At long last,  I’ve managed to finish the book I’ve been toting around during my vacation.  As a wonderful sequel to The Other Boleyn Girl, it centers on three particular women in King Henry VIII’s life after Anne Boleyn.

Author : Philippa Gregory

Copyright : 2006

Publisher : Touchstone

Publishing Date : December 2007

No. of Pages : 570

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-5919-1

ISBN-10: 1-4165-5919-1


The Story :

The Boleyn Inheritance is narrated alternately from the perspectives  of three women of importance in King Henry VIII’s life, namely :

Anne of Cleves.   As the fourth wife of King Henry, she is credited with being very close to his children.  As a young girl, Anne yearns to be free of a tyrannical brother and a cold-hearted mother.  She views the proposed marriage arrangement to Henry of  England as an opportune offer of escape from home.  However, an unfortunate incident where Anne angrily rejects a kiss from a disguised King Henry, before all her entourage and his retinue, earns her a growing grudge from Henry which ultimately leads to false accusations of a precontracted marriage and to a consequent annulment and dethronement.

Katherine Howard. As a very young lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne,  Katherine catches the eye of King Henry .  Very soon, she is Henry’s 5th wife and England’s next queen, a teen-aged girl married to an old man.  As fate would have it,  she falls in love with a courtier, Thomas Culpepper.  This affair and her childish dalliances with Francis Dereham prior to court life become her undoing.

Jane Rochford Boleyn. She was wife to George Boleyn and sister-in-law to Anne Boleyn.  A liar and betrayer, it was her testimony which sent her husband and his sister to their deaths in exchange for lands and a title.  She comes back to court life upon the order of her uncle-in-law, the Duke of Norfolk, to serve and advise both queens, Anne of Cleves and Katherine, and to serve as his eyes and ears.  She is party to his schemes and encourages Katherine Howard’s affair with Culpepper to get her pregnant.   The hoped-for child would then be passed off as Henry’s progeny and therefore, secure the Howard family’s power and favor with the King.  Her involvement in Norfolk’s political schemes would prove to be her downfall.

After Anne Boleyn’s execution, King Henry grows increasingly manic and dangerously suspicious of everyone.  All three women enter a court life under a miasma of suspicion, fear, and uncertainty.  This is the Boleyn inheritance – a court and a country ruled by a despot whose every whim becomes law.

Author’s Style:

Gregory’s technique of the first person narrative allows readers to get inside the heads of these three factual women, creating a very intimate understanding of who they probably were.  Her strength in character writing humanizes these otherwise one-dimensional historical personages so that we get to know what made them tick.

I cannot  say that the author stuck to all the historical facts.  However, the important ones are true to form.   As with most creative historical novels,  some details have perhaps been modified to suit the fiction.

For those who haven’t read her, expect a light writing style that makes her novels highly readable.  It is precisely this forte that takes  away the tedium of history and renders it very interesting and quite engaging .   This is an author you must try.

The Bottom Line :

Another marvelous read from the queen of Tudor fiction, Philippa Gregory.

My Mark : Outstanding

Author: Philippa Gregory
Release Date : February 4, 2002
Publisher :
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
ISBN-10 : 0006514642
ISBN-13 : 978-0006514640
Pages : 640

It is the time of the English Reformation — a moment in history when King Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church to head the Protestant Church of England. These were the tumultuous times in which we find the heroine, Alys.

The story begins with Alys fleeing from a burning abbey, her home since she was twelve. She had run away from her foster mother, Morach, and her poverty-stricken and loveless life . Morach is the village wise woman, both a healer and a secret dabbler in the dark arts. The ruin of the abbey tragically forces Alys to go back to Morach and her former life of drudgery. But as fate would have it, Alys is sent as an answer to the summons for a healer from the lord of the manor, Lord Hugh, who upon seeing her value in healing and clerkship, makes her live in his castle.

This is where Alys sees the lord’s son, Hugo, and falls obsessively in love at first sight. But Hugo is married to a spiteful, jealous Catherine. And so begins Alys’ spiritual and moral decline in her desire to win and keep Hugo’s love.

Philippa Gregory has written a very dark book. The gloom permeates the entire story in which most of the notable characters are intense sketches of avarice, selfishness, evil, and depravity. There is no respite from the heaviness; but the events will compel one to turn page after page as the suspense mounts. After all, this is a very good story.

Alys is not a historical figure or someone significant in history to be molded according to factual limitations (like some in Gregory’s work – i.e. Anne Boleyn, Katherine of Aragon, et al.). She is the author’s free creation, and therefore shaped to the writer’s unlimited fancy. It is through her, I have come to see and respect Gregory’s remarkable talent in character development.

Alys is a 16-year old who is innately passionate and self-centered, a survivor with an independent streak. With these qualities, the author sets her in a period of gender prejudice and oppression, and throws trial after trial where her character is forced to choose between an expedient but immoral action and an arduously virtuous one. Realistically enough, the character chooses the easier paths; so, with each choice, Gregory chronicles how godly innocence can degrade to vulgar debasement.

The transformation is done gradually and very subtly so that the shift is believable. If this is Philippa Gregory’s aim, then she has succeeded quite well. Moreover, she has created a character that we may not want to see in ourselves but may be lurking, untested and untried, inside many of us with great instincts for self-preservation. Perhaps, she may be challenging us to judge Alys, then to answer truthfully, “If you were in her shoes…”

For those readers who don’t like pervasive pessimistic themes, stay away from this book. This will simply depress you. But for those who don’t mind immersing in such joylessness, reading this will reward you with Gregory’s sheer talent for characterization and of course, you get to read an amazingly good story.

As for the book’s surprising conclusion, again it will be the reader’s judgment that will render it a satisfying end or not. With this note, I’d like to say that A Wise Woman would be great material for your reading circle’s next discussion.

My Mark : Outstanding

This book may not be to everyone’s taste and many may disagree with my mark. If you do so, I would appreciate your opinions.

Author : Philippa Gregory

Release date : 2001

A great review for this novel could be found in Fyrefly’s Book Blog.  I felt that their review expressed exactly what I thought about this book.

My Mark : Outstanding