Susan Bordo attempts to create a fair and just picture of Anne Boleyn, one of England’s most famous and vilified Queens of all time. Bordo attempts to dispel the myths and controversies surrounding Boleyn and her fall from favour. 

It is apparent from the first chapter of this unusual study of Anne Boleyn that Bordo admires Anne Boleyn and the way in which she lived her life. To many she was outspoken and didn’t fully understand the role in which she was expected to play as England’s Queen.

But Bordo argues that her intelligence, wit and charismatic personality is what attracted Henry VIII to her in the first place and that she did more good than bad during her short reign. The trouble is that from the writing style that Bordo takes with this book it is clear that this book is no less biased than the works of the historians and novelists that she is so scathing about, making it clear how much she admires Anne for her intelligence and standing up for herself in comparison to other women at the time – in a sense she was an extremely modern and forward thinking woman and Bordo clearly believes that the men at the time couldn’t handle it so forced her destruction.

However, when sticking to history she comes up with some interesting theories that do change or make you think of Anne Boleyn in a different way, but the woman herself remains illusive thanks to the destruction of any letters that she wrote and other evidence of her life before Henry and after she became queen.

It is interesting to read how she links all the myths of Anne’s life – such as the infamous sixth finger and how these have been used to create a modern portrait of what she may have been like. There is particular focus on shows such as The Tudors and Natalie Dormer’s interpretation of Anne Boleyn which has seen a number of fan pages set up in response and The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory but everything seems a bit vague and not persuasive enough to get the reader to truly believe in what Bordo suggests.

The book doesn’t prove any answers for certain about Anne and her downfall – was it merely court gossip as recorded by Chapuys or was there other gossip elsewhere after all gossip and rumour have to start somewhere and there might be a small truth or fact within the gossip? Was she manipulated by her father and uncle to capture Henry’s attention? Was she ambitious or would she have preferred to marry Henry Percy? The answers to these questions might never be known but Bordo only chooses to focus on elements that show Anne in a positive light – no matter how much she insists that Anne was neither a saint or devil – which may be true but hard to believe if you examine her in a certain way.

But perhaps this is the point – can we ever get an unbiased book about history or is it all going to be manipulated according to what a certain person believes to be true?

It is uncomfortable when Bordo veers off the point and adds her own autobiography in places such as her incident of being run over by a cyclist and able to channel the feelings that Anne must have had during her last moments of life, standing on the scaffold. These moments add nothing to the point of the book or the reader’s understanding of Anne Boleyn.

Although the book is filled with interesting theories and ideas about Anne Boleyn, the scathing way that Bordo deals with historians own theories and understanding of documents can be off putting and the reader is still left feeling that we are no closer to understanding the true Anne Boleyn.

Buy The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo on Amazon . 


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