The Raven’s Widow
Jane Parker Boleyn has had a mixed reception throughout history; she is thought to have been a scheming, wily woman. Dillard has painted a vastly different picture of Jane here.
The daughter of Baron Morley, Jane married George Boleyn, and from Dillard’s point of view, notwithstanding the paucity of historical support, she and George were very much in love. Jane went on to serve his sister, Anne, whose fate we all know. History advises that the reason for her execution was that Henry VIII was led to suspect that Anne and George were committing incest and as a result, Anne became pregnant with George’s child, only to miscarry the baby. Jane remained in court and served Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. It was in service to Howard that Jane was caught in a snare and executed in 1542, when Howard’s infidelities were brought to light.
Dillard’s Jane is depicted as a victim of circumstance in a harrowing cycle of executions that mark Henry’s reign. There never seems to be a time when Jane and her family and friends are not worrying who their enemies and friends are. Jane is compassionately and meticulously drawn and given a voice that is vibrant, sometimes poignant and sometimes irrational, but always enticing to the reader. Court life and intrigues are beautifully woven into Jane’s story, and we are never permitted to lose sight of her as our protagonist. An extensive author’s note provides further background and fleshes out what is historically known from what is an exercise of artistic license.
Highly recommended for those who are not worn out by Tudor historical fiction. This one brings a fresh light to the period by focusing on a fascinating woman.