The Lady in The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir:
Category: Biography & Autobiography
Format: Hardcover, 464 pages
On Sale: January 5, 2010
Pre-Order Price Guarantee at Amazon ($18.48)
ISBN: 978-0-345-45321-1 (0-345-45321-2)
Review copy provided by Publisher, Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House
"Nearly five hundred years after her violent death, Anne Boleyn, second wife to Henry VIII, remains one of the world's most fascinating, controversial, and tragic heroines. Now acclaimed historian and bestselling author Alison Weir has drawn on myriad sources from the Tudor era to give us the first book that examines, in unprecedented depth, the gripping, dark, and chilling story of Anne Boleyn's final days.
In my recent review of "Elizabeth's Women" by Tracy Borman (which I also enjoyed), I mentioned how I was surprised at the mention of a son to George Boleyn, Anne's brother. At The Maiden's Court I mentioned this 'fact' as well and felt that it was not possible that George and Lady Jane Rochford had a son. Weir also mentions the son of George Boleyn here, also named George who later becomes the Dean of Lichfield in Elizabethan times, but explains that he is most likely an illegitimate son. I had researched online that this George was given the dean post in 1576, (40 years after the death of the elder George), offering perhaps that this George in question was offspring of a Boleyn relation, of which there were many. There were many more interesting tidbits in Weir's work, especially pertaining the backgrounds of Smeaton, Norris, Rochford, and Brereton.
Another interesting fact was that Henry Percy, Anne's very own former betrothed, had reported to Cromwell in April of 1536 that he didn't like the fact that the 'lowly' musician Mark Smeaton was able to afford horses and costumes etc. He hinted to Cromwell that he must have received some sort of reward from the Queen, and even said that he saw Smeaton leaving the Queen's apartment. Of course Cromwell's eyes must have gleamed at this offering of information! Yet, had Percy done this out of jealousy? It seems that is the romantic view, where the probably most likely view is that Percy did not like the Queen very much at all, and Weir goes into this further.
I would hesitate to call this a biography of Anne Boleyn, as it is much more encompassing as to be a portrait of the tumultuous times that caused Anne's disgrace. I enjoyed the surprising facts that I had not known before, and I think that anyone who is interested in the politics that brought Anne's reign to an end should read this. I was also disheartened to learn that there are very few accurate likenesses of her due to the fact that her memory was effectively banished from England and destroyed pretty much immediately. But it made me happy to learn that for at least the last forty years, a group of trustees has ordered for a bunch of roses to be placed at her tomb on the anniversary of her death. (Online it states that this has been since the 1850's).
This book is a treasure trove of encyclopedia-like facts regarding Anne and her contemporaries, but those who enjoy the drama of Anne's demise may feel a bit over loaded with the many names, dates and facts, who said what and when. Yet, it is these minute details that Weir divulges which make this a wonderful read for the Tudor fanatic due to the unveiling of lesser-known ideas. Although in most passages it reads well and is not difficult to follow, there is so much information that it seems easier to digest in slow spurts. This is not a book to read at the doctor's office or with toddlers demanding attention. Weir does not attempt to force her opinion on her readers, she lays it all out for us to digest and appreciate its worth; and then she simply states what she has come to believe to be the most logical explanation for the events in question. This is a vast work of intricacies of politics and factions and how they all came together to bring about the death of Henry VIII's second wife.
Since this book is full of details... facts..(I need another word for details today), this is not Light Reading. Yes, despite my overall euphoria over this read, there were a couple of days there I could not get in ten pages at a time. It was loaded with itsy bitsy teeny facts that weren't making their way into comprehension. (*True story- I momentarily closed my eyes and briefly fell asleep while on lunch, reading the book, and awoke with such a start that my freshly brewed cup of tea went flying through the air and made quite a clatter and a mess. That was within that couldn't-get-in-ten-pages-period.) The multiple versions of each and every event started to grate on my nerves as well. We would sit through a page worth of a 'chronicle' and then Weir would smartly tell us.. haha.. the buffoon.. that could not be true (not exactly in those words, hence the adjective 'smartly'). Obviously she was trying to prove the point how easily the facts got distorted, therefore people grew to believe wrong accounts and form misguided opinions; these same opinions that formed History. And every now and then I got perturbed at the redundancy of certain phrases, such as apocryphal. I had to look it up. Another word I had to look up was buggery. EWWWW. And I don't like reading books that pose questions. "Just how honorable were Henry's intentions?" etc. I would like to read the book, not have a back and forth conversation. But then I bucked up and read on, and the last chapters of the book had me riveted. I was then disappointed that I finished it. Vicious cycle of Reading a Good Book. And I wouldn't mind having that conversation now.
My other gripe? Having merely the Advance Reading Copy, and not the final version. I am missing the photos and the all-important index. I would definitely love to have the final copy so that I could go back and forth with the index, which is a weird habit of mine when I just feel the need to absorb facts. But I did have the Select Bibliography, which is a book collector's dream
my husband's nightmare!! And I would love to add this latest wealth of Weir knowledge to my special favorite Tudor bookcase, which is where its rightful place would be.