Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Women’s Literature, Chick Lit
Date of Release: December 5, 2006
Pages and Format: 514; Paperback
“The year is 1539 and the court of Henry VIII is increasingly fearful of the moods of the ageing sick king. With only a baby in the cradle for an heir, Henry has to take another wife and the dangerous prize of the crown of England is won by Anne of Cleves. She has her own good reasons for agreeing to marry a man old enough to be her father, in a country where to her both language and habits are foreign. Although fascinated by the glamour of her new surroundings, she senses a trap closing around her. Katherine Howard is confident that she can follow in the steps of her cousin Anne Boleyn to dazzle her way to the throne but her kinswoman Jane Boleyn, haunted by the past, knows that Anne’s path led to Tower Green and to an adulterer’s death. The story of these three young women, trying to make their own way through the most volatile court in Europe at a time of religious upheaval and political uncertainty, is Philippa Gregory’s most compelling novel yet.”
One thing that becomes absolutely clear, while reading this book, is that King Henry VIII was a small child in a grown man’s body and that alone made him naive and very dangerous.
The three points of view was an interesting take as well. Anne of Cleves, I felt most connected to. The poor lass was handed such a short end of the stick. She arrived in England with the fear of failing her family, and didn’t know any of the English language. Everyone judged her immediately by her style of dress and her mannerisms. Especially in how she greeted the king.
To be honest, anyone would have been disgusted in someone approached them the way King Henry had Anne of Cleves, but it sealed her fate.
Katherine Howard was utterly vapid and gullible. But she was the image of what a young woman in the 1500’s was like. They were, literally, pawns in order to gain some kind of a court life foothold.
Jane Rochford, whether she did or did not rat out her husband and sister-in-law Anne Boleyn, she too was a pawn. I think as well, that she knew it. She knew the heart of the court was keeping up with the gossip, the back stabbing and to constantly please and displease the king.
I absolutely enjoy these novels, having read The White Queen and The Red Queen so far. As someone who has a deep respect and enjoyment of history, Philippa Gregory brought it to life. She puts you there with the sights, smells, fashion and culture of the Court and 1500’s England.
Well worth the read!