Customer Review

47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A book wholly without merit or interest;no original research, no new insights, a great disappointment, 22 Oct 2009
This review is from: The Early Loves of Anne Boleyn (Hardcover)
When I open a book of only 167 pages of text filled with large print my heart sinks as I know the book will be lacking in all that would make it a worthwhile read. My opinion was entirely justified. From the title I had expected an in-depth analysis of Anne Boleyn's relationships with James Butler, Henry Percy and Thomas Wyatt, incorporating a close study of all the known sources as well as hopefully new research based on study of the original sources and new evidence from family documents.

Instead what is offered is a rehashing of existing(mainly secondary) sources with a great deal of "possibly" "maybe" and "probably" and statements such as this on page 34:" In the end,however, the truth or otherwise of Anne having spent time there cannot really be known.So much of her life is undocumented." This was in regard to Anne, having been"... sent away at the age of fifteen at Henry's own expense because she had sinned with her father's butler and then with his chaplain." This tidbit the author got from Nicholas Sander a hostile source which the author acknowledges. But this is not set within a wider, more meaningful context of an exploration of the negative view of Anne Boleyn taken by the chroniclers of the period and the reasons why this was so rather it is simply set in a time-line narration of Anne's life. Worse is to come: a salacious story right out of the Canterbury Tales of Anne Boleyn running up and down the stairs of Hever Castle in a frantic bid to keep Wyatt from knowing she had another lover concealed in the room above their illicit tryst(pages 80-81).

Wyatt's poetry far from being treated to analysis as to its relevance or otherwise to Anne Boleyn is breezily dismissed with: " However, the Brunet of this poem could just as easily be Wyatt's wife, Elizabeth Brooke". Or again on page 132: "Quite what were the circumstances under which Thomas Wyatt was detained is not known and the account given in the Spanish Chronicle is probably as good as any other in this respect." And so on, ad nauseam.

Whar particularly set my teeth on edge was the statement under plate 21 of the illustrations about Mary Tudor, The French Queen that: " Anne and Mary did not get on;perhaps Anne was disapproving of Mary's behaviour in France." It is generally known to those with an interest in the Henrician period that Anne Boleyn and Mary Tudor,the French Queen did not get on because Mary strongly disapproved of Henry's attempts to rid himself of Katherine of Aragon and supported the latter. How has this basic fact managed to escape Anne's purported biographer?

Plate 7 compounds my irritation for there is a gaudy print of " Anne Boleyn as depicted in historical fiction". But what is it's relevance to the text? The author does not discuss Anne's images in history and fiction which might justify this being included.

The book is so shoddily written, so short on fact, so long on supposition -without the benefit of discussion of why a particular viewpoint has been adopted- that I cannot recommend it to anybody. If I had had done so little research into my topic and known so little about it as Josephine Wilkinson does about hers I would never have contemplated writing a book.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Nov 2009 16:58:47 GMT
Thanks for this very valuable review - I was initially intrigued by the premise of this book, but wanted to be sure how reliable it would be before buying it (I did raise an eyebrow when the synopsis claimed she had been intimate with her father's butler and chaplain - my first thought was "what on Earth could be her source for that?!")

Books, often about Anne Boleyn, that do not discuss or credit the reliability of the source really irritate me. So thanks for saving me from this one. May I return the favour by suggesting that, if you haven't already, don't buy anything by Elizabeth Norton - she falls into the same traps as Wilkinson, and I found her biography of Jane Seymour particularly unreliable, filled with 'if', 'perhaps' and 'maybe', with not a single properly referenced source.

Interestingly, Norton is also an Amberley writer. Seems they're more interested in pushing the books out as quickly as possible than ensuring quality content.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Nov 2009 08:05:09 GMT
Ms Frost - on that same subject, let me save you from Josephine Wilkinson's book (I can't call it a biography) about Mary Boleyn. I gave it a one-star review on Amazon.co.uk, and that was pretty generous. It's still only the tip of the iceberg - you'd have to read it to believe it. It was written in such a patronising tone that if it hadn't been for the monstrous factual errors, it might just have passed as a children's history book. It also had so much repetition and awkward sentence structure that I can only conclude that it wasn't edited at all - the text was just dumped in there, and it was published. The author thanked someone at the end for proofreading it, but either that person didn't do a very good job, or his or her changes were not taken in.

Actually on second thoughts you might want to read it, as a case study of a book that somehow got published even though it's unpublishable. Strange world. As for Amberley publishing, if I ever do want to read another book of theirs, I shall again get it from the library. I'm not handling over money to people who publish unpublishable books, and don't even edit them into something that could just be passed off as popular history - which shouldn't be too difficult, given that the standard's pretty low.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Dec 2009 23:12:07 GMT
I agree. I have read Wilkinson's book on Mary Boleyn ,and I was highly disappointed. The book was only 200 pages,and no new insight. Now she suppose to working on, or rewriting? Paul Friedmann's book on Anne Boleyn. I love Friedmann's book, so I wonder exactly what she is plan on doing with his work.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Dec 2009 09:15:51 GMT
Kats - a few days ago, I put a comment after your comment on the review "Wonderfull Read". Now it's been deleted by Amazon. I can only assume that one of her partisans complained. Other comments about Josephine Wilkinson's books, such as the first comment here, have also been "silenced". What's going on? I've seen plenty of forceful, opinionated reviews on Amazon that haven't been deleted. Why is this author so special that her books are above criticism?

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Dec 2009 10:32:36 GMT
@Judith,

..The bigger question is How in the hell her book get release without going through a fact checker first? However, I do not believe she above criticism. It's just that she a fairly new writer, so I assume they are trying to cut her a break. At least that's what I assume. Her books seem to be aim at a much younger audience, like those in their teens. However, I do not think Alison Weir or Ives have anything to worry about.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Dec 2009 10:31:56 GMT
No, I don't think they have anything to worry about - particularly since I'm reading Ives' biography of Lady Jane Grey right now. It's good.

As for trying to cut her a break because she's a new author - what I don't understand is why authors don't just provide a citation for every statement of fact. That way, even if they make a mistake, they can blame the person whose book they took it from, and say, "Look, I took this from so-and-so's book. I thought so-and-so was a reputable historian, who checked their facts. Obviously, I'll have to be more careful in future."

It would be so easy, and get them off the hook.

Posted on 30 Dec 2009 11:15:10 GMT
Last edited by the author on 30 Dec 2009 23:05:20 GMT
Rachel says:
Kudos for this review from me too, Isabel; you've clearly articulated the basis for your rating, which is what makes a view "helpful" to me. Well done. If you haven't already done so, I strongly recommend that you post this and other reviews on the Amazon US site. While they haven't put a stop to campaign voting totally, it's certainly much better than over here. More importantly, there's a nice community of fellow history enthusiasts (including several fellow Aussies) who appreciate honest and well thought out reviews and intelligent discussion, so please come join us!

And once again, we see a suspicious voting pattern on review and comments. "White Surrey", an apparent fangirl of Wilkinson who regarded a negative review of another of Wilkinson's books as 'defamatory' (honey, it's not defamation if it's true, plus reviews by their very nature are subjective), has posted a gushing tribute which gathers 20+ votes ... and almost the same number of people have voted this review down. Coincidence? I think not. To the Mystery Anonyvoters attacking reviews and comments, grow up. If you really believe the review is "unhelpful"- as opposed to something you don't agree with - then have the guts to comment and say why. Similarly, if the comments really don't "add to the discussion" then maybe you should explain the reason for your "Adding to the Discussion. You're Doing it Wrong" conclusion. Y'know, show us plebs how it's done! If you get your kicks out of casting anonymous votes, good luck to you, but it really is petty, pathetic and tacky. Trolling is so last decade, seriously.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Dec 2009 03:34:26 GMT
Already, zero of one people think this comment adds to the discussion. Surprise surprise.

This beggars belief. I would NEVER be so arrogant as to try to hide or delete comments I didn't agree with. Everyone's entitled to their own opinion. And if people really do post a review or comment that makes unreasonable criticisms of a book, someone who's read it and thinks otherwise will be able to present the case for the defence. That's if there is a case.
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