Showcase: THE BOLEYN INHERITANCE by Philippa Gregory

The value in reading a novel again is that each time I can savor it longer and find new gems hidden within the text. I already have my favorite fictional versions of Anne of Kleves and Katherine Howard, fourth and fifth wives of King Henry VIII. I’ll be rereading and showcasing those novels the next couple of Sundays.

The Boleyn Inheritance provides excellent context for these two queens, plus brings in the viewpoint of a non-hero, Jane Boleyn, the ill-fated wife of George Boleyn who was beheaded for adultery and incest with Anne Boleyn. As fascinating as Anne and George are, they were never my favorites. Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard are my favorites in Tudor England. Nevertheless, Jane, Lady Rocheford, provides a unique perspective for the whole drama.

If you’re used to reading Romance Genre, you’ll find the structure awkward. Just remember, this is not Romance Genre. It is Historical Fiction. Jane is not at all heroic and you are not promised a Happily Ever After. If you know your history, this will come as no surprise.

The value of Jane Boleyn is she provides a realistic, believable point of view from the metaphoric trenches under the reign of the tyrant king Henry the Eighth. She’s no saint. She’s also not stupid. But, she does have limited options in life and, like most real humans, clings to the familiar, no matter how dangerous.

If you’ve never read Philippa Gregory’s Tudor England novels, I suggest starting with this one and then start again with the first in chronological order. This one gives you a broad view, because it’s told from multiple points of view, Jane, Anne, and Katherine.

Jane Boleyn is also in The Other Boleyn Girl, which is expertly told from Mary Boleyn’s point of view. Mary is Anne Boleyn’s sister and was mistress to the King first. You may remember the movie in which Scarlett Johannsson was amazing and Natalie Portman was completely miscast.

Of course, if you can’t get enough of this and you want visuals, I suggest watching The Tudors. You can probably find the complete series for free at your local library, but you can also own it on DVD or buy it from iTunes and other sources.

Jane is introduced as a minor character in Season Two, serves Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, and Anne of Cleves as lady-in-waiting, and then hits the block with Katherine Howard in Season Four. As objective viewers and readers, we might have a hard time understanding how a woman who personally witnessed the downfalls of four queens would make choices which part her own head from her shoulders with the fifth queen. But, just look around you.

Humans cling to the familiar like horses running back into a burning barn time and time again. Philippa Gregory nails this unfortunate human habit perfectly. She also several excellent videos on YouTube for writers. Definitely check those out, if you’re one.

See you next week with the remarkable Anne of Cleves.

Be Brave, Be Kind.