Friday, May 31, 2019

Backlist Fiction/Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The Tudor Edition

The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo (2013)

In The Creation of Anne Boleyn, Susan Bordo takes a look at both primary sources and more contemporary fictional accounts to reconstruct the life of Anne Boleyn and investigate why we think about her the way we do.

It was interesting to learn how few sources remain from Anne's time, as apparently Henry tried to completely erase all traces of her after the execution.  A lot of what we "know" about Anne comes from letters written by the Spanish ambassador at the time, and as he hated Anne, the source isn't terrible reliable.  I also never realized how many books and movies have been written and made about Anne over the years - I only really know about more recent ones, so that was enlightening.  She has had quite the appeal for a long time!

I felt like the author wasn't the most objective in her writing sometimes - she pretty much bashes both Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir (both favorite Tudor-era historical fiction authors of mine, and also nonfiction for Weir).  And she seemed pretty obsessed with Natalie Dormer's portrayal of Anne in the TV show The Tudors - now, I love that show, but it's not perfect by any means!  Overall, the book was a sometimes intriguing look at the truth and myths surrounding Anne Boleyn.  3 stars


Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All by Various Authors (2018)

Seven YA authors tell the story of Henry VIII and his six wives.  I'm a huge Tudor fan, so I'll read pretty much anything related to this era.  When I came across this collection of short stories, I was intrigued! I liked that a different author tackled each wife; it gave them all a unique voice.  I also enjoyed that there was a chapter for Henry after each short story, with his thoughts on each woman or his justification for doing what he did to them.

As someone who has read extensively, both fiction and nonfiction, on these historical figures, this book didn't tell me anything I didn't already know.  Since each story was only about 50 pages, they really just hit the highlights of each wife's time with Henry.  It was definitely geared more towards a YA audience, and while I appreciate that the authors did some research, sometimes it felt like the characters were regurgitating facts directly from the sources.

Anne Boleyn, for me, is the most intriguing of Henry's wives, yet I didn't particularly care for her story in this collection.  She seemed very watered down; kind of a mean girl but also kind of innocent at the same time.  I actually enjoyed the stories about Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Katheryn Parr the best, as I probably know less about them than the first three wives.  Anne of Cleves' story was particularly interesting, told in flashbacks as she is near the end of her life, visited by the ghosts of her past.  3.5 stars

26 comments:

  1. The first book sounds interesting, although the bashing of other authors would have annoyed me as well. I love the idea of the second book with the different authors for each wife. That's a shame Anne Boleyn's chapter wasn't as good as you had hoped.

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    1. Yeah, I normally don't like short story collections, but this one was pretty good.

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  2. I can't get enough of the Tudors. Even when I say I am done with them, I always get sucked back in. I am watching The Spanish Princess on Starz currently (about Catherine of Aragon) and I'm all about the Tudors again. I have had Fatal Throne on my TBR. Thanks for the heads up about The Creation of Anne Boleyn.

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    1. Ahh, I would like to watch that show! We don't get that channel, though.

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  3. I'm usually jumping on the chance to read nonfiction but I can already tell that I wouldn't particularly like The Creation of Anne Boleyn because I can't stand it when authors can't be objective about the topic they're writing about. Especially since you say that she kinda bashes Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir. It would bother me so much. I think I would enjoy Fatal Throne more. I like collections of short stories like that.

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    1. The Creation of Anne Boleyn has pretty good reviews, but it just didn't totally work for me!

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  4. I have both of these books on my TBR list. It sucks that they were both a little disappointing.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. Well, hopefully you will enjoy them more than I did! I'd love to know what you think of them if you do read them.

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  5. I love Philippa Gregory, so the author bashing is putting me off the first book a bit. I like the premise and format for the second book.

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    1. I love Philippa Gregory, too! Bordo's big issue with her is that Gregory has claimed that her books are very rooted in historical research, yet she has all these inaccuracies - well, it is fiction!

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  6. Oooh! These both sound so interesting!

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  7. The creation of Anne Boleyn sounds super interesting, but like others have said the author bashing would bother me too probably. Still, such a fascinating topic!

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    1. It really is! I can't get enough of this family.

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  8. I was obsessed with Anne Boleyn as a teenager! These are both new to me, but I may have to check out Fatal Throne.

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    1. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to read it!

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  9. I don’t know much about Anne Boleyn, so I this sort of focus on her (or any of his wives) would be very interesting. He tends to be the focus of far too mych.

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    1. Yes, and often the wives are painted in very wide strokes, not a ton of nuance.

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  10. If an author uses their platform to bash another author, it makes me avoid their books. Historical/Historical Fiction isn't really my jam, but they do sound interesting. I like the idea of focusing on the wives instead of the man.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

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    1. I could understand Bordo's point about how most people get their info about Anne Boleyn from fictionalized tales, but I felt it was unnecessary to be so critical.

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  11. I'm a huge Anne Boleyn fan - I think she was an incredible woman, and she's my easily my favourite of Henry's wives. However, I can't stand it when an author bashes other authors! A biased point of view is the worst. And yeah, I love The Tudors too, but it takes a lot of liberalities with historical facts. It worries me that the author of The Creation Of Anne Boleyn seems to focus primarily on that!

    Great reviews, Angela .

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    1. Thanks, Amy! Bordo definitely seemed to be a Tudor show super-fan, particularly for Natalie Dormer.

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  12. Sorry to hear the Anne Boleyn book wasn't a little better! I'd definitely like to learn more about how much we actually know about her and from what sources.

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    1. It was interesting, I just wish she was a little more objective.

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  13. I have never been a huge Tudor reader but I do like books about it. Just haven't read many. I should read more. I am sorry these weren't that good for you. The first one sounds interesting tho. I hope you find some more that you love and enjoy better.

    Mary

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    1. Thanks, Mary! There is definitely no shortage of Tudor-related books!

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I'm so glad you stopped by, and I would love to hear your thoughts! Comments are always greatly appreciated!