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The Raven's Widow: A novel of Jane Boleyn Kindle Edition
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|Length: 380 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top Customer Reviews
I am certainly not adverse to suspending disbelief for a good read, much in the way a physicist has to relinquish reality to enjoy Star Trek or Star Wars, but my favorite books are the ones that are both well written and as accurate as possible. If a book has good word-smithing then I will ignore yet another depiction of George Boleyn as a homosexual murderer or rapist, even if my eyes do roll back into my head occasionally with the exasperation. Thankfully, while reading The Raven’s Widow, my eyes didn’t roll back even once. Rather, they teared up at some of the more moving passages, and I was filled with a desperate pain thinking of the agony of seeing a beloved husband judicially murdered for a crime you knew he didn’t commit.
I also enjoyed the lack of traditional “bad guys” in this novel. I’ve noticed that writers frequently make Anne Boleyn a monster to support Catherine of Aragon (or vice versa), but this work avoided that oversimplified trap. Instead of paper-thin depictions of manipulative devils, the major characters were drawn with an appealing complexity that made them fully human, with all the good and evil being human entails. This included the central protagonist. Jane Boleyn was not perfect and her mistakes were not all neatly explained away by saint-like altruism, but was instead a person capable of both wisdom and folly, cruelty and kindness. She was fleshed out in an incredibly believable way that didn’t sacrifice the readers ability to empathize with her.
Finally (and unusually!), I loved the author’s notes at the finish of the novel. Dillard explains the paucity of facts she was working with, and is forthright about the fact she wanted to give Lady Rochford her humanity back after centuries of being depicted as a plotting, devious, bawd. Most off all, Dillard proclaimed that, “the most important thing I want you, Dear Reader, to remember is that this a work of fiction. … [I] have made as many assumptions about Jane’s life as any other historian, but the choices I’ve made in my poetic license of telling her story are with the benefit of the doubt. I’ve interpreted the evidence available in the best possible light.” As for the actions that Jane has been so soundly condemned for, such as her presumed testimony against her husband and sister-in-law and her actually testimony against Queen Katheryn Howard, Dillard points out that her “reasons for her behavior died with her so I could only guess as to her motivations.” Dillard also cites several books, all of which I personally approve of as a historian, as her source materials. I cannot tell you how refreshing I find this honesty and commitment to the history underlying the narrative process.
In the past Jane has always been portrayed as a two dimensional, snippish, conniving, unintelligent, loose moraled and jealously unstable girl who was always sneaking around, plotting against her husband and his family, listening at doors and peeping in keyholes. Adrienne Dillard has stripped all of this away to give us a real person who despite her problems faced them with dignity and fortitude.
Granted this is historical fiction, but despite this fact I still feel Ms. Dillard has given us an absolutely fantastic opportunity to view this woman in an entirely new light. I can only hope that either she or another writer picks up this new image of Jane and writes a biography depicting the real woman instead of focusing on one made up of second hand gossip and negative views from people who either didn't know her at all or simply disliked her from the start due to her connection with the Boleyn family.
The crown jewel of this book though is Ms. Dillard herself! Her writing style is such that from the first sentence to the last, it invites the reader in and wraps the story around you like a warm blanket on a cold winter's day! The only drawback? It was so great I read it in a day, leaving me wanting more, so I'm eagerly awaiting her next book!