Following on Gilt (2012), which told the tale of Henry VIII’s doomed fifth wife, Catherine Howard, is another beheaded wife’s story.
The oft-rehearsed tale of King Henry VIII’s second and best-known wife, Anne Boleyn, is recounted in this mostly factual reconstruction of the years before Henry’s divorce from Queen Katherine and marriage to Anne, an event that is said to have changed the course of English history, since Henry broke with the Roman Catholic Church in order to secure a divorce. Anne’s confident, present-tense narration conveys her tempestuous personality, her feelings of alienation from the ladies of the court and her desperate ambition to secure a position there. Flirtations with figures of history, including the poet Sir Thomas Wyatt and noble Sir Henry Percy, as well as Anne’s strong attraction to the king himself, a deeply charismatic individual, propel the narrative. They add spice to a complex tale that occasionally gets bogged down in historical detail and is sometimes marred by linguistic anachronisms. However the raw emotions and unflinching honesty of a young girl caught in a whirlwind of history shine through, keeping readers engaged to the end of this sizable novel, which ends before her marriage to the king and subsequent beheading.
Teens with a love of history will not be able to resist this skillful retelling of the remarkable achievement of Anne Boleyn, who rose from tarnished foreign outcast to the king’s bride. (Historical fiction. 13-17)