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The Creation of Anne Boleyn: A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen Hardcover – 9 Apr 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 343 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) (9 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547328184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547328188
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 16 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 690,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Rivetting...Bordo's eloquent study not only recovers Anne Boleyn for our times but also demonstrates the ways in which legends grow out of the faintest wisps of historical fact, and develop into tangled webs of fact and fiction that become known as the truth. "
--"Bookpage"

"Bordo's skills are sharp as ever as she compares narratives from history and popular culture, revealing the bits of truth we know to be for certain about one of history's most elusive characters."
--"Bitch Media  "


"The perfect book for anyone interested in Anne Boleyn. Highly readable, interesting and thought provoking."
--"The Anne Boleyn Files"


"Susan Bordo's Boleyn did the impossible - it made me excited to read about the Tudors again while reminding me to approach history and historical fiction with curiosity and a questioning mind."
--"Historical Fiction Notebook"

"The University of Kentucky humanities chair does a superb job of separating fact from fiction in contemporary accounts of Boleyn's life, before deftly deconstructing the myriad and contradictory portraits of her that have arisen in the centuries since her death. . . . The young queen has been the source of fascination for nearly half a millennium, and her legacy continues; this engaging portrait culminates with an intriguing exploration of Boleyn's recent reemergence in pop culture." --"Publishers Weekly "

"A great read for Boleyn fans and fanatics alike"
--"Kirkus Reviews"

"Susan Bordo astutely re-examines Anne's life and death anew and peels away the layers of untruth and myth that have accumulated since. "The Creation of Anne Boleyn" is a refreshing, iconoclastic and moving look at one of history's most intriguing women. It is rare to find a book that rouses one to scholarly glee, feminist indignation and empathetic tears, but this is such a book."
--Suzannah Lipscomb, author of "1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII "

"If you think you know who Anne Boleyn was, think again.

"Engrossing....Ms. Bordo offers a fascinating discussion. . . . a strangely tasty book."
"TheNew York Times""Bordo s sharp reading of Boleyniana and her clear affection for this proud, unusual woman make this an entertaining, provocative read."
"The Boston Globe""A fascinating and accessible study of Anne Boleyn's history and popular myth."
"Shelf Awareness""A feast of feminism and history fascinates readers, and informs and entertains along the way."
"Roanoke Times""Delightfully cheeky, solidly researched [Bordo] uses her good sense and academic training to shrewdly chip away at historical commentary, which has hardened speculation into supposed "facts."
"The Daily Beast""Engrossing blending biography, cultural history and literary analysis with a creative writer s knack for narrative and detail."
"Louisville Leo Weekly""Rivetting Bordo s eloquent study not only recovers Anne Boleyn for our times but also demonstrates the ways in which legends grow out of the faintest wisps of historical fact, and develop into tangled webs of fact and fiction that become known as the truth. "
"Bookpage

""Bordo s skills are sharp as ever as she compares narratives from history and popular culture, revealing the bits of truth we know to be for certain about one of history's most elusive characters."
"Bitch Media" "The perfect book for anyone interested in Anne Boleyn. Highly readable, interesting and thought provoking."
"The Anne Boleyn Files""Susan Bordo's "Boleyn" did the impossible - it made me excited to read about the Tudors again while reminding me to approach history and historical fiction with curiosity and a questioning mind."
"Historical Fiction Notebook""""The University of Kentucky humanities chair does a superb job of separating fact from fiction in contemporary accounts of Boleyn s life, before deftly deconstructing the myriad and contradictory portraits of her that have arisen in the centuries since her death. . . . The young queen has been the source of fascination for nearly half a millennium, and her legacy continues; this engaging portrait culminates with an intriguing exploration of Boleyn s recent reemergence in pop culture." "Publishers Weekly ""A great read for Boleyn fans and fanatics alike"
"Kirkus Reviews""Susan Bordo astutely re-examines Anne s life and death anew and peels away the layers of untruth and myth that have accumulated since. "The Creation of Anne Boleyn" is a refreshing, iconoclastic and moving look at one of history s most intriguing women. It is rare to find a book that rouses one to scholarly glee, feminist indignation and empathetic tears, but this is such a book."
Suzannah Lipscomb, author of "1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII ""If you think you know who Anne Boleyn was, think again. In this rigorously argued yet deliciously readable book, Susan Bordo bursts through the dead weight of cultural stereotypes and historical cliches to disentangle the fictions that we have created from the fascinating, elusive woman that Henry VIII tried unsuccessfully to erase from historical memory. This is a book that has long been needed to set the record straight, and Bordo knocked it out of the park. Brava!"
Robin Maxwell, national bestselling author of Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn and Mademoiselle Boleyn By turns sassy and serious, playful and profound, Susan Bordo cuts through the layers of legend, fantasy, and untruth that history and culture have attached to Anne Boleyn, while proving that the facts about that iconic queen are every bit as intriguing as the fictions.
Caroline Weber, author of "Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
""In "The Creation of Anne Boleyn," we watch Anne Boleyn the woman transform into Anne Boleyn the legend a fascinating journey. Susan Bordo covers Anne's historical footprints and her afterlife in art, fiction, poetry, theater and cinema, each change reflecting the concerns of a different era. Meticulous, thoughtful, persuasive and fun."
Margaret George, author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I

A Review From "Open Letters Monthly"

"'Why is Anne Boleyn so fascinating?' Susan Bordo asks at the beginning of her richly engrossing new book "The Creation of Anne Boleyn." 'Maybe we don t have to go any further than the obvious. The story of her rise and fall is as elementally satisfying and scriptwise, not very different from a "Lifetime "movie: a long-suffering, postmenopausal wife; an unfaithful husband and a clandestine affair with a younger, sexier woman; a moment of glory for the mistress; then lust turned into loathing, plotting, and murder as the cycle comes full circle.' The invocation of the syrupy American cable network "Lifetime" is both a neat stroke and a warning flag readers traumatized by flippant pseudo-history grow hyper-sensitive to such showbiz namedropping, and Bordo s credentials as a feminist scholar can, in such circumstances, increase the fear of grating anachronisms (the past was a different country, a wise man once said, hardly needing to add, "They called apples oranges there"). Nightmare visions of 'Anne the Party Grrrl' loom, hardly alleviated by Bordo s puckish choice of section titles ('In Love (Or Something Like It), ' 'A Perfect Storm, ' etc.).

But such worries are dispelled early on in "The Creation of Anne Boleyn" and never return. Bordo spends the first part of her book, 'Queen, Interrupted, ' recounting much of what we know about the actual history of Anne s rise, reign, and ruin. It s nimbly done, managing the small miracle of not feeling redundant despite the staggering number of times the story has been told before. But it s the book s second part, 'Recipes for 'Anne Boleyn', ' and its third part, 'An Anne For All Seasons, ' that gaily raise this book to the status of something quite memorable; it s in these parts that Bordo gets at the real heart of her subject not Anne Boleyn, but rather the infinite variety of cultural reconstructions of Anne.

Her enthusiasm is infectious, and her range is impressive, covering a dozen major novels from Francis Hackett s 1939 novel "Queen Anne Boleyn" to Margaret Campbell Barnes "Brief Gaudy Hour" (1949), Norah Lofts "The Concubine" (1963), and more modern bestsellers like Phlippa Gregory s "The Other Boleyn Girl" and Hilary Mantel s "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies" (partisans may wish she d spared a mention for Suzannah Dunn s sly and extremely impressive 2005 novel "The Queen of Subtleties") and all the major film and stage interpretations of Anne s tempestuous relationship with Henry VIII, including the Charles Laughton camp-fest "The Private Life of Henry VIII," the BBC mini-series "The Six Wives of Henry VIII," the great 1969 movie "Anne of the Thousand Days," and of course Showtime s vamping, moronic "The Tudors." It s a shrewd strategy: now that Bordo has supplied her readers with the history, she can thrill and provoke them by citing the countless ways all these adaptations get the history wrong:

"Anne of the Thousand Days," in addition to numerous other alterations of history, has that invented yet somehow perfect scene in the Tower between Anne and Henry. The Private Life of Henry VIII turns Anne of Cleves into a wisecracking cardsharp who is physically disgusted by Henry rather than (as history tells it) the other way around. A Man for All Seasons neglects to mention that Thomas More, besides being a witty intellectual, also burned quite a few heretics and was apparently not quite the devoted husband he appeared to be. The BBC production of "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" barely notes that there was a conflict of authority between Henry and the Church, beyond the issue of the divorce; its actually much more the wife-centered, 'feminized' history that [David] Starkey berates than ["Showtime"'s] "The Tudors," which spends a lot of time on the more 'masculine' (and for Starkey, historically central) end of things: diplomatic skirmishes, wars, and court politics.

Half the fun of these segments of the book will be arguing with them. For instance, the claim that there s no dramatization of the conflict between king and Church in "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" is starkly wrong indeed, it s in the Jane Seymour episode of the series that its star Keith Michell gives one of his most passionate performances, on precisely the subject of Henry s struggles with Rome. Likewise the sustained, extremely intelligent attention Bordo lavishes on "The Tudors," and especially petite, slope-mouthed Natalie Dormer, whose Anne Boleyn is about as sexually alluring as a distracted basset hound: the reader might fundamentally disagree with the elevation of such an unworthy subject (so to speak), but the discussion itself is too interesting to forego (when Bordo interviews Genevieve Bujold, who shot to fame in "Anne of the Thousand Days," the actress simply says 'Anne is mine').

Bordo charts the changes in Anne s portrayal over the years, drawing up handy lists of historical errors, sparing nobody, not even Mantel, whose books come in for some sustained nit-picking (although nothing on the order of the full-dress deconstruction Gregory gets)(and yet it s all done with such wonderful candor that it wouldn t be surprising to learn the novelists themselves enjoyed the critiques). The focus of the book in these parts shimmers all over the fictional landscape, always with an acute eye:

"The Tudors" has replaced Charles Laughton s blustering, chicken-chomping buffoon with Jonathan Rhys Meyer s lean, athletic bad boy. "Wolf Hall" exposes Thomas More as coldly, viciously pious and turns the ruthless, calculating Cromwell we know from depictions of his role in Anne Boleyn s death into a true man for all seasons: warm, loyal, and opportunistic only because his survival requires it.

"The Creation of Anne Boleyn "creates in its readers the deep hunger for more of the same; it ll be a cold-hearted reader indeed who doesn t finish the book wishing Bordo would have expanded it into a big fat study of the history and fiction of all the wives or better yet, of Anne s own daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. But our author is something of an intellectual dynamo, and unlike poor Anne, she s got plenty of options." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

Part biography, part cultural history, "The Creation of Anne Boleyn" is a fascinating reconstruction of Anne s life and an illuminating look at her afterlife in the popular imagination. Why is Anne so compelling? Why has she inspired such extreme reactions? What did she really look like? Was she the flaxen-haired martyr of Romantic paintings or the raven-haired seductress of twenty-first-century portrayals? (Answer: neither.) And perhaps the most provocative questions concern Anne s death more than her life. How could Henry order the execution of a once beloved wife? Drawing on scholarship and critical analysis, Bordo probes the complexities of one of history s most infamous relationships.
Bordo also shows how generations of polemicists, biographers, novelists, and filmmakers imagined and re-imagined Anne: whore, martyr, cautionary tale, proto mean girl, feminist icon, and everything in between. In this lively book, Bordo steps off the well-trodden paths of Tudoriana to expertly tease out the human being behind the competing mythologies.

" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I pondered this book for a while before ordering it. I'm glad I bought it. The writer has split the book into two sections: one of which re-examines the known facts of Anne's life leading up to her eventual downfall and execution. Anne comes across as more complicated than one might think - scheming gold digger, or sacrificial lamb for the cause of the new religion, or innocent victim of her mercurial husband? We are presented with a very nuanced take on the situation, including a phsychological profile of Henry the Eighth based on the nature of his pampered, largely female dominated, somewhat disfunctional upbringing. This interpretation of his character,as a spoilt and self-centred man, even in his younger days, shows him as a creature of extremes in his friendships and affections. Many people whom he once loved and lionised (Anne B. included) were turned on eventually, as they somehow "let him down", often in ways that they themselves did not understand. By loving or caring about a person, he was in effect giving them an element of power over him, and this he could not tolerate. This aspect of the book is well presented and well argued. Anne herself swore before witnesses, on the brink of death and trusting in the reality of her immortal soul (which as a believer she could not risk perjuring) that she was innocent of any sexual betrayal of Henry. Would such a devout woman have lied at such a critical moment?

The second part concentrates on how we, her public down the centuries, have interpreted her story in all its complexity, in fiction, in film, on TV and in biography. This endless fascination has rendered her simultaneously both extremely familiar and utterly unknowable.
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Lucid, sensible, and cogently presented, The Creation of Anne Boleyn explains to the general reader why you shouldn't believe everything you've heard about Anne, and, for the Anne enthusiasts, explores in some depth Anne in all her later interpretations over the centuries, from stage plays to film to historical fiction novels.

Admittedly, certain sections didn't interest me as much as others. I was far more fascinated by the modern re-imaginings of Anne than the sections on the early plays about her, for example, but that's just personal interests coming to bear. I was pretty astonished when Bordo writes that at talks when she asks people what do they know about Anne the top responses were still the gossipy falsities concocted by the likes of hostile writers such as Catholic propagandist Nicholas Sanders (who, in any case, wrote decades after Anne's death and never met her) - the old six fingers, witchcraft, incest, adultery chestnuts. I couldn't quite believe that with all the research that has been done in the past few decades to disprove and dispel much of this nonsense that the baseless myths still cling on with a tight grip in the public consciousness.

This is why books like The Creation of Anne Boleyn are important. Some academics sniff at "popular histories", written for the accessibility of the general reader in mind, but I think their importance cannot be overstated. The Creation of Anne Boleyn cuts through the fog of rumour and scandal to present the facts and get people to think about why they maybe should question the reliability of sources from the past. Bordo approaches Anne from the perspective of an expert in gender studies, not a traditional historian, and explores not only historical Anne but her connection to later people, and how she is reinterpreted and used by later groups with their own worldview.

It's a smooth, easy read that I tore through in a couple of days, it was that much of a page-turner.
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I never write reviews to the books I buy because there are so many semi-professionals out there doing it and much better than I ever could. But I really enjoyed this cultural historian's take and loved the 'created' image of Anne Boleyn on the front cover!
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Highly readable, interesting and thought provoking. An excellent and refreshing read on Anne Boleyn, I really enjoyed it, and if you love everything AB you must read it. Well done Susan Bordo !
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I received a copy of The Creation of Anne Boleyn from the Goodreads First Reads program.

The Creation of Anne Boleyn looks into the reasons behind the current view that the world has of the most notorious of Henry VIII's Queens, Anne Boleyn. Looking into the modern interpretations of Anne's character.

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I don't often actually read non-fiction books, but this one was very easy to read, interesting and captivating. I particularly liked the way which Bordo took the different Annes in fiction and TV/film and deconstructed them, showing where the image of them came from.

I particularly liked the chapter on the Showtime TV show, The Tudors, and Natalie Dormer's portrayal of Anne. In all of the books and shows that I have seen, her performance of Anne is by far my favourite, despite the blaring inaccuracies in the show as an entirety. I was slightly surprised to see that Bordo seemed to agree with me as far as the second series is concerned, mainly because of the complexities that Dormer brought to the role.

Bordo didn't seem to be too critical, and though she did express her own opinion she also gave both sides of the argument about what Anne (or any other person was like). Even the opinions that disagreed with her own.

Basically Bordo didn't just look at the facts of what happened, which is basically inconclusive, but also the views of people now, and through the other ages where Anne was portrayed in fiction/film. The book is split into three parts, the history, the fictional Annes, and then the public opinion of her.

If you're interested in the Tudors, or in Anne Boleyn, then this is a definite must read!
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