#135 ~ My Lady of Cleves

January 14, 2009 at 11:41 pm | Posted in Books, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction, Reading | 9 Comments
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My Lady of Cleves: A Novel of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Anne of Cleves was the most unlikely of all of Henry VIII’s wives. She did not especially want to be queen, she was not physically beautiful, and she was rather forced upon him in order to produce an heir. Yet, along with Katherine of Aragon, she is a wife to which Henry should have cleaved to permanently. She is also my favorite. The first time I learned of her and found out that she was from a territory that is now the Netherlands, she had a special place in this Dutch heart of mine. Therefore, when I first heard of this novel on Reading Adventures, I new that I had to read it. I couldn’t have been more pleased when a wonderful co-worker of mine gave it to me for my birthday. Thank you, Poorna!

From the beginning, Barnes covers the known facts about the search for Henry’s fourth wife, Anne’s betrothal, her first regrettable moments with Henry, their short marriage, and swift divorce deftly. As much as I loved The Boleyn Inheritance, it is the author’s interpretation of those events that make this novel such a delight to read. For example, Barnes’ Anne did not want to leave her country, her family, or her people. This is just as well because her sister Amelia was prettier and was excited by the prospect of becoming queen. To her surprise, Hans Holbien, the artist sent to paint the portraits of the royal daughters of Cleves saw a beauty in her that most missed. The way this quality was painted is exactly what captured Henry’s eye. Unfortunately, Henry couldn’t see that when they met in person. The way in which the events surrounding their divorce played out in this novel was interesting and this view of Anne was endearing. I like to think of her in this way.

There was one lost opportunity in this novel. After Henry chooses Anne, we next find her on her journey to England. We do not experience how the news of Henry’s choice impacts Anne, her family, or the people she serves. We do not see her leave her home for the last time. We do not see how being overlooked by a king affected Amelia. As Anne’s life in England as it pertains to the throne are well known, it is precisely those missing details that would really grab and inspire my imagination. Certainly I can make up my own scenes, but I read historical fiction to have those undocumented moments come alive on the page. This was a minor drawback. It did not keep me from enjoying this novel at all. Still, the mild disappointment over what could have been, especially with an author so skilled, remains with me.

My Lady of Cleves is a novel I will always cherish. She was a strong woman who had to work hard to overcome her looks, which always felt like a shortcoming to her. I can’t quite place my finger on a specific passage, but Chapters 17 and 18 were beautiful in the way in which they depict the turning point in Anne’s life. What was accomplished there made the novel and solidified Anne’s place in my heart among Henry’s wives. She deserved the freedom and solitude that she found at Richmond. I’d wager that she was the only woman deeply involved with Henry who died happy and content with her life. I am glad that the author chose to bring Anne to the forefront. Historical figures do not have to be tyrants or tarts to be compelling. Sometimes a heroine with just a dash of fire when scorned is exactly what is needed to satisfy. This novel is a must for Tudor fans, but would be a delight for any reader.

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To buy this book, click here.

#70 ~ The Lady Elizabeth

May 21, 2008 at 9:13 pm | Posted in Books, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction | 5 Comments
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The Cover to The Lady Elizabeth

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir

I had eagerly anticipated this book from the moment I first heard about it. When I heard that Tracy had a copy, there was virtually no stopping me from purchasing it and reading it immediately. While the writing was equally good here as it was in Innocent Traitor, the euphoric reading high I felt while reading Weir’s first novel did not carry forward into her second. The story of Elizabeth I‘s youth leading up to her rise to the English throne feels like well covered territory to me. That which was new or different in this novel wasn’t enough to have me hanging on every last word like before. Perhaps that is the danger of anticipating anything too much.

It’s not that The Lady Elizabeth wasn’t enjoyable. It was never boring. It just was never the captivating novel I was hoping it would be. There was a point fairly early in the novel where a rivalry was building between Kat, Elizabeth’s governess, and the final wife of Henry VIII, Queen Katherine Parr. My mouth almost watered with anticipation when it felt like this was ramping up to something. For me, that build up led no where. Even her encounters with Lord Seymour didn’t capture my imagination the way that they have in The Last Wife of Henry VIII or The Queen’s Fool. In fact, they felt a little flat and forced. I’m not sure if this is because I’ve already read about some of these scenes before or if it is because they were better seen through the eyes of other characters.

The most enjoyable aspect of this novel for me was Weir’s exploration of the father-daughter relationship between Henry and Elizabeth. How strange it must have been for him to fully embrace the daughter of a woman he had tried and condemned for high treason, especially if he had doubts about her guilt. How troubling it must have been for a young girl to feel such strong love for both parents while wondering where her loyalties should lie in the deadly fight that was between them long before she was old enough to know any better.

At the end of the novel, the author points out several aspects of the novel that she felt might be quite controversial. I didn’t find those things controversial at all. This is a work of fiction and, with the exception of making a three year old much wiser for her years than any three year old I have ever met, they were all quite plausible journeys into the “what ifs” of Elizabeth’s life.

I do not say these things to dissuade people from reading this novel. Alison Weir is a skilled author and this book is an good read about Elizabeth’s early life in one place. I would suggest it more to those who have yet to discover her in fiction. For others, it might feel a bit like reviewing for a test you could easily pass without studying.

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To buy this novel, click here.

The Rape of Anne Boleyn

March 4, 2008 at 6:21 pm | Posted in entertainment, Film, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction | 33 Comments
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Having had the better part of five days to think about the film adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl and the time to read the reviews of other bloggers and movie critics, I feel that there needs to be some discussion about the rape scene.  The more I think about it, the more appalled I become.  I don’t believe it ever happened and portraying such an act is a disservice to those who had no previous knowledge of Tudor History.

In reality, Henry and Anne’s courtship was about 6 years old before they were married and it was only several months beforehand that they were sexually intimate. While I’m certain that there was something about Anne that fueled Henry’s fire, for her to have kept his interest for that long before the relationship was consummated, there had to be something else there for his desire, there was more to their relationship than just sexual attraction.  If his primary goal was to have her, he would not have waited a minute let alone five plus years.  Anne was an intelligent and astute woman.  She knew that the chase is what kept Henry interested.  Still, she knew exactly when the opposite was true.  Anne was many things, but she was not a victim.  She desired the throne of England and she worked and manipulated her way to just that spot.  What she did not take into account was the difficulty in keeping Henry without a male heir.  This was a difficulty she created for herself.  Had she not gone to the lengths to support the separation of England from the Roman Catholic Church she may never have been Queen of England, but she probably would have kept her head.  There is no way to be sure, but I can’t imagine her not being aware of that.  I think that Natalie Portman did an excellent job portraying how quickly Anne Boleyn went from having it all to constantly worrying about losing it all.

So why did the movie choose rape as the vehicle for the consummation of Henry and Anne’s relationship?  The only rational explanation I can come up with is that the film did not deal with the length of their courtship.  It wasn’t just washed over, either.  At the end of the movie when Mary‘s children were frolicking in the fields with Elizabeth, Elizabeth was very close in age to Henry Carey.  Since they eliminated the time and struggle involved with breaking with the Roman Catholic Church, they needed another device to explain Anne’s pregnancy at the time of their marriage and her coronation. This bothers me.  Henry was no saint, but he still deserves honest treatment.

A Royal Disaster?

February 17, 2008 at 11:38 am | Posted in Books, Film, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction, Philippa Gregory | 4 Comments
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The Other Boleyn Girl was my introduction to modern historical fiction, Philippa Gregory, and my beloved Tudors.  When I heard the news that a film based on TOBG was in the works, I was thrilled.  It was a such a powerful read and I was hopeful that it would make a wonderful movie.

It didn’t take long for people to start crying foul.  Simon & Schuster released a mass market paperback version of the novel featuring the cast of the movie and people started arguing that Philippa Gregory was a sell out for allowing this to happen to her novel.  I don’t have any strong opinions about book covers.  I’m not sure how much control Gregory would have had over this publication as I would think that was part of the movie rights deal.  If I were an author, I don’t think I’d turn down movie rights just because of any associated mass market paperback.  Besides, it really is a great book.  If throwing Scarlett, Natalie, and boob-grabbing Eric on the front cover encourages others to read it, what difference does it make? The grumbling about the book cover didn’t affect my anticipation.  When the trailer was released, I got even more excited.

Recently, the first review of the movie has been posted on Rotten Tomatoes.  I’m not familiar with Emanuel Levy‘s movie criticism, but his review touched on the fears many have had since the movie was announced:

British TV helmer Justin Chadwick makes a disappointing feature debut in “The Other Boleyn Girl,” a hybrid of a trashy period melodrama and a stately Masterpiece Theater episode, resulting in a kitschy film that can’t decide how much to exploit its juicy text about King Henry VIII and the various women in his life.

…Indeed, due to its plot’s twists and turns, this costume meller might have benefited from a longer treatment, a mini-series, rather than a saga that rushes from one preposterous event and climax to another.

Still, there are plenty of movies that I loved that didn’t catch on with the critics.  While I’d prefer the movie to be a success with the critics, I’ll hold my judgment until after I’ve seen the movie.  It’s very possible that Mr. Levy and I will disagree with each other.

What is truly concerning me is the latest news from the red carpet.  On Fox News this morning I was greeted with the following sensational headline:

Portman, Johansson Share Steamy Red Carpet Kiss

Ladies and Gentlemen, has it ever been a good sign when stunts like this pop up while promoting a film?  Perhaps I’m jaded, but these types of kisses are not spontaneous when done in front of cameras.  It also doesn’t fly with me that this happened because Natalie is tired of being seen as boring.  My guess is that people are panicking.  If the movie is horrible, historical fiction fans will not be stampeding to the box office.  They’ll need to pull in the young male audience.  How better to do that than to have photos of Scarlett Johannson kissing another woman?

My heart is heavy, but I will still go and see the movie on Leap Day.  My hopes and expectations are now very low.  Maybe this will prevent me from feeling as disappointed when I leave the theater as I did after seeing Elizabeth: The Golden Age.  I didn’t write a follow up to that post because I was hoping that my utter disappointment was due to lack of sleep.  That won’t be the case with TOBG.  I’ll post my review as soon as I’ve seen it.

LiterateHousewife,

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your loyal historical fiction and film guinea pig…

Right Up LiterateHousewife’s …

February 15, 2008 at 11:42 am | Posted in Guilty Pleasure, Henry VIII | Leave a comment
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I am forever be indebted to Betty Jackson for this design for her showing at London Fashion Week:

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I now have all the motivation I will ever need to get in shape.  I so want to squeeze myself into a pair of Henry VIII hot pants!   I only wish I could wear them to the opening of The Other Boleyn Girl later this month…

#53 ~ Queens of England

December 28, 2007 at 11:22 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction, Reading | 2 Comments
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Queens of England by Norah Lofts

I took the girls to the library last Saturday and was actually able to get them to stay in the children’s portion of the library for long enough for me to pick out some books. There is a member of the Historical Fiction board named Divia who happens to make spectacular book suggestions and I was curious to see how many of those books were available. I’m not typically a big user of the library as I have a hard time returning books on time. Still, even the small fines do not come close to the total amount of buying a book. In 2008 I’m vowing to buy very few books (no more than one per month – unless I get gift cards or find out that I’m the only living beneficiary for an amazingly huge inheritance).

While I picked up Nefertiti and The Blood of Flowers, I also looked up what was available by Norah Lofts. I’ve recently started to hear good things about her, but didn’t expect to find anything because it is somewhat old. To my delight, the library system has a few of her books. The branch we were visiting had the Queens of England and I couldn’t resist picking it up as well. While the girls sat in the miniature tepee and read Christmas books to each other (Allison’s stories border on the bizarre with sentences almost always ending in “he/she said), I opened the book and started reading. I absolutely loved the overviews on each queen. There wasn’t a great deal of coverage on any one woman, but there was just enough to give you a feel for what she might have been like.

I was not surprised in the least that the Kings of England were not faithful to their Queens, I did find the number of sexually ambiguous or homosexual Kings interesting. While Queen Isabella is vilified as the She-Devil of France, Edward II had many male “favorites.” In fact, he so “favored” the Despensers (a father and son) over his wife and his duties as the King that he ended up losing his crown as a result. All the same, it is her reputation that was ruined. Go figure…

There were a couple of times where I got a little lost in Lofts’ narrative from time to time. For some odd reason, it was usually within the second paragraph written about the current queen. As I didn’t have this problem with Elizabeth of York through Elizabeth I, this had more to do with my limited knowledge of British history than it does with Lofts’ writing.

As Elizabeth II was the reigning monarch in 1977, the year in which this book was published, there is a chapter devoted to her. I found that to be my favorite portion of the book. Ever since watching “The Queen” this year, I’ve become quite fond of her. Without any history other than what was ever reported in the tabloids about her children and daughters-in-law, I didn’t think much of her at all. I can very distinctly remember being upset for Princess Diana after her death because of the way the Queen and company were acting. That movie and reading this book in particular have opened my eyes a great deal to the role of the monarchy. As Diana grew up with royal blood in England,she would have known the very basic information that was covered in this book. As such, she could not have gone into her courtship and marriage to Charles as the innocent lamb she would have liked everyone to believe. She knew what she was getting herself into. I am thinking specifically about her statement that there was “three of us in this marriage.” Only one mistress – and a female at that? Those are much better odds than many of the past Princesses of Wales had.

What I really took away from this book was a much broader picture of the history of the British monarchy. As my loyal readers are well aware, I’ve spent a good portion of 2007 with Henry VIII, his six queens, and his three heirs to the throne. It was really nice to learn where it all started.

She's My Queen

She's My Queen

#52 ~ The Autobiography of Henry VIII

December 20, 2007 at 6:19 pm | Posted in Books, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction, Philippa Gregory, Reading, Religion, Sexual Identity | 8 Comments
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The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers by Margaret George

As 2007 was the year that I fell in love with the Tudors, what better way to close it than by reading this book by Margaret George? It was a great choice. From the beginning where Will Somers and Catherine Carey Knollys exchange letters regarding the “manuscript” of Henry’s memoirs through the very end where Will writes about Henry’s funeral it is a pleasure to read.

Having read all of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series and the Carolly Erickson‘s The Last Wife of Henry VIII first in no way diminished this book. George’s descriptions of the executions of Anne Boleyn and her male companions gave me an almost physical response despite the fact that I knew what was going to happen. I had a hard time getting to sleep the night I read those accounts. I found myself willing Catherine Howard to get a clue/brain and change her behavior. Alas, she did not.

It was interesting to see how different authors portrayed the different historical characters. For example, Mary Boleyn is portrayed completely different here than she is in The Other Boleyn Girl. She is simply a royal whore in this book while she is a woman forced to become a token in her family’s plot in Gregory’s novel. It may simply be naive on my part, but I hope that she really was a woman of some virtue. Someone had to have been. I also enjoyed the characterization of both Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Charles Brandon.

In the other books, Henry came off as plain crazy and perhaps even a touch evil. In George’s book I liked that Henry felt more human. We can all delude ourselves when we want reality to fit into a specific box. It’s just that Henry had executioners available to take care of the messier realities. I really enjoyed this version of the love affair between Henry and Katherine of Aragon. How might history have changed had their son lived? Where would the Tudors be today? Although this book was over 900 pages long, it was a quick and enjoyable read. It was a wonderful way to complete my reading goal for the year.

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To buy this novel, click here.

The Other Boleyn Girl: The Trailer

November 16, 2007 at 4:14 pm | Posted in Books, Film, Henry VIII, Philippa Gregory | 2 Comments
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I am excited to share that the trailer for The Other Boleyn Girl is now available online. I’ve just watched it and cannot wait for the movie! I recently won a half-vacation day at work for making my United Way donation. It’s a certainty now that I’ll be saving that for the afternoon of Leap Day, February 29. I hope to see you there!

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This leads back to the conversation we had earlier about what makes a movie based upon a movie good. I agree that to do any book worthy of a movie justice that it has to be longer than two to three hours. Based on the trailer, the movie will not be 100% faithful to the book; but is that necessary for the movie to be enjoyable? I loved this book so much, but I’m not a purest when it comes to film renditions – at least not all the time. Now that I’ve seen the actors in motion, I’m excited about the casting. I had thought that Scarlett Johannson would make a better Anne than Mary, but I like what I see of her here. I also see that Natalie Portman can be an effective bitch when she needs to be. :)

My Tudor Fan Site

November 11, 2007 at 7:14 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Film, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction, Links, Philippa Gregory, Reading, Tudor Fan Site | 4 Comments
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Update: February 17

I’ve updated my link.  The site is complete, at least for the time being. Thanks again for everyone’s comments!

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I am taking an intermediate level HTML class. The project for this class is to create a web-site of no less than five pages. I don’t know why I didn’t think about this myself, but my husband suggested that I create a Tudor fan site. That’s what I’ve been working on over the past four weeks.

Here is a link to the main page. It doesn’t have any content yet. I used a Latin generator to act like text where I will eventually put it. I’m just building the structure. I’m not sure what format the Notes on The Scandals page is going to take, either. I thought I would offer it up to my loyal readers for comments and suggestions. I really mean it, too. I am going to buy web space and keep working on it after the class. It will be a fun way for me to continue to learn about my favorite dead people. :)

Literate Housewife Presents: The Tudors

Today’s Your Lucky Day!

October 16, 2007 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Henry VIII, Historical Fiction, Philippa Gregory | 5 Comments

I sent an email to Philippa Gregory’s website after her live web event and I just got a response back.  If you missed the event – say due to a father-in-law’s birthday – you can now watch a taped version!

I am so glad to hear you enjoyed the web event; it was a real experience for
me too.

There is now a video of the event at www.philippagregorylive.com in case you
wanted to watch again and we will be posting the videos on my site too.

I hope that you enjoy my own site www.philippagregory.com, where you can
stay up-to-date with my work.  You might also consider joining the readers
group where you can meet like minded historical novel fans in their
discussions – I get on myself from time to time.

Regards
Philippa

Enjoy!

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