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Monday, 28 November 2011
BOOK NOOK: To Die For; a novel of Anne Boleyn by Sandra Byrd
I am obsessed with all things Tudor and I have been for a long while now, so I eagerly awaited the arrival of Sandra Byrd's novel of Anne Boleyn To Die For from Amazon. The cover art is beautiful and this is a lovely book to have on my Tudor bookshelf. The triumphant/tragic tale of Anne Boleyn is told here through the eyes of her best friend, Meg Wyatt, sister of Thomas Wyatt, the great poet. I have to be honest and say that the narrative did not grip me completely and I found Meg to be a bit of a cold fish. However Byrd does a fine job of illustrating the subtle jealousies and rivalries that exist between close female friends especially when one friend is successful and the other is hanging on by the coat tails! Meg goes from being Anne's best friend to Mistress of the Queen's Robes and glorified servant - this change in the dynamics of the friendship is beautifully played out on the page, as is the unshakable loyalty of a true friend when Anne's star begins to fall. While I have sympathy for each one of Henry VIII's wives, I find I can empathise most with Anne Boleyn who was, in my opinion, viciously framed. In To Die For Byrd refrains from repeating the usual stereotype of Anne as either a scheming minx or a wanton harlot; instead she is portrayed as a women who fell in love with the wrong man - a man who let her down, mistreated her and eventually eliminated her so that he could move onto his next victim, Jane Seymour. This lends the novel a gentle truth; a truth which most women can relate to as lots of us have fallen for the wrong man at some point in ours lives and so it is easy to imagine oneself in Anne's place; a woman who trusted and who was betrayed. Overall To Die For is quite a superficial read, lacking the character depth of Phillipa Gregory's Tudor series or the Tudor novels of Emily Purdy to compare, but it does come into its own at the trial and execution of Anne and her fellow accused; at this point I was thoroughly drawn in, though the historical content means it was Anne's voice rather than the authors which eventually gripped me and wouldn't let me go until the terrible swing of the sword. It is not a long novel at just 325 pages and I read it in a day and a half. Never the less, it has been an enjoyable read and a great escape during a wet and windy day when the rain is pounding against the window panes and the wind is howling down the chimney. Although I cannot take up Anne's case, I do judge it kindly and I regard her as one of the strongest women in British history. The one thing which I shall take from To Die For is this; it does a woman no good at all to pledge herself to a weak man who bears a grudge... I too have a very little neck! Thank goodness marriage these days is optional.