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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Anne Boleyn in Fiction: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

This summer I decided to go back and re-read The Other Boleyn Girl, the book that drew me into historical fiction as a genre, well, really the only genre that I want to read.  I think that this book in particular drew many people into reading about the past, whether in novels or non-fiction books, this book, and the horrible movie made from it is what I feel started a passion for Tudor fiction in readers everywhere.  The book was excellent, a page turner until the end, just as I remembered.  What I also found to be true in this book is the fact that I despised Gregory's portrayal of Anne Boleyn.  The Anne in this book had almost no humanity, no softness, no weakness which could be related to.  She was all nerves and steel with a fake til you make it attitude and she did not mind stepping on anyone to make it.  This Anne was conniving, self-centered, mean spirited and driven with some sort of inner tornado.  This Anne was a horrible, spiteful person who loved no one, except her brother George.  He a little too much it is suggested as he and Anne reference going to "the gates of hell itself" to get an heir for England.  This Anne is a hard, dark person to me.
So, I started thinking about Anne in other books that I have read over the years.  I liked Anne Boleyn in "Secrets of the Tudor Court" which is told from the perspective of Mary Howard, Anne's cousin.  This Anne is sharp, nervous, quick to sting, but also quick with kindness.  Mostly she just seems a nervous wreck, a dignified one, but a nervous wreck.  Who could blame her?  Her husband was cheating on her, she was losing babies, rumors were flying, and her own family was spying on her to make sure she behaved in a way that would benefit them.  She knew she would be betrayed and she was.  This Anne I liked.  This Anne was human.

I liked Anne in Dear Heart, How Like You This told from the point of view of Thomas Wyatt.  She was lively and full of life, but was broken when she lost Henry Percy.  She became vengeful and angry and won Henry as a means of revenge.  This Anne just makes me sad.  An Anne that I loved was the Anne in Brandy Purdy's "The Boleyn Wife."  This Anne mocked Jane Rochford from the grave, something which I thought was appropriate to do to the woman who helped bring about her death and the death of George.  I loved her black humor in this book and how she taunted Jane by removing her head and putting it back on in one of Jane's hallucinations.

My favorite Anne of all time is Natalie Dormer on "The Tudors" but a close second is the Anne in Nell Gavin's "Threads."  This Anne is introspective, sad, alternately sympathetic and angry, and had a fully developed, well rounded character.  At times I thought she was more of a girl than a woman, but I loved her insight and how much she grew and changed during her many lives.  The insight she gained was invaluable and she learned how she became Anne Boleyn, and how this affected all of her lives afterwards.  This Anne, she was amazing and how I like to think Anne Boleyn would have been.  The story is complicated, allowing Anne to view many of her lives after her life as Anne Boleyn has ended and she comes to understand the complicated relationship she has with Henry.  She learns to appreciate the simple, worship-like love that Henry Percy has had for her through several lifetimes.  She finally understands that she and Henry are soul mates, and destined to be together over and over and over, forever, until they make it to heaven.  It is a beautiful story with an amazing Anne Boleyn as the main character.  This is an Anne that I can love.  I can't wait to read more, no matter how many times you meet a character in a story, they are always different, never the same person.  It's one of the best pieces of magic that books have to offer!

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