Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (The Boleyn Inheritance - Philippa Gregory)

I know I've been absent for awhile, but blame it on a bad internet connection. The good news is, I've gotten caught up with my Philippa Gregory collection, at least until a new one surfaces at Goodwill!

Three Women Who Share One Fate: The Boleyn Inheritance  
Anne of Cleves
She runs from her tiny country, her hateful mother, and her abusive brother to a throne whose last three occupants are dead. King Henry VIII, her new husband, instantly dislikes her. Without friends, family, or even an understanding of the language being spoken around her, she must literally save her neck in a court ruled by a deadly game of politics and the terror of an unpredictable and vengeful king. Her Boleyn Inheritance: accusations and false witnesses.

Katherine Howard
She catches the king's eye within moments of arriving at court, setting in motion the dreadful machine of politics, intrigue, and treason that she does not understand. She only knows that she is beautiful, that men desire her, that she is young and in love -- but not with the diseased old man who made her queen, beds her night after night, and killed her cousin Anne. Her Boleyn Inheritance: the threat of the axe.

Jane Rochford
She is the Boleyn girl whose testimony sent her husband and sister-in-law to their deaths. She is the trusted friend of two threatened queens, the perfectly loyal spy for her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, and a canny survivor in the murderous court of a most dangerous king. Throughout Europe, her name is a byword for malice, jealousy, and twisted lust. Her Boleyn Inheritance: a fortune and a title, in exchange for her soul.

The Boleyn Inheritance is a novel drawn tight as a lute string about a court ruled by the gallows and three women whose positions brought them wealth, admiration, and power as well as deceit, betrayal, and terror. Once again, Philippa Gregory has brought a vanished world to life -- the whisper of a silk skirt on a stone stair, the yellow glow of candlelight illuminating a hastily written note, the murmurs of the crowd gathering on Tower Green below the newly built scaffold. In The Boleyn Inheritance Gregory is at her intelligent and page-turning best.


Onto the review:

OK, let's start with a confession: Philippa Gregory is my new guilty pleasure. She disregards historical fact when invention suits her better and reading her books is hardly a step above watching a soap, but still, I like her work. There's something different to each of the books I've read so far, and I enjoy them all for different reasons.

I did not, however, fully appreciate the gimmick of three different perspectives. They each had their own voice, but they all managed to say the exact same thing with only slightly different words. I feel like I can get farther if I break it down by characters, so I'll go with that approach. (By the way, I don't feel like I can call these spoilers, as it's literally history, for the most part, so if you don't know much about the Tudor dynasty, you might be in for some surprises.)

I liked Anne of Cleves as much as I liked Katherine of Aragon. I've always liked Anne of Cleves, though. Her marriage to Henry was the shortest of the six, but she came out of it with quite the divorce settlement, and she was only one of two wives to survive being married to the man. I'd call that an accomplishment! Not much else to say about Anne, so moving on.

I see in the author's note that Gregory wanted to portray Katherine Howard as something other than a stupid girl. Boy, she sure missed the mark enough...I've only read one other fictional account of Katherine (The King's Rose by Alisa M. Libby...a good one!), and the two seem to tally with each other, so I'm going to say that either both authors read the same sheep-spit histories, or this is how it really was for Kitty. Here, she struck me as vapid, idiotic for even a teenager, selfish, naive, and ultimately sympathetic. The poor girl was fifteen! Fifteen! She had no choice in becoming Henry's trophy wife, the "rose without a thorn," and it cost her her life! I thought I was going to lose it when she asked for the executioner's block to be brought to her cell so she could practice kneeling at it, and the way Gregory handled the execution itself was gut-wrenching. I mean, SHE WAS FIFTEEN! Put to death because a horny old man lusted after her and she happened to fall in love with someone else! That's always been a hard one to swallow for me. Henry, you sick bastard!

And then there's Jane Boleyn. At first I thought I was going to puke, I was so disgusted with the whole "Oh, how I loved dear George and dear Anne and I testified against them to save them and I can't believe they were killed after all" crap. Then I found out Gregory was playing up the insanity angle so far as Lady Jane was concerned, and it made a little more sense. But it still annoyed me. As a matter of fact, Jane herself annoyed me. I mean, really? I hope "no writer would dream up a horror like that," because this character sucks! She can't decide if she's jealous or in love, whether she's loyal to Uncle Howard or the many queens she serves (all of whom happen to end up in some kind of disgrace, thanks to her), whether she's really crazy or only pretending to be, and blah blah blah. I had to work to get through her parts, hoping that Anne and Kitty would come back around soon. I'll admit, though, her scene with Uncle Howard where he gives her a slap of reality gave me chills. Big time. I'm getting chills just thinking about how it gave me chills, it was that good.

So, third Philippa Gregory book, and another one I don't regret buying. Like I said, it's novelized daytime TV, but still, it's enjoyable.


You know, it really is more fun to discuss a book than to review it...if anyone reading this blog has read any of the books I've talked about here, feel free to have a nice chat with me about them! Please?

Your humble book nerd,

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