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38 Reviews
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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! The dialogue of Lucy again gives a different perspective to a well known event in history.
Published 13 months ago by Christine Caine

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars disappointing and ultimately unfinishable
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...
Published on 25 April 2008 by Amazon Customer


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3.0 out of 5 stars Queen of Subtleties, 9 Sep 2013
This review is from: The Queen of Subtleties (Paperback)
I thought this was alright! I quite liked the use of modern language, thought it made it more accessible to the modern age. Got a bit lost from time to time, but overall thought it was a good story, and I think I've learnt a little about the characters, and this period in English history.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very good read, 27 May 2013
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A bit complicated to follow in the beginning as it jumps about a bit, but gripping nonetheless. Very well written
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1.0 out of 5 stars Queen of Naught, 5 Oct 2012
This review is from: The Queen of Subtleties (Paperback)
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.

Its hard to believe that I am reading a novel about Anne Boleyn, because none of it resonates with me.

Boring, unimaginative and silly.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Actually I really enjoyed this!, 31 May 2012
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This review is from: The Queen of Subtleties (Paperback)
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 same author. Imagine my surprise when I found myself quite gripped by it! I understand the comments from many reviewers about the modern language, but I did not object to it-I could see that the author was trying a new take on what is-let's face it-a story we all know the ending of. Give it a try, you might like it!
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1.0 out of 5 stars Boring, irritating and trite, 18 Nov 2011
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I am wary of 'historical' novels and only bought this one because of the glowing reviews from, amongst others, Alison Weir. Alison Weir is a writer I admire and enjoy enormously, I am baffled that she could think this book any good at all.

I wish I had paid more attention to the reader reviews.

I found this book extremely irritating, dull and a bit pointless.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unsubtle Annie Disappoints, 25 Feb 2006
By 
microfiche (Scarborough, ON Canada) - See all my reviews
Lucy Cornwallis, the King's confectioner, is the only interesting character in this poor rewriting of Anne Boleyn's story. The thirty-something servant's life is bound by her kitchen and the mischief of her apprentice/foster son. The handsome young stranger who visited her kitchen opens up her world a little. She's fantasizes loving him - of seeing herself as a woman worthy of love. She's real, and so is her apprentice Richard.
The historical folks are, unfortunately, unreal. Anne probably thought about 'waddling' Catherine and her 'po-faced' daughter Mary by those terms. Some of her bitchy candor about everyone around her is funny to read. But she's in constant teenage snits and rants. No appreciation of anyone. She speaks as if she was Ms. Perfect Wonder, the spoiled darling of the sixteenth century, and off with the heads of anyone who does not obey her with praises loudly chanted. She sees only what's good for her, only what or who revolves or refuses to revolve around her.
The author deliberately uses anachronisms - I suppose to make Anne seem like Bridget Jones, to make us connect with her - but they're teeth grinding stupid. No gentlewoman raised in the sixteenth century would call her parents 'Dad & Mum'. It was disrespectful to be so familiar. Even adult children knelt before their parents every morning. She would never have let Thomas Cromwell call her Anne. If he had slapped her, he could not have insulted her more. Any commoner, any servant, would call her "Milady", "Your Grace", "Your Majesty": according to her station. Nothing wrong with retaining 'Madge', 'Bessie' and 'Porkoy' if they were the names used by the real Anne. They are the names we know those ladies and that dog by. Not to use them implies the author's ignorance. For the author to deliberately change them shows she doesn't care much for well known facts or for her readers' knowledge of those facts.
What hurts most is that Anne's story has always been worth reading and there's much good writing here. Why did this author ruin what could have been a perceptive, sensitive novel about two women passing their sexual prime, one who know her husband will kill her if she doesn't birth a boy, the other grasping for her one great romance?
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21 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Queen of Subtleties - an extravaganza of Tudor life, 5 May 2004
I have never read anything quite like this before. The book is a fascinating insight into life at Henry VIII's court as seen through the eyes of Anne Boleyn, retrospectively, and "The Queen of Subtleties" the only female cook in his kitchens.
The language is modern - Anne's is conversational and very twentieth century. The musician Mark Smeaton is interwoven into the stories of both women.
This tale will have you eager to read more but reluctant to reach the final pages - anyone with an interest in Tudor history will really enjoy this book.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Half good and half completely pointless, 1 Mar 2008
This review is from: The Queen of Subtleties (Paperback)
I have read the other reviews with interest on this book and have to say that I agree with most of what is said on the Lucy Cornwallis story. If you are looking for a true historical recount then you are in for a disappointment. If you are looking for a new slant, then the part of the book that tells the story of Ann Boleyn is quite interesting. I like the way the book has been written in a modern style i.e. Ann calls Catherine of Aragon 'Fat Cath' behind her back and the discussions and arguments between her and Henry use completely modern day expressions of speech. I appreciate the feelings of a lot of reviewers who state that no such language or slang expressions would have been used or tolerated in the King's court at that time, I think we all know that, but I feel that the author is simply giving the story an up to date slant and for me it works.
However I feel that the story of Lucy Cornwallis is totally pointless. The notes in the book state that nothing has been recorded about this woman apart from her name and the fact that Henry eventually gave her a house in recognition of her services. Therefore the story that is related by the author apart from the fact that she made the confectionary subtleties for the King's household is total fiction. The author has tried make a link between Lucy and Ann by showing a relationship between Lucy Cornwallis adopted son/nephew Richard and Mark Smeaton, the musician that Ann was accused of having a dalliance with. As there is no historical fact to back this up the author seems to have treaded carefully by only lightly touching on this link and this just made the Lucy Cornwallis story pointless, confusing and just a complete bore to read. I feel that if you are going to write an combined fictional and factual tale, then just go for it with the fictional part and give us somthing interesting to read!!
My feelings are that if you think that you will enjoy historical fact related in a modern way, you may enjoy this book as it portrays Ann as a devious hard headed woman who knows what she wants and tries her hardest to get it. I think however the Lucy Cornwallis story adds nothing to this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Queen of Subtleties, 5 Mar 2009
This review is from: The Queen of Subtleties (Paperback)
This book makes interesting reading. The story and outcome will be known to most readers in advance, but the author gives it a fresh twist by using modern idiomatic language (including swear words)to present Anne's opinions as her life spins out of her control. However, her use of personal diminutives for the main characters obscures their identities and she takes several liberties with well known facts.Her sub plot of Lucy Cornwallis, the king's confectioner about whom virtually nothing is known, doesn't really work and she stays a fairly flat character, mainly important in developing Mark Smeaton's sense of belonging so he has someone who will mourn his going. A good holiday read rather than a seriously researched historical novel.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great use of modern speech, 29 Jun 2012
By 
C. Wilson "Christine" (Northern Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Queen of Subtleties (Paperback)
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.

The trouble with books about Anne Boleyn is that we all know how they will end and more or less what the story is but Suzannah Dunn takes a different approach - she changes the language so it's the same story told very differently.

What know of Anne Boleyn, she was most definitely an ambitious, thick skinned, possibly cruel (she enjoyed blood sports) and ruthless (she didn't mind how Queen Catherine was treated) woman and it is hard to equate this with the 'Oh Sir, you do me wrong'! type dialogue she all too often ends up with. We know she had a temper and had regular tantrums, that along with her lack of a son, were to be her un-doing so the off 'f' word and some fairly ripe language made this character become `real' in way other novels have perhaps failed. (oddly enough it is something that the truly awful The Tudors got right - the language and feel of the time - modern and earthy as they would have been in the 1530s.)

Reading a few of the reviews here I am sorry to see that so many reviewers missed the point of why Dunn made the language modern. Anne Boelyn would have sounded very modern in her time and reading about her now with the strange way they spoke in the 1500s somehow makes her seem less real and less relevant. Use of older English may be popular in historical novels but does little to flesh out the personality of the character and if you didn't 'get this' then you don't get how Suxannah Dunn writes. (and the F word was very much around then)

I was less keen on the Lucy Cornwallis parts which I never quite got into. There seemed to be too many odd boys appearing and disappearing and it didn't hold me so skipped most of it.

I did at times get a little lost with the Toms and Frankies, Harrys and Billys but had a fair idea who was meant with a bit of thought. I have read a lot about this era!

Great way of story telling and one made more famous by Hillary Mantel in her Wolf Hall.
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The Queen of Subtleties
The Queen of Subtleties by Suzannah Dunn (Paperback - 21 Jan 2008)
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