Robin Maxwell’s debut novel introduces Anne Boleyn and her daughter, Elizabeth: one was queen for a thousand days, the other for more than 40 years. Both were passionate, headstrong women, loved and hated by Henry VIII. At the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, her mother’s private diary is given to her by a mysterious lady. In reading it, the young ruler - herself embroiled in a dangerous love affair - discovers a great deal about her much maligned mother.
Through Anne’s writing, Elizabeth finds an echo of her own dramatic life as a powerful young woman at the center of England’s male establishment and, with the knowledge gained from it, makes a resolution that will change the course of history.
©2011 Robin Maxwell (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
"A wonderfully juicy historical novel so convincing that it’s difficult to believe it is the author’s first.... Maxwell brings...all of bloody Tudor England vividly to life." (Publishers Weekly)
"An historical fiction classic. Beware: this is truly addictive reading." (Michelle Moran, author of Madame Tussaud)
"Dazzling. Historical fiction at its finest." (C. W. Gortner, author of The Confessions of Catherine de’ Medici)
I liked this book more than I had expected. It’s a novel, a fictionalized account of what might have happened if Anne Boleyn had written a diary. Of course the author made assumptions that cannot be verified as fact--that’s what happens with historical fiction. What mattered to me was that these assumptions not clash with what is actually known about Anne, those around her, and the setting in which she lived. The events in her story must agree with those from history sufficiently for me to suspend disbelief enough to enjoy the book.
I have more than a casual interest in Tudor history and found that the author was remarkably accurate in relating the known events that occurred during Anne’s life. This made the fiction mostly plausible for me. The novel is a sympathetic portrait of Anne Boleyn, told from her perspective, showing a woman living in the “man’s world” with all the struggles and tragedies this entailed. I recognized a number of quotes from Anne, Henry, and others that have been documented by historians and placed in this fictional context. This gave necessary credibility to the tale as it unfolded. Of course I knew the ending, but I still cared.
Robin Maxwell wove her story of Anne with that of her daughter Elizabeth, newly come to the throne as a young and passionate woman. For me that was one of the most effective aspects of this novel. It is the story of two women, living in an age where they were considered mere chattel, having virtually no rights or control over their lives. Neither was suited to their prescribed female roles in that society, and both struggled mightily against its constraints. The mother was destroyed while the daughter prevailed to become one of England’s greatest rulers. This novel attempts to explain how this might have come about.
I found other reviews interesting. People seemed to love this book or hate it. I agree that there were problems with the story--elements that seem improbable knowing what we do from history. But there was a lot this author got right as well. I’ll not give it 5 stars because I did notice the occasional implausible details and they disrupted the narrative for me a bit. However, from my perspective this novel deserves 4 stars for what the author got right and for this unusual portrait she gave me of Anne, Elizabeth, and the Tudor era. Besides, it was a lot of fun to listen to!
My title says it all. I downloaded this book because I was done with all of the Philippa Gregory books, Alison Weir fiction and non-fiction, most of Carolly Erickson (I draw the line at her Jane Seymour novel based on the reviews). This book is simply OUTSTANDING. Interestingly, the novel was written in 1997; it is not a "new book." Yet I had never seen it nor heard of it until I really went searching for a new audiobook to listen to while my kids swim and I WANTED a Tudor novel that carried some respectability (hence, the reason I refuse to download Erickson's Jane Seymour book). The author's note at the end of the recorded book explains how her novel came to be and her thoughts on the new interest in the Tudors that started around the turn of the 21st Century, including the Elizabeth movies with Cate Blanchett and The Tudors on Showtime. Don't just turn the book off at the end.... the note is fascinating as well.
I always try not to give away spoilers in my reviews, but let's face it: Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth Tudor don't hold a lot of secrets. Or do they? Ms. Maxwell's exceptional novel explores the relationship of Henry VIII's controversial and much discussed second wife through the view of a fictional diary kept by Anne Boleyn... a diary given to Elizabeth Tudor shortly after she took the throne of England. The history is seemingly flawless (I would need to double check a few facts, but it seems pretty strong) which is a rarity in the Tudor historical fictions. Anne and Elizabeth come back to life -- really back to life; it's as if Anne is speaking to you. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is a unique perspective on one of the best known characters in all of history. It gives a plausible, yet teasing, hint of what may have caused many of Elizabeth's opinions on marriage and her role as Queen.
Many people who have read my reviews may have picked up on the fact that, although I am fascinated by the Tudor family, I do not like Elizabeth Tudor. I am a Catholic Scot -- my sympathies lie elsewhere for obvious reasons. As I read or listen to each novel and much of the non-fiction as well, there is always a point where I inwardly roll my eyes and think "oh well, the victors write the history." Like Ms. Maxwell, I have spent a lifetime studying the Tudors and the people who made up not only the English Courts but the intrigues of religion and politics and greed that truly ruled the Reformation. Each and every part of this novel is true to history without the occasional whining of Phillipa Gregory's portrayals of the female characters. No matter how much I dislike Elizabeth Tudor (because we Scots DO hold grudges), I felt my eyes opened and disliked Queen Elizabeth and Anne Boleyn a little less after listening to this magnificent novel. That is the highest praise I can give a novel.
Love the view of Anne Boleyn from her own diary. It gave me a whole new perspective of her. Yes, this is historical fiction but I had never thought that she did not have a choice in her involvement with Henry. I always thought that she must have deserved what she got. Historical fiction at it's best!
This was a surprisingly well conceived and written book. As a fan of the history of Elizabeth I and her era, this is a new twist, and I wonder why I never thought of it before! It gives Elizabeth, the queen, guidance from her mother from beyond the grave, something she didn't have in real life, but likely would have welcomed. It is a highly believable account of Anne Boleyn's life, as well as that of her only daughter. Well written and well read. I wish some of her other books on the topic were also available on audio!
I love a good autobiography, especially when it's historical fiction. Maxwell weaves a story in the words of Anne Boleyn, which to me, always makes a book more exciting. I've read many books about the Tudors, some fiction, most historical truth, and I find more enjoyment and feeling in the fictional minds of these people. Historians for some time now, believe that Boleyn was innocent of the charges against her. This book goes there and gives us her account of her life, some truth but mostly speculation from the author of how Boleyn felt. It is refreshing to have it told in the first person, albeit through a diary, which was an excellent way for Maxwell to get to the heart of Anne Boleyn's own mind. Also a treat to imagine Queen Elizabeth being able to get to know her mother and how much she loved her daughter, as well as learning more about her father. I also liked the way the author seamlessly made it seem like Elizabeth took that knowledge to heart and let it guide her during her reign. We all know that she rarely spoke of her mother and probably didn't even remember her, but in this book, she learns everything. The narrator was wonderful!
Why read when someone else can read to you.
I think the review title says it all. The approach is refreshing. But can't quite put my finger on it, something was lacking.
I've had a fascination with the story of Anne Boleyn since I read Jean Plaidy's "Lady in the Tower" (also available on Audible) in the early 90s. To my surprise much of the information in this story was very similar. In fact there were a few times while listening my daughter thought it was that book I was listening to. This was both a bonus and a draw back because I believe for the most part that Anne was treated very unfairly. This book sees Anne as a strong character, not one without faults, but one not guilty of treason. I loved the connection made to Elizabeth. That was the most unique point brought forward in this book. Historical record suggests Elizabeth did an about face regarding her attitude toward her mother, but no information is given as to what prompted that change. This is an interesting idea of how that may have come about.
"Lady in the Tower" by Jean Plaidy for the reason stated above.
Well, a continuous read for one thing. I can not stop life to sit and read for long periods of time. I can listen while I am completing my daily routines. By allowing the story to be continuous there is more flow to the story. Suzan is good about making the characters relatable.
I didn't laugh or cry. But I did agree with emphasis a few times.
One thing I think that young women today have that even older women today did not have is a greater sense of self. My daughter and I read aloud often. We listen to books even more often. Selecting a book like this allows fiction to teach our daughters about the struggles that women have gone through to have the right to NOT be married, to not be a pawn. I would be just as pleased if I could get my son to be aware of this type of literature. Because men in history were used as political pawns as well. Understanding where we have come from goes a long way to understanding the blessings and privileges we have today that would not have been a given in the past.
I read so I can write
This book is well researched and well written. Nothing dry about it. It is enjoyable and the narration is very very good.
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