Posts Tagged ‘Anne Boleyn’

Fact, Fiction, and Phillipa Gregory

April 8, 2008

I just found a very interesting essay/statement on Phillipa Gregory’s website about the fact and fiction in her novels about the Boleyns, the Howards, and the Tudors. She includes some of her research as well as her process. It is quite an interesting perusal for anyone who has read her books.

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Queens of England – Book Review

March 14, 2008

Queens of England coverQueens of England by Norah Lofts is a comprehensive overview of every Queen of England beginning with the wife of William the Conqueror and going through Queen Elizabeth II. It was a remarkably easy read, considering it comprises about 900 years of English royal history. It was also a very engaging read, I learned about many queens I had never heard of, the wives of many kings I had never heard of.

The book, however, definitely had an agenda. While it didn’t ruin the book for me, it definitely dampened my enthusiasm for the the work a little. When I noticed the chapters on each queen start to get much longer shortly before the reign of Queen Victoria (as many pages on Caroline of Brunswick as Elizabeth Tudor? And as many on Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz as Mary Tudor? Really?), I thought that I detected a 19th and 20th century bias. By the time I reached Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II, I realized that a ‘recent history bias’ wasn’t quite what the issue was. The book actually seems to have been written as an apologetic for the modern institution of the monarchy, to establish the long history of English royalty and in doing so argue for its continuation in the person of Queen Elizabeth II.

Lofts directly addressed some specific criticisms against the Queen and in fact attacked what she referred to as the “Age of Criticism.” This aspect of the book made the last two chapters my two least favorite of the book. The book had some other issues as well.

First, Lofts definitely assumed a fair degree of prior knowledge with British history, she would make off-hand comments referring to other events or the fates of the princes and princesses who were the progeny of whatever queen was currently being discussed. As the book was clearly written for a British audience (to whom else would she need to defend the continuation of the monarchy?), perhaps that was actually a fairly safe assumption and, while I was often confused, the nonchalant references sometimes made me simply want to know more about the subjects.

Second, there seemed to be some significant editing errors. There were absolutely sentences, sometimes whole paragraphs, of which I could not make heads or tails no matter how many times I tried. Often these sentences or paragraphs seemed to be flatly contradictory, so I would generally just skip them and read on.

Lastly, I simply wanted more information about many of these women! Some had as little as two pages, including a picture.
However, even with these problems, Queens of England is a book I would recommend to anyone with an interest in royalty, the history of England, or just of the lives of women throughout history.

Buy this book on Amazon: Queens of England

The Other Boleyn Girl – Movie Review

March 1, 2008

Tonight I dragged my fiance to see The Other Boleyn Girl, the movie based on the book of the same name by Philippa Gregory. Here’s the short, non-spoiler version of the review: it is entertaining. If you like historical fiction, but know little to nothing about this time period, other than the fact that Anne married Henry VIII and lost her head, you will probably quite enjoy this movie. If you have read Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, some parts will slightly annoy you, but overall you will probably like it. If you have studied that period in England, or if you have read a lot of historical fiction around that period in England, you will still mostly enjoy it, but be extrememly annoyed by a lot of it. Essentially, the movie seemed to stick with the book where the book most differed from the historical record and veer from the book where the book most stuck with historical record, making for a rather un-historical film. Sure, the basic history’s there, as my fiance pointed out: Anne, Mary, and Henry are all there; it is set in England; Anne dies. If you would like to see some of my specific issues with the movie (and potential spoilers) please click the link to read the rest of this entry. The story was already about power, sex, betrayal, and religion, why bother changing it? (more…)

The Other Boleyn Girl: NY Times Movie Review

February 29, 2008

The New York Times published their review of The Other Boleyn Girl, the movie based on Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction novel of the same name.  I very much enjoyed the book, despite a few historical inaccuracies – for instance, Mary wasn’t just the sweet girl, caught up in her family’s scheming as in the book, she had QUITE the reputation at French court before she returned to England, the King Francois is said to have called her the “English Mare” (think town bicycle).   The reviews of this movie, however, have been not so good, and this one has been no exception.  I am dragging Brian along with me to see it tomorrow night for a “date night,” so I will add my two cents sometime on Sunday.  I hope it is one of those cases where I do not agree with the critics…

Bibliophile Confessions

February 25, 2008

For the past two years or so about 60% of what I have been reading has been historical fiction (the other 40% has been made up of best-seller list-type fiction, historical non-fiction, and issue-based non-fiction, such as the Omnivore’s Dilemma, and some of my old favorites). It all started with a “hey, why not” sort of decision to pick up Philippa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl at Borders. I was a history major who loves to know things for the sake of knowing them, and who had not studied that time period at all (other than 4th grade, or whenever I learned about Henry VIII beheading Anne Boleyn).

I was completely mesmerized by the story I had never learned, of Mary Boleyn, Anne’s sister, who was Henry’s mistress before her sister was his queen. Because I picked up the book during finals week, my roommates resorted to hiding my book so that I would work on my papers and study for my finals. Once I finished that book, I went on to the rest of Philippa Gregory’s books (at least the ones touching on the Tudor court, I have yet to muster interest in her other books).

Being a history major I was quite aware of the power of point of view even in scholarly histories, not to mention in fictionalized history, so I began reading around the time period, in order to get a more complete picture – or at least to draw my own conclusions from the varying points of views of different authors. In doing this I was drawn into Jean Plaidy’s work, as she has been quite prolific on English royal history, especially in the Tudor times.

Lately I have been TRYING to branch out, some historical fiction about Marie Antoinette here, non-Tudor historical fiction by Jean Plaidy there. This is all relevant because it touches on two of the reasons I started this blog:

  1. I would like to encourage people to read more historical fiction. Actually, I would like to encourage people to learn more history, because I think that there are fantastic lesson, both suggestions and warnings, that are applicable to the modern day no matter what time period or geographic region you study. In addition, history helps you understand your own cultural heritage, as well as that of others. I believe that historical fiction is a very accessible way to be drawn into history. Many people reading historical fiction will be drawn into either reading historical fiction around the subject, or even researching the veracity of the story itself. Even if you only stick to the historical fiction, though, you can broaden your scope and understanding of history.
  2. I would like to expand my own scope. I could probably be happy reading primarily Tudor history and Jean Plaidy novels for a long time, although the Plaidy novels might entice me to read around other time periods in English or French history. However, I sort of doubt that many people would be interested in reading this blog if that is 90% of what I talk about. Plus, I think expanding my scope would make me a more well-rounded person. I hope that, in the course of this blog, I will make a concerted effort to broaden my horizons (even if only to a greater diversity of historical fiction), and I hope that people will give ME recommendations of books that they have enjoyed and I might enjoy as well.