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Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic Queen Paperback – September 25, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Denny seeks to redeem Anne Boleyn from the slanders of Catholic propagandists hired to paint her as a monster. Anne and her diplomat father, Thomas, were advocates of the "New Religion"—the Protestantism spreading through England in the early 16th century. The Boleyn family's meteoric rise in status and influence threatened Cardinal Wolsey and his Catholic power base even before Henry VIII divorced the Catholic Catherine of Aragon in order to marry her lady-in-waiting, Anne, thus initiating England's Protestant Reformation. While effectively setting this scene of high-stakes intrigue, Denny focuses on Anne; in her interpretation, Anne's integrity and moral courage lay at the center of the period's vortex of personal and political strife. Brilliantly evoking Henry's bullish intensity, Denny mines the 17 existing love letters that reveal the king's impatient infatuation with Anne. By contrast, she portrays Anne as reticent, acquiescing to the king out of commitment to the Protestant Reformation rather than personal desire. Denny lucidly catalogues the technicalities of Henry's seven-year legal struggle to make Anne his wife and how Anne fell from favor when she failed to produce a male heir. Finally, Denny (the author of a fictional trilogy on the Tudors) records Anne's stoicism as she was charged with incest and adultery, tried and, in 1536, executed. Although she sometimes idealizes her subject, Denny's defense of Anne is coherent and thoroughly readable. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The second wife of England's Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn continues to fascinate readers and inspire authors. Denny's biography is but the latest after The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn (2005), by Eric Ives. Anne was a daughter of one of the king's diplomats; her arrival at court in the 1520s contributed to the English schism with Roman Catholicism by intensifying Henry's machinations to annul his first marriage. Queen Anne eventually outlasted her dynastic usefulness, bearing but one girl (the future Elizabeth I) and not the boy on whom Henry hoped to stabilize the legally dubious Tudor claim on the crown. This context, while present in Denny's narrative, is less prominent than Anne's alluring personality and her posthumous reputation. Was Anne vamp or victim? Historical opinion favors the latter, a viewpoint Denny develops as she contests the adultery and treason charges by which Henry rid himself of her. For fans of the Six Wives, Denny delivers a fast-reading and dramatic portrayal. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Reprint edition (September 25, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306815400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306815409
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,716,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

2.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth A. Root on May 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This makes me want to reread my Tudor biographies and histories. One of the most amusing things about reading history is seeing the number of different ways various writers can spin the same facts. This is interestingly contrary to much of what I have read; the support for Denny's assertions varies in quality and the work has serious flaws. I would not read this either as a first or only biography of Anne Boleyn, but it raises thought-provoking issues of sources and interpretations.

Denny seems to have done a great deal of research. She also cites some original sources that I don't believe I've seen referenced before, uses others that are often ignored, and points out flaws in others. In common with most histories, I think it is insufficiently documented: what is "common knowledge" to the historians of a period may be virtually unknown to the general public. I think that if there are, say six historic documents attesting to the same fact, the helpful historian will cite at least one of them as an example. It is also my inflexible rule that where there are quote marks, there should be a citation.

It is the interpretation of facts that is open to question. Denny brings up the issue of Anne's possibly having a stepmother, which I thought had been a dead issue for about 70 years. She also argues that Anne had auburn hair (well perhaps VERY dark auburn hair and questions the authenticity of any portrait with a gable headdress.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Irene Rheinwald on January 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
Where do I start? The premise, for one: Anne Boleyn's reputation has hardly suffered; she has unfortunately and inaccurately emerged as a romantic heroine. The vitriol dates back to Sander, writing in the reign of Elizabeth. Even Friedmann, with his opaque Victorian sensibilities, offers a modicum of respect, however grudging. George Wyatt, the poet's grandson, was the earliest, and very sympathetic, biographer. Hence, this much vaunted reappraisal is a few hundred years out of date. Indeed, the tone is hagiographic, which adds nothing to objective historical debate. Only in the realm of fiction do we glimpse a shallow, coarse and unsavoury Anne Boleyn ('The Other Boleyn Girl', 'Queen of Subtleties').

Denny's writing style is unfortunate, employing simplistic, girlish language, and incorrect word usage. "Illegitimating" is a word? Who would write such a word? Where were her editors? Disconcerting, also, is Denny's excessive use of quotations, giving the impression of laziness; historians must sift through primary and secondary materials and draw logical, supportable arguments - not merely regurgitate. She translates a letter written by a very young Anne Boleyn from French to English, and unfortunately makes it comprehensible. The original is exceptionally difficult, rife with bizarre, idiomatic expressions - a fascinating glimpse into Anne Boleyn's progress with a language she would later master.

The author has a poor grasp of source materials and re-interprets secondary evidence very loosely. For example, she twists Plowden ('Tudor Women') to an alarming degree in supporting a negative interpretation of Katherine of Aragon's character.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Professor Hermione on March 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'm giving this book two stars instead of one just to record my gratitude to Denny for combatting the Anne-as-trashy-whore image most recently rehashed in the tawdry, sexist, and grotesquely inaccurate novel The Other Boleyn Girl. (Can you tell I hate that book?) Still, though well-intentioned, Denny's work is quite pedestrian as history. But then again, she's a novelist, not a historian; if you want genuine historiography about Anne Boleyn, go to Eric Ives or David Starkey. (Retha Warnicke's work is useful in some regards, but, as others have commented, unfortunately makes bizarrely unsubstantiated claims.)

As for the anti-Catholic bias that some readers have commented on, this is an embarrassment, a blast-from-the-past of British anti-papist propaganda. I'm surprised that an editor didn't try to dilute the insensitive tone. I have to say, though, that I think the anti-Catholicism is largely an aspect of Denny's childish attempt to vilify Catherine of Aragon in order to polish Anne's halo by contrast. The tone of Denny's comments on Catherine is completely out of control; she accuses the poor woman of lying about the consummation of her marriage, for gosh sake, and plotting treason just because she objected being swept aside to make room for a trophy (and presumably more fertile) wife. One would think Denny was Henry's PR person! As for the claim about Catherine's lies: did Denny have access to a surveillance tape of Catherine's wedding night with Prince Arthur?

One irony of Denny's anti-Catholicism is that she makes much of the Church's misogyny while attributing all sorts of feminist ideals to the early Protestants.
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