First-person vignettes from each of the wives of King Henry VIII are included in this work of historical fiction.
Beginning with a poignant portrayal of devout Katharine of Aragon by Candace Fleming (The Amazing Collection of Joey Cornell, 2017, etc.), this collection evocatively tells the stories of those unlucky enough to be married to the heir-obsessed Henry. Stephanie Hemphill (Hideous Love, 2013, etc.) pens doomed Anne Boleyn as passionate but still vulnerable, while Lisa Ann Sandell (A Map of the Known World, 2009, etc.) renders kind Jane Seymour as incredulous that she has drawn Henry’s eye. Jennifer Donnelly (Beauty and the Beast, 2017, etc.) relays the deathbed remembrances of wise Anna of Cleves regarding her short, unhappy marriage to the king, and Linda Sue Park (Cavern of Secrets, 2017, etc.) details the experiences, both exploitative and bawdy, of Catherine Howard, still a teen when Henry took her as his fifth wife and later put her to death for adultery. Finally, Deborah Hopkinson (Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen, 2018, etc.) writes of clever, measured Kateryn Parr, who survived Henry. Each section is followed by a short musing from Henry’s point of view by M.T. Anderson (Landscape with Invisible Hand, 2017, etc.) that adds nuance without mitigating his horrific abuses. He also writes a brief but triumphant entry for Queen Elizabeth I.
Packing an emotional punch, this meditation on the agency of these women is heartbreaking and intricately layered. (timeline, character list, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 14-18)