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Customer Review

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars So bad that it's funny, December 4, 2011
This review is from: The Favored Queen: A Novel of Henry VIII's Third Wife (Hardcover)
Well, at least I can say that I knew what I was in for when, on a whim, I picked up the latest "historical entertainment" by Carolly Erickson from the library shelf on my way to the check-out counter. I still feel that both the author and her publishers should blush in shame for offering readers a book that is so badly written and so tenuously connected to reality. (Or perhaps there should be a new category -- unhistorical or ahistorical fiction??) On the other hand, this served as great therapy because so much of it proved so bizarre that I found myself laughing out loud in places where I was probably intended to be caught up in the drama. Tudor history fans may recall that Anne Boleyn suffered from the dreaded sweating sickness: in Erickson's rendering, that wasn't enough -- Boleyn had to be stricken while shut up in quarantine with Catherine of Aragon, Jane and other ladies at court, at which point Catherine's chamberlain begins to stuff her body out the window and into the moat in order to protect the rest of them from contagion, and only Queen Catherine saves her from a nasty death. (This is just one incident in this bizarre rendering that I don't really think it's a spoiler; if you want to read it, you'll find a lot more.) Oh, and Henry likes to call Anne "puffball". Okaaaay.

I've read historical fiction in which the outwardly demure Jane is really scheming and Machiavellian, and that reinterpretation was convincing because the author kept to more or less what is known about her, and simply dramatically re-imagined her motivations. This dramatic invention of a life tries to redefine historical fiction in such a way that the facts are viewed as irrelevant. It would be dreadful even if the writing weren't as stilted and turgid as it is. The only good part is that it only took me about two or three hours to read, and it generated a lot of laughs at the absurdity.

The reason I'm bothering to post a review at all are the comments others have made about the dearth of novels featuring Jane Seymour. There are at least three that I'd recommend, two of which do take some liberties with Jane's story but not with history -- they show that it's possible to craft fiction around the facts without sounding like Jean Plaidy. All are out of print but seem readily available either here or from Amazon's UK division for very little investment. The most straightforward of these is Jane Seymour (The 6 wives of Henry VIII) by Frances Clark, which appeared in the 1970s; I re-read it recently and it stands the test of time. The novel I mentioned above, in which Jane is seen as scheming and feeling destined to become queen, despite her demure exterior, is Tudor Rose by Julia Watson. (Try Amazon.co.uk for ultra-cheap editions.) Finally, there is Pour the Dark Wine (Coronet Books) by Dinah Lampitt, which takes a broader view of Jane and her two brothers, Thomas and Edward Seymour, and tells it through the viewpoint of a fictional character who knows them all well. These are better-written and more entertaining than a lot of the historical fiction being published today as part of "Tudor mania", and look like they were penned by Tolstoy or Flaubert when set beside Erickson's offering. How I wish that Erickson's publisher would do a twofold service to readers by (a) ceasing to publish her books and (b) seeking out these and other better-written, more interesting historical novels that are now out of print and bringing them back to readers' attention.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 20, 2011 8:41:36 AM PST
Misfit says:
Puffball?

I'm dying. I can't believe you actually went and read this. I'll pass, but thanks for the chuckles :p

Posted on Apr 30, 2014 12:07:20 PM PDT
mickey71 says:
Thank you for this review! I can't stop laughing. I'm literally crying. Hmmm, I think I'll pass on this book.
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