Anne Boleyn, a King’s Obsession (Six Tudor Queens)
This is a stunning, engaging, comprehensive and convincing novel. It opens with 11-year-old Anne about to depart from Hever to become one of Margaret of Burgundy’s maids of honour, exposing her to examples of women looking forward to power and autonomy and who question their place as decreed by medieval thought.
Anne’s early character established, Weir continues to create a woman who is bright, educated, thoughtful, caring, likeable, and different from the usual female courtier. She learned to play the game of chivalric love and use it to her advantage. Weir conveys to her readers that it is tragic that Anne was prevented from marrying her true love Henry Percy, and fatal that from 1524 the King relentlessly pursued her, changing the course of English history and setting the course for Anne’s personal tragedy and that of her brother and a group of male courtiers. Anne understood her power but overestimated it, having consciously decided to settle for queenship, despite not loving the king, yet desirous of using her position for good.
The journey as told by Weir is realistic, unsensational, and diligent in paying attention to details of court life and Anne’s trial and execution. A genial, suggestible Henry is determined to get what he wants. Sparkling Anne cannot provide the longed-for son. She loses control over Henry as she ages. It is a very human tale of how power corrupts and creates neuroses, real and imagined.
Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession is important, page-turning biographical fiction, hauntingly and beautifully told in first-person narrative. It is psychologically penetrating and packed with wonderful, vivid scenes. Weir’s characterisation is superb, and this complex novel will be, without doubt, one of the most admired works of historical fiction of 2017.