Becky’s Seventy-Fifth Book Review: “The Boleyn Inheritance” by Philippa Gregory

I did it. I finished my book at the cutoff of February and am now able to write my review. Hurrah for me. I was reading “The Boleyn Inheritance” by Philippa Gregory and I very much enjoyed this book. I have definitely picked up a taste for Philippa Gregory’s works.

“The Boleyn Inheritance” follows three women following in the shadow of Anne Boleyn and the disgrace that she brought to her family. These women each tell their story from their point of view which leads for a very interesting perspective. The women who are the main characters in this book include Jane Boleyn, Kitty Howard, and Anne of Cleaves. Anne begins the story getting married to Henry VIII as his fourth wife. Both Jane and Kitty are part of the queen’s household. Things progress very quickly in the marriage between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleaves—and not in a good way. They begin their lives together with an incident that sets the tone for their entire marriage. King Henry VIII bursts into Anne’s private room and forces a rough kiss on her, only he is dressed in disguise and Anne does not recognize him. So she shoves him off of her and spits out his kiss. I am not sure if this happened as Philippa Gregory writes or if she has taken a certain amount of liberty when telling the tale of when the two meet. It is well known among historians that Henry VIII did not like Anne of Cleaves after their first meeting, but what exactly were the circumstances in this situation I do not know.

Either way, “The Boleyn Inheritance” takes the reader on a journey through the lives of three women who surround the King who destroyed churches and monasteries just so he could do what he wanted. Henry VIII may not have started out his life as a crazy man, but he certainly became one. It was most likely Anne Boleyn who drove him to the edge of insanity and the loss of Jane Seymour that pushed him over the edge. Either way, reading historical fiction about his reign makes me even gladder that I live in this century. Manners may have gone out the window and people certainly don’t spend much time working on being presentable or educated, but at least I have rights and can enjoy walking around in pants. Although I must say, some of the feasts that are described would be fun to attend.

There is an author’s note at the end of the novel where Philippa Gregory discusses some of the liberties that she did take when writing the book but she doesn’t go into everything. History has never been my favorite subject, but I did reassure myself while reading the novel with the Henry the VIII chant ‘divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived’.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think that Philippa Gregory has a unique talent when writing historical fiction that makes all of her books worth a read. She is not my favorite historical novelist, but she holds a close second to Tracy Chevalier. I think that a large variety of people would enjoy her works and upon the completion of “The Boleyn Inheritance” I am even more determined to get my hands on the rest of her works.

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