BookBrowse Reviews The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Boleyn Inheritance

by Philippa Gregory

The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Dec 2006, 528 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2007, 544 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Rich in intrigue and irony, this is a tale where readers will already know who was divorced, beheaded or survived, but will savor Gregory's sharp staging of how and why. Historical Fiction

Once again, Philippa Gregory visits the courts of Tudor England. Written in the alternating voices of the three key protagonists "in an attempt to bring to life these three very contrasting young women in their attempts to survive and profit in these dangerous times", Gregory challenges the historical record that has typecast Henry VIII's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, as sexually repellent and his fifth wife, Katherine Howard, as a "stupid slut" (in the words of one modern historian), while also exploring Jane Boleyn's role in the machinations of court life during this turbulent period.

As Gregory explains in her essay about The Boleyn Inheritance (which you'll find on the reading guide page at BookBrowse), the most likely reason Henry took so against Anne was that she inadvertently humiliated him when they first met. Henry considered himself a bit of a lad and liked nothing better than to disguise himself as a commoner so he could go about unnoticed. Of course, anyone who was anyone knew who he was and humored him by pretending they didn't, and thus the jolly game of incognito continued for many a year. However, the game misfired when poor old Anne arrived in England; she had no idea what Henry looked like, so when an disgusting, smelly old man pushed his way through the crowd to plant an uninvited kiss on her soon to be royal visage, she gave him the cold shoulder in true queenly fashion in front of a very large audience.

Gregory's theory is that this public rejection was such a blow to Henry's vanity that he couldn't bear Anne's company after this and took to describing her in the most offensive terms, which have been passed down through history as fact. However, his descriptions of Anne are in contradiction to the picture we have of her as painted by Holbein (see sidebar) and to contemporary reports of her that describe her as a pretty woman.

As for Katherine Howard, little is known about her early life so Gregory has had to fill in many of the details with educated hypothesis. The picture she paints is of a very young, self-centered, vain, not very bright girl who was totally enamored by court life and lived for the attentions of the rich and famous (like many a star-struck starlet who arrives in Hollywood today). When she married Henry she was 19 and Henry was 49, a mismatch even by the standards of the day.

The third key character, arguably the lead character, in The Boleyn Inheritance is Jane Boleyn, Viscountess of Rochford, whose sworn affidavit had been key to convicting her husband and his sister, Anne Boleyn, of incest and treason, giving sufficient grounds for Henry to have them both executed. Later, as one of the ladies-in-waiting to both Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard, she was integral in bringing these two wives into disrepute. All in all a challenging character to paint as anything but the blackest of one-dimensional villains, but Gregory brings depth to her portrayal of Jane so that we are able to feel an element of sympathy for her as a woman both manipulated and manipulating.

Gregory describes The Boleyn Inheritance as her current favorite book out of all that she's written; many of her loyal readers will agree. If you enjoy well researched historical fiction and have yet to discover Philippa Gregory a good place to start would be with The Boleyn Inheritance..

Partial Bibliography
This is Gregory's fifth Tudor novel following:

  • The Other Boleyn Girl (2001), about the two Boleyn sisters, one was Henry's mistress, the other his wife.
  • The Queen's Fool (2003), focuses on the conflict between Elizabeth I and her sister Mary I.
  • The Virgin's Lover (2004), about Elizabeth I
  • The Constant Princess (2005), about Catherine of Aragon.

This review was originally published in January 2007, and has been updated for the August 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Shadow Man
    Shadow Man
    by Alan Drew
    Alan Drew's debut novel, Gardens of Water, was an ambitious work of literary fiction set amid ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Noise of Time
    by Julian Barnes
    Confession: I do two terrible – some say unforgivable – things while reading a book. First...
  • Book Jacket
    Smoke
    by Dan Vyleta
    In Dan Vyleta's universe, set in an alternate Victorian England, people engaging in sinful thought ...

Who Said...

Beware the man of one book

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Necklace
    by Claire McMillan

    For readers of The Nest, the intelligent, intoxicating story of long-simmering family secrets.
    Reader Reviews

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T H Are B T O

and be entered to win..

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.