The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England’s Most Notorious Queen

Written by Susan Bordo
Review by Terri Baker

From authors like Jane Austen (1791) to Hilary Mantel (2009, 2012), from films like The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) to The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), and series like The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970) to The Tudors (2007-2010), everyone seems to have subscribed to the Anne debate: a centuries-old debate about the character of the woman behind England’s break from Rome. Is she a whore or a victim, a Machiavellian schemer, or an intelligent woman much maligned?

Susan Bordo’s entrance into this debate builds on her pedigree as an academic and author of academic books that study, for example, how the media manipulates women’s attitudes towards their own bodies. Her prose is intelligent but free of lofty jargon: compelling in its argument for a stylish (think Audrey Hepburn), intelligent woman unafraid to back down from kings or courtiers and passionate about her beliefs in the Reformation. Two out of the many interviews completed for this book stand out: those of Genevieve Bujold, the French-Canadian actress who breathed intellectuality and feistiness into Anne in the 1969 film Anne of a Thousand Days; and Natalie Dormer, the young woman who fought to bring complexity to Anne in the first two seasons of The Tudors. Fascinating, well-researched, and timely for a postmodern society suspicious of claims of truth.