Synopsis from Goodreads:
The author of The Other Boleyn Girl (2002) returns to the executed queen’s doomed family in a historical novel that maps the sad demise of Henry VIII in a series of intimate personal testimonies.
Gregory’s tale of greed and revenge takes place against the short, unhappy tenures of Henry’s fourth and fifth wives. Jockeying for position close to the throne, three powerful, ambitious women collide. The author skillfully allows each character to tell her side of the story in her own words. The first voice we hear belongs to 30-year-old Jane Boleyn, widowed sister-in-law to Anne. Jane’s husband George was implicated in his sister’s alleged infidelities and went with her to the scaffold in 1533; his calculating wife moved to save her inheritance rather than her husband and six years later is still scheming. Next up is Anne of Cleves, soon to be Queen Number Four, a provincial, German-speaking Protestant princess chosen by Henry’s advisor, Thomas Cromwell, as a politically suitable alliance to keep Spain and France at bay. Badgered and bullied all her life by her brother and mother, 24-year-old Anne wants nothing more than to escape Cleves and have a meaningful life. The third voice belongs to Katherine Howard, a pretty, 15-year-old cousin of the dead Anne Boleyn and an incorrigible flirt who is brought to court as a lady-in-waiting by her conniving, powerful uncle, the Duke of Norfolk. Also summoned to court to attend the new queen, Jane begins plotting behind the scenes with Norfolk to assure Anne of Cleve’s hasty fall and Katherine’s quick ascent in Henry’s favor. Gregory’s knowledge of the period, combined with her novelistic skill, allows her to view this grim tale through the eyes of the three women: wily, experienced Jane; naive, sensible Anne; and vain, greedy young Kitty. Their first-person accounts are convincing and shockingly self-serving.
It is a really good book. Jane’s part is really interesting. The way she lovingly talks about George is a 180 from how she was portrayed in The Other Boleyn Girl. But, so far, she has my sympathies. So does Anne. Poor thing. She knew absolutely nothing about the court. It’s no wonder things were so cool between her and Henry. He really should have known better, though.
Catherine is the only one I can’t feel sorry for, yet. She’s so young and simple and naive. It’s almost annoying!
Spoilers! Highlight to read:
In the end, I feel badly for them all. Catherine more than the others. She was simply doing what her uncle
and Jane told her. She was a simple little girl who wanted more. She fell in love. Or at least lust. But she of all people should have known that what she had done wouldn’t stay quiet and would at least cost her her marriage.
Jane should have known that nothing could prevent her death if Henry really wanted it. She shouldn’t have faked being mad. All she did was get her hopes up. Which made her ending that much more depressing.
Anne really had it the best. By not knowing what she was getting into, she survived. And by not fighting the king. Every time she spoke about being her own woman I wanted to cheer her on!
In the end, they all received the Boleyn inheritance: the whim of the king.
The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
SuBC: Read a historical fiction novel.