In the latest of her Six Tudor Queens series, Alison Weir effectively breathes new life into Anne Boleyn, offering a fresh perspective of a woman who has long been made out to be a villain.
For hundreds of years Anne Boleyn has been called a huge number of different names (none of them flattering) – particularly in terms of the allegations that led up to her death in 1536. But now with Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession, author and historian Alison Weir seeks to readdress what people think of the infamous second Queen of Henry VIII’s reign with this intelligent and engaging story of her life.
While details of Anne Boleyn’s life at the court of Henry VIII has been well documented by authors and historians alike, it is rare for such focus to be given on her upbringing at a variety of European courts as well as her remarkable intelligence and perceptiveness.
But while Weir portrays Boleyn as an intelligent woman caught up in events beyond her control, the author also captures the moment at which her attitude and desire for power began to change, ultimately paving the way for her downfall. Throughout, Weir offers a refreshing outlook on not only Anne Boleyn’s own mind but her relationship with her family and Henry VIII.
From beginning to end, the reader is engaged with all of the events that begin to unfold during Anne Boleyn’s life, including her miscarriages (offering a slightly softer portrayal of the King with his reaction to the first two than expected) and her sister Mary’s unexpected second marriage. Everything unfolds with great thought and emotional drive behind it that sweeps the reader along on Anne’s journey throughout.
It has to be said that perhaps some elements of the story and portrait of Tudor life have been slightly softened to create a more sympathetic portrait, even occasionally romanticising a little too much on certain relationships between Anne and those who were clearly devoted to her. This means that the story loses some of its sharpness and tension to keep the reader on the edge of their seat (despite knowing how the story ends).
Of course there are many elements of the book which are pure fiction – particularly the conversations between characters, but Weir manages to ensure that much of the historical facts are placed in there as accurately as possible, weaving her outlook on Anne Boleyn based on the history rather than the story she wanted to create rather than vice versa.
There is much to be admired about this refreshing portrait which leaves the reader wondering about how Anne Boleyn would react to women in 2018 and what is being achieved in terms of equality now. It is a novel which proves just how far ahead of her time Anne Boleyn really was, humanising and transforming her into a figure of admiration – even if her stubbornness and utter conviction that she was right to push Henry in the way she did led to her tragic downfall.
Alison Weir’s novel is certainly a bold and confident new outlook on Anne Boleyn’s life that offers plenty for the reader to think about. Well worth a read.
By Emma Clarendon
Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession is available to buy now.