Friday, May 23, 2008

The Boleyn Inheritance by Phillippa Gregory

Donna reviewed the prequel to The Other Boleyn Girl, The Constant Princess, so I've decided to review the sequel. I have to say that I think I liked this book as much or more than The Other Boleyn Girl. The chapters are short, and the book moves very quickly. Each chapter is narrated by one of three main characters, Lady Jane Rochford, Anne Boleyn's hated sister in law and wife of her brother George, Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's fourth wife after the death in childbirth of Jane Seymour, and Katherine Howard, the very young (she's fourteen when she marries Henry) fifth wife of this hard to please King. How's that for an understatement?

The story is set three years after the execution of Anne Boleyn. The year is 1539 and an alliance is made between the German speaking country of Cleves, by marrying Anne of Cleves to King Henry of England. At this point, Henry is 48 years old, obese and suffering from an open wound on his leg-not a very attractive thing to the 24 year old Anne, who despite the age difference, wants to make the best of the situation. Lady Jane is up to her old tricks of manipulation and doing her Uncle the Lord of Norfolk's will, by trying to secure the best possible outcome for the Howard family. She is asked to spy on the new Queen, and when Katherine Howard, a 14 year old lady in waiting, is noticed by the King, Jane and her Uncle see another opportunity to put a Howard girl on the throne and extend their influence and power.

From here on, we watch as King Henry takes the law of God and matrimony unto himself again with disastrous results for the new Queens and Lady Jane.

It is hard to imagine what life at court and in England must have been like during the reign of Henry VIII, but this book, as well as its two predecessors, give us an excellent idea of the fear and betrayal that gripped England in those times. This is an unbelievably true story of human nature at its worst. Read this book. By the end, you will be shaking your head trying to figure out how Henry got away with everything he did for as long as he did. And you will wonder, as I do, what the repercussions were for the years following his reign.

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