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Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession by Alison…

Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession (2017)

by Alison Weir

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This is the second in noted Tudor historian Alison Weir's fictional series, "Six Tudor Queens," about the wives of Henry VIII.  At 541 pages, this one is a little shorter than the first in the series, but would still have benefitted from some trimming.  The long seven years when Henry was waiting for his first marriage to be annulled are quite tedious.

Much more interesting were the first and last parts of the book.  I knew Anne Boleyn had spent time in the French court, but was not aware that she had also spent time in the Netherlands under the regency of Margaret of Austria, who was a capable ruler.  Weir implies that these two experiences led to Anne's progressive attitudes, and she also supposes that Anne did not love Henry beyond his capability of putting her in a powerful position.

Once Anne and Henry do marry, the book gets interesting again.  Weir sets up various situations that could explain Anne's innocence of the charges later brought against her.  Her depiction of Anne's death is rather gruesome.  All her suppositions are explained in an eight-page author's note, but there are no references in this work of fiction.  Oh, and the family tree at the beginning of the hardbound edition I borrowed is very messed up in layout.

Weir sums up her purpose with this book in the author's note as follows:

"In writing this novel from Anne's point of view, I have tried to reconcile conflicting views of her, and to portray her as a flawed but very human heroine, a woman of great ambition, idealism, and courage who found herself in an increasingly frightening situation."

I think Weir succeeded.  I will be reading the rest of the books in this series.

© Amanda Pape - 2018

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.] ( )
1 vote riofriotex | Jan 16, 2018 |
Born into a noble English family, Anne is barely a teenager when she is sent from her family's Hever Castle to serve at the royal court of the Netherlands. This strategic move on the part of her opportunistic father also becomes a chance for the girl to grow and discover herself. There, and later in France, Anne thrives, preferring to absorb the works of progressive writers rather than participate in courtly flirtations. She also begins to under the inequalities and indignities suffered by her gender. Anne isn't completely inured to the longings of the heart, but her powerful family has ambitious plans for her future that override any wishes of her own. When the King of England himself, Henry VIII, asks Anne to be his mistress, she spurns his advances - reminding him that he is a married man who has already conducted an affair with her sister, Mary. Anne's rejection only intensifies Henry's pursuit, but in the absence of a male heir - and given an aging Queen Katherine - the opportunity to elevate and protect the Boleyn family, and to exact vengeance on her envious detractors, is too tempting for Anne to resist, even as it proves to be her undoing. ( )
  jepeters333 | Nov 27, 2017 |
This biography of Anne Boleyn is told in minute detail, and could perhaps have benefited from some editing which would have reduced the 500+ page book by about 150 pages or so. The best part was the last couple of chapters when Anne is awaiting trial and then death, and the recounting of the beheading itself was rather astounding, to say the least. Four more queens to go in this series! ( )
  flourgirl49 | Sep 2, 2017 |
As a young girl of twelve Anne Boleyn is sent to the court of Margaret the Regent of the Netherlands to serve and to learn. There she becomes the consummate woman of court - flirtatious but honourable. Her ambitious father manages to get her appointed to the court of the new Queen of France but after his death the queen returns to England in disgrace and Anne is lucky to get a place in the English royal household. There she sees her sister become mistress to the king but when Henry tries to seduce Anne she resists. his obsession with Anne means huge upheaval for the country and a war for its religious soul.

Alison Weir has an ambitious project ongoing to write fictionalised biographies of the six most famous wives in history. In this, the second volume, she turns her attentions to the notorious Anne Boleyn. As Weir acknowledges the first hand accounts and biographical materials for Anne are limited, most are from witnesses hostile to her. This means that she has to imagine dialogue and motivation far more than with other subjects. However Weir is first and foremost a historian and that shines through in this novel - the attention to detail is superb and the use of the sources, interwoven into the narrative, is subtle but adds a veneer of authenticity to this excellent account. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
I've always been interested in the life of Anne Boleyn (and her daughter Elizabeth I) and have read about her from the pens of several authors including: Robin Maxwell, C.C. Humphreys and Philippa Gregory. I've also watched many documentaries, movies and TV shows about Anne Boleyn, including: The Other Boleyn Girl, The Tudors and Wolf Hall to name a few, and I'm currently watching The Six Wives of Henry VIII with Lucy Worsley.

Alison Weir is an established and popular historian and Anne Boleyn - A King's Obsession was my first historical fiction novel of hers. We follow Anne's upbringing in French court and the powerful women she served, including Margaret of Austria, Henry VIII’s sister in France Queen Mary and later Queen Claude.

This was easily my favourite part of the book and an aspect of Anne's life often overlooked or glossed over in other books and media. Although the rape of her sister in the French court and later at the English court was shocking to me and I'm not quite sure where the history stops and the fiction begins with regard to these events.

I'll admit I was struck by Weir's different take on Anne Boleyn and found the differences difficult to adjust to in the beginning. Weir presents Anne as never truly loving Henry as I've always imagined she did and instead being motivated by power. She describes her as having a sixth fingernail on her little finger (not an extra finger) although on further investigation, I found this description to be the more accurate one. Just a further example of how Anne Boleyn has been mythologised and portrayed over the centuries since her death.

Eventually I was able to surrender myself to Weir's narrative after I left my preconceived ideas at the door and ended up enjoying her novel immensely. Despite already knowing how Anne Boleyn died, and having read about and seen the scene play out in many genres, the author was able to create an incredibly moving 'end' and one that I found unexpectedly moving and even upsetting.

Alison Weir is clearly a huge talent in the genre of historical fiction and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future. Given this is the second novel in the Six Tudor Queens series, I know I'll be spoiled for choice.

Highly recommended.

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia * ( )
  Carpe_Librum | Jun 8, 2017 |
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Her skin was rather sallow, Anne thought as she studied herself in the silver mirror, and she had too many moles, but at least her face was a fashionable oval.
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Henry VIII is risking his marriage and the political strategies of Cardinal Wolsey in his obsession to marry Anne Boleyn, who does not welcome the king's advances and loathes the cardinal for breaking her betrothal to Harry Percy. Anne is barely a teenager when she is sent from her family's Hever Castle to serve at the royal court of the Netherlands. There, and later in France, Anne thrives. But her powerful family has ambitious plans for her future that override any wishes of her own. When the King of England himself, Henry VIII, asks Anne to be his mistress, she spurns his advances-- he is a married man who has already conducted an affair with her sister, Mary. This rejection only intensifies Henry's pursuit, tempting Anne even as it proves to be her undoing.… (more)

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