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The Queen of Subtleties

The Queen of Subtleties [Kindle Edition]

Suzannah Dunn
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Product Description


'THE QUEEN OF SUBTLETIES offers a stunningly refreshing way of retelling an old story. I often abandon historical novels nowadays, but I really could not put this one down. It brings Anne Boleyn to life as never before, and, probably for the first time ever in fiction, Henry VIII emerges as a truly credible character in an authentic setting.'
Alison Weir, author of The Six Wives of Henry VIII

‘The story of Anne Boleyn has been told many times, but never in such an earthy, plausible way, straight from the bedrooms and kitchens of Henry VIII.’ Glamour

‘A remarkable writer, a lyricist of ordinary life and ordinary people transfigured by extreme emotions.'
Christopher Hart, Daily Telegraph

'Suzannah Dunn is that rarity among contemporary novelists: a genuine stylist. Her prose is like truffles – rich, rare, dark, but never cloying.' Wendy Perriam

‘Her ear for the rhythms of speech is unerring, her feeling for the minutiae of experience acute. It takes a good deal of artistry to create the illusion of real life, and she has managed something more difficult still, which is to who us how strange real life can be.' Christina Koning, The Times

Product Description

A tremendously vivid, page-turning and plausible novel that depicts the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, the most spirited, independent and courageous of Henry’s queens, as viewed from both the bedrooms and the kitchens of the Tudor court.

Everyone knows the story of Anne Boleyn. Henry VIII divorced his longstanding, long-suffering, older, Spanish wife for a young, black-eyed English beauty, and, in doing so, severed England from Rome and indeed from the rest of the western world. Then, when Henry had what he wanted, he managed a mere three years of marriage before beheading his wife for alleged adultery with several men, among them his own best friend and her own brother.

This is the context for Suzannah Dunn's wonderful new novel, which is about – and told by – two women: Anne Boleyn, king's mistress and fated queen; and Lucy Cornwallis, the king's confectioner, an employee of the very highest status, who made the centrepiece of each of the feasts to mark the important occasions in Anne's ascent. There's another link between them, though: the lovely Mark Smeaton, wunderkind musician, the innocent on whom, ultimately, Anne's downfall hinged…

Suzannah Dunn has all the equipment needed for literary-commercial success: wit, a mastery of dialogue, brilliant characterization, lack of pretence, and good humour. The Queen of Subtleties adds to that mix a wonderfully balanced, strong story; Dunn has plumped for a fascinating retelling of one of the most often-told, most compelling stories of our islands' history. In doing so, she's turning from contemporary stories to historical fiction. The result is sensational.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 454 KB
  • Print Length: 339 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0007139381
  • Publisher: William Collins (28 April 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004XOZ8F6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #88,480 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Suzannah Dunn is the author of nine previous novels including 'Darker Days Than Usual' and 'Venus Flaering'. Her more recent novel, 'The Queen of Subtleties', tells the story of Anne Boleyn's downfall and was followed by the bestselling 'The Sixth Wife', the heartrending downfall of Katherine Parr, in 2007 and 'The Queen's Sorrow', about the tragedy of Mary Tudor, in 2008. Her most rnew novel, 'The Confession of Katherine Howard' is a magisterial return to the court of Henry VIII. She lives in Shropshire.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars disappointing and ultimately unfinishable 25 April 2008
I love historical fiction. However, this novel is a wet squib on just about every level.

My biggest criticism is for the writer's use of speech. She frequently has her characters say and think in very modern language. I simply cannot stretch my imagination enough to believe that a 16th-century person would say "Yeah", "Yep", "What d'ya mean?", "I only just dropped by", "Beautiful kid", "He's kidding himself" ... the list could go on and on. The whole thing has the ring of 21st-century American soap opera. But then, maybe the TV watching audience is the author's intended readership. To that end she may have succeeded.

Also, there are an awful lot of facial reactions in Dunn's Tudor England. Everyone seems to spend their time "nodding, dreamily" or "breathing so that no one else could hear" with "rolling eyes", "eyes dip away into a smile" or "flickering eyes". No emotion is subtle enough that it cannot be described in clanging detail. Ultimately vague detail. And all of these penny-dreadful phrases do nothing but detract us.

Furthermore, the book could boast of more unusual, distracting and idiocycratic use of punctuation than any other book I've ever read (or, in this case, partially read). The amount of commas littered within the text are truly phenomenal!

Perhaps the biggest crime is the sheer mind-numbingly boring tale itself. Not an awful lot happens. Not an awful lot is said. Years pass by from one scene to the next, scenes again from which not an awful lot can be learned.

A difficult book to enjoy. An easy book to put down.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What a shame. 19 Jan 2008
I was intrigued to read this book as it is the first of this author I have read and was hoping to find her to be another interesting historical fiction writer but unfortunately I have been disappointed. I agree with many other reviews in the fact that the modern language is out of place and jarring, one particualarly annoying one was 'its not you its me'!!! What was she thinking? Another one comes up when Anne refers to the Pope as being 'some dried up bloke in Rome' this seemed particularly out of place and being the slight history geek that I am I looked the word bloke up to see if it was a Tudor word but in fact it came about more than three hundred years later in the 1850s. Surely this is the sort of thing which a good editor would have picked up on and amended.
Historical nit picking aside there are some good moments in this book, particularly the section where Anne is told of Henry's jousting accident is convincing but I really do not see why it needed to be changed so that 'Harry' Norris passed this news to Anne rather than her Uncle.
The story of Lucy the confectioner and her assistant Richard is nice but doesn't really seem to have a purpose, although there was a potential to make them more relevant, but this was ignored. Instead they just held up the story and confused the chronology.
Overall a potentially good idea to look at the story of Anne Boleyn through another perspective but it was really disappointing. I will think twice before buying another book recommended by Alison Weir! My only consolation is that this was a third book in a 3 for 2 offer!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Throw with great force! 10 Mar 2009
By Elfwyn
I'm sorry, but any book set in Tudor times that includes the words 'You've got to be kidding' deserves to be hurled with VERY GREAT FORCE at the nearest wall!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not so subtle! 18 May 2011
'Queen of Subtleties' by Suzannah Dunn is truly awful: badly written, atrociously punctuated (how can anyone use so many colons and commas?), with appallingly modern language and idioms. I struggled and gave up after 50 odd pages. I just could not take the Duke of Norfolk's 'new girfriend', his children's 'slap-happy mother' and Anne Boleyn's 'Mum' and 'Dad' and I visibly winced at the mention of 'Tommy' (Sir Thomas Wyatt), cute Franky (Sir Francis Weston), 'Billy' (Sir William Brereton) and 'Fat Cath' (Catherine of Aragon).

It is possible to write historical fiction in a modern manner yet retain the sense of the period being written about. This is just sloppy, historical bunk.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More miss than hit 3 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
I have to say I didn't get on board with the modern tone of the novel. I see what the author was going for, but it felt strange and jarring to hear Anne Boleyn say things like "it's not you, it's me" and swearing like a trooper. The use of nicknames, whilst the author explains this decision in the author's note, felt anachronistic and only confused the matter. Dunn admits too that she changed certain facts, such as Henry's jousting motto into "No Comment" but what isn't clear is why. What was the purpose of changing it? It seems unnecessary. There's also a bit of a blunder, which she doesn't mention in the author's note so would seem to be an actual mistake - building work didn't even begin on Nonsuch Palace until 1538, but it appears here in 1535.

These things are annoying, admittedly, but I'll grant Dunn hit upon a novel idea by interweaving Anne Boleyn's story with that of Mrs Cornwallis, the king's confectioner. Although Dunn obviously had to invent almost everything she writes about Lucy, I rather enjoyed the indulgence of lavishing my imagination all over those descriptions of marvellous fairytale sugar subtleties. Lucy's naivety was a little irritating and unbelievable, but I could deal with it as I wondered what would come of the intertwining of these two stories. What would come of Lucy and Anne's tales; surely there would be some coming together or perhaps a clever thematic intertwining towards the end? Um... no. But, surely, Lucy will learn something from all this, there'll be some sort of growth of character or renewal, won't there? Nope. She doesn't make the fresh start she talks about so often, she just stays where she is. It's not a bad ending, but I expected more. It's like an unfinished sentence, it just sort of hangs there.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Anne and Lucy
Cleverly written - while I've always admired Anne Boleyn, I feel Suzannah Dunn portrays her well, with warts and all! Read more
Published 11 months ago by Christine Caine
3.0 out of 5 stars Queen of Subtleties
I thought this was alright! I quite liked the use of modern language, thought it made it more accessible to the modern age. Read more
Published 12 months ago by cross-chrissy
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good read
A bit complicated to follow in the beginning as it jumps about a bit, but gripping nonetheless. Very well written
Published 16 months ago by Lynne Nicholls
1.0 out of 5 stars Queen of Naught
A historical novel and not a historical biography - if you are happy to read a book that is purely a product of the creative mind than this is it. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Kokino
4.0 out of 5 stars Great use of modern speech
I enjoyed this very much and read it very quickly. I loved the use of modern language as it brought a fresh eye to a well known story. Read more
Published on 29 Jun 2012 by C. Wilson
4.0 out of 5 stars Actually I really enjoyed this!
I have to say that I took this on holiday as a beach read, not expecting much given the reviews here, and also given the fact that I really did not enjoy the "Sixth Wife" by the... Read more
Published on 31 May 2012 by Kathryn C
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring, irritating and trite
I am wary of 'historical' novels and only bought this one because of the glowing reviews from, amongst others, Alison Weir. Read more
Published on 18 Nov 2011 by Tessa66
3.0 out of 5 stars Queen of Subtleties by S Dunn
Yes I agree with one of the last reviewers: most of the reveiws here are too harsh!
This is quite a well-told story with well-drawn characters and quite evocative of the... Read more
Published on 29 Oct 2011 by deborah r clarkson
1.0 out of 5 stars i agree with the other reviewers - disappointing and irritating
I am an avid historical reader and I love Phillipa Gregory, David Starkey and Alison Weir and others of that ilk so when i bought this book, I hoped that it would be the same sort... Read more
Published on 21 April 2011 by Susan Coolidge
1.0 out of 5 stars Just pants!
I love historical fiction and the story of Anne Boleyn never ceases to amaze...but this attempt at a novel was just no good....
Published on 26 Aug 2010 by K. sowden
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