Title: The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn
Author: Alison Weir
Release Date: January 5, 2010
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: History, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
There is “Tudor frenzy” everywhere you look. From the 2009 Man Booker Prize winner Wolf Hall (a historical fiction novel about Henry VIII’s secretary, Thomas Cromwell) to the hit Showtime series The Tudors starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Henry VIII is once again back in style. Books, movies, TV – the notorious king is everywhere, and not far behind is his infamous second wife, Anne Boleyn.
The story of Anne is one that has captured imaginations for centuries – by all accounts, not a beautiful woman, she still managed to bewitch the most powerful man in England. Henry VIII seemingly put aside his loyal wife, Katherine of Aragon, declared his daughter Mary a bastard, and established his own church, all simply to marry a woman he loved. The story of her fall from grace is even more shocking than her rise to power – four short months in which she lost everything – her freedom, her wealth, her power, her status, her family, and finally, her head.
In this climate of renewed interest in Henry VIII, Alison Weir has undertaken a new biography of Anne Boleyn entitled The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn. As the subtitle suggests, this book is an in-depth study of just four months in the life of the infamous queen. It is the story of her arrest, imprisonment, trial, and execution.
Weir approaches this well-known and heavily researched period in Anne Boleyn’s life with fresh eyes and a blank slate. She brought no preconceptions into her study, trying to let the evidence speak for itself. As a result, this is a refreshing look at a period in history that seems to have, at this point, oversaturated the market.
The Lady in the Tower is nothing if not detailed. Weir’s research was clearly exhaustive, looking at every possible source in order to find a new understanding of this woman – was she promiscuous, as the sources claimed, or were the charges against her fabricated? What was the real reason behind her fall? Was Henry merely pushing Anne aside so he could marry his new interest, Jane Seymour?
Weir tackles each of these questions with grace and poise, plus many more that the reader doesn’t even think to ask. One might think that a 450+ page book on just four months would be tedious and full unnecessary details, yet Weir handles the depth of the material elegantly. There is never too much information; each page reveals new sources of interest that keep the pace of the narrative brisk, and the reader hooked through the end of the book.
The real value of The Lady in the Tower is the way Alison Weir refuses to take anything for granted. She questions even the most widely accepted sources in order to ensure she is painting the most complete portrait possible for the reader. As a result, when she states her conclusions that Anne Boleyn was innocent of the charges against her, the reader can’t help but agree – after all, every piece of evidence she used was laid out clearly and articulately in the pages of the book. It’s an incredibly well-written book that should appeal to, not just subscribers to Tudor frenzy, but anyone interested in well-researched history.
Originally posted at The Book Studio