Friday, August 20, 2010

'The Boleyn Inheritance'- Review

Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers

ISBN: 978-0-00-719033-1

Length: 514 Pages
Opening Line:

'It is hot today, the wind blows over the flat fields and marshes with the stink of the plague.'

I hated history at school. It didn't help that for G.C.S.E History, one of the subjects we were required to learn about, was field crop rotation. However, the bits we learnt about Victorian Medicine, with all its gory details about leeches and amputations, was strangely, very popular with my entire class!

Since then, I haven't given history much thought. The mere mention of the word and my eyes glaze over. However, a few months ago, I was talking to friend who strongly recommended that I read 'The Other Boleyn Girl' by Philippa Gregory. When I enquired as to what the book was about, she started telling me it was about the courts of King Henry the Eighth in the 16th Century. Well, straight away I assumed that this book was definitely not for me, as it was bound to be dull and boring. After much persistence on my friend's part, I reluctantly decided to read it and how wrong I was!
This review isn't about 'The Other Boleyn Girl', but the follow up to this sequences of historical events. I was going to re-read 'The Other Boleyn Girl' so that I could review the series in order, but I was so looking forward to reading the second book in the series, that I will review 'The Other Boleyn Girl', at a later date. However, I do recommend that you read this, before 'The Boleyn Inheritance'.Anyway back to this book. The story is told through the eyes of three different women, who are witnessing King Henry's courts, at the same period of time.

Firstly, there is Anne of Cleves, a woman who is chosen as King Henry's new wife and is desperate to flee the restraints of her controlling brother. However, after making a faux pas at one of King Henry's events, Anne's chances of becoming a great queen, are thrown into jeopardy.

Then, there is Katherine 'Kitty' Howard, a 16 year old girl who is manipulated by her uncle, a man who will stop at nothing to ensure that his family progresses to the throne, into ensnaring the king. In reality however, Kitty would rather think about boys and pretty clothes, than running a country.

Finally, there is Jane Boleyn, a woman who has been widowed due to the actions of her late husband George and his sister Anne. She believes that the events that happened in the past,were not her fault, but she is used as a pawn to ensure that the Howard family succeed.

The book interchanges between the three characters, to take you into the women's lives, of glamour and hardship, during the times of Henry the Eighth.
In my opinion, the plot within this novel is brilliant. The way in which Gregory tells the story through the eyes of these three different women, makes for intriguing and fascinating reading. The pace of this novel is exciting and evenly paced. Her way of describing the sights, sounds and smells of the courts, transports you right into the glamour and hardship, of King Henry's court.

Gregory's characterisation, is also brilliant. Unlike some novels I've read, for example 'Three Girls and their Brother' by Theresa Rebeck, whose plot was good, by the characters within the novel, were not distinguishable from e
ach other, Gregory gives each of the characters their own distinctive personality.

Anne for example, may be perceived as serious, but really she is naive and lacks confidence in being her own person. Katherine comes across as the Paris Hilton of the court, whose only preoccupation is for all things sparkly, but in essence, she is still a child in a world of adults. Jane is perceived as a victim, but her warped sense of reality, makes her dangerous. However, during each of the women's journey's, my feelings towards each of the women changed. I felt sympathy towards Kitty, happy for Anne and rather uncomfortable with the actions of Jane. Also in general, reading this and the other novel, shows the characters to be less stuffy and more devious ad therefore, interesting.

The thing I think is most clever, both with 'The Boleyn Inheritance' and other Gregory's historical novels, is that you can read these books, on many levels. Firstly, if you already know about this period of history, you can enjoy Gregory's interpretation of events. Then if you are like me, who only knew that King Henry the Eighth was a fat king, who ruined England and had a lot of wives, who sadly, he had the habit of beheading, you can learn more. Then finally, if you knew absolutely nothing about history whatsoever, in my opinion, you can enjoy this novel as a straightforward fiction novel, which is essentially about betraying and plotting against people, to gain fame and fortune.

I wouldn't say that schools should get rid of their history textbooks, in favour of Philippa Gregory's novels. However, what I would say, is that if you are studying this period of history or are interested in reading about it, then you could consider reading this and the other historical novels. Philippa Gregory writes about the events and people within this period of history so well, that she breathes life into these historical figures and makes the act of learning more interesting. Alternatively, if you just want a tale of scandal, plotting and deceit, then 'The Boleyn Inheritance' will be for you also.

I'm sorry for the essay length review, but, as you can probably tell, I loved this book and would definitely recommend this novel. I'm looking forward to reading more in this series.
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  1. Loved your review, written as thought!
    I must read the book - soon!

  2. Great Review - and I concur.

    I love Phillipa Gregory books and I loved this one.

    Hope you enjoy the others.

  3. Thanks for all the lovely comments.

    What other Philippa Gregory novels have you read Jo?

  4. The Other Queen, The Constant Princess and The Boleyn Inheritance.

    I prefer Philippa Gregory than Alison Weir.