold. This is essentially when I noticed that this was great work. I knew the story of Anne of Cleves and I knew what happened to her when Henry lost his interest in her. Reading the thoughts of this woman, who was terrified of following in Anne Boleyn’s footsteps, was an unnerving experience. I couldn’t help but bite my nails and think to myself in terror ‘what is going to happen to her!?’ even though I knew. It is a great thing when an author can take you on a ride; terrifying you and unnerving you, making you forget the history that you already know. That makes a novel worth reading.

Despite being in a series of six novels, so far, The Boleyn Inheritance stands out as a great work, and probably one of her best to date.