It is a talent to be able to tell an infamous story, one many of us know the ending to, while still making it suspenseful and gut-wrenching.
This tumultuous (albeit true) tale begins after the death of Queen Jane Seymour, when King Henry VIII is looking to take a new wife. Already, the King is becoming something of a tyrant, having divorced his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, for not providing him with a male heir, and beheading his next wife, Anne Boleyn, after charging her with awful, and likely untrue, crimes of witchcraft and incest. No woman in their right mind would want to be the next wife of this man who thinks his word is that of God, and whose will changes swifter than the falling of an axe.
But women in this time have no right to choose anything. So Anne of Cleves is next to be queen, although the king hates her upon meeting her. The story revolves around her terrifying time as the king's unwanted wife, never knowing if she would be next to die - and Jane Boleyn, the widow of the late Anne Boleyn's accused brother, who is urged by the Duke of Norfolk to manipulate the king's desires in favor of the Howard family - and then the too-young and overly naïve Katherine Howard, only fourteen, who finds herself having to seduce the king to become the next queen of England. One is innocent, one is deranged, and the other is simply a child. Who of them will survive? Who will die?
I have read many of Gregory's books, and somehow she always manages to add such distinguishable personality to historical figures. Here, the point of view hops between Anne of Cleves, Jane Boleyn, and Katherine Howard, and for living in the same court and time, they each are so vastly different from the other. Each of their unique lives interconnect seamlessly through the story, adding tension and irony to every page. In the end, it is yet another wonderfully feminist story of Gregory's that will make you grateful for the advances we women have made since such a terrifying time, where every move made is one that could destroy you.
Of course, with all Historical Fiction, there will be exaggerations. Some things will not happen in the book as they may have happened truly, for how could we know otherwise? However, the author Philippa Gregory does a fantastic job painting a dramatic scene that is sure to get your blood heated, while also having researched thoroughly. She cites her research at the end of every book.
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You can find The Boleyn Inheritance on Goodreads here.