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.
Some time ago I read Josephine Wilkinson's 'Richard - The Young King To Be' and was very impressed especially as it was her debut. I had read very divisive reviews of her following two books and decided to read them back to back. Her second book 'Mary Boleyn - The True Story of Henry VIII's Favourite Mistress' in my opinion was pointless and came to this one with some trepidation.
Although short on length, history, originality and being a very light read, it is a little gem of a book and was a joy to read.
It writes of Anne Boleyn's loves before Henry VIII; the marriage negotiations with James Butler, her relationships with Henry Percy and Thomas Wyatt and the supposed affairs she had which lead to her execution in 1536.
Eric Ives' 'The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn - The Most Happy' is cited as the best work on Anne to date. Get over the fact that Wilkinson's offering is not very scholarly and you may enjoy it as a nice, quick read.
This is a fascinating topic and I was delighted to get it. However, not enough time seems to have been spent on writing it and there was literally nothing I hadn't read before - no original research. I would recommend Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives instead. What a shame - this could have been great.