Monday, January 4, 2010
Review: The Lady in the Tower, by Alison Weir
The Lady in the Tower is the story Anne Boleyn—or, really, the story of her downfall, focusing specifically on the last four months of her life in 1536. It opens on the day of that now-famous joust, and continues through the executions of Anne and her supposed lovers, and gives a “what happened later” about some of the major players from one of the most infamous judicial trials of English history.
It’s a pretty solid book, in which Alison Weir examines closely the primary source material in order to draw her own conclusions about what happened. In my case, she’s really preaching to the choir about Anne’s innocence in the charges laid against her (as Weir says, her highest ambition was to become Queen, so why would she have several meaningless affairs, without anyone knowing, in a court where secrets weren’t kept for long?). Although the story of Anne Boleyn has been told over and over again, in fiction and nonfiction books as well as film, Weir manages to make it interesting again. It’s not quite as groundbreaking as Alison Weir claims, but it’s excellent nonetheless.
When I first started reading this book, I wondered how anyone could possibly write a 350-page book about such a short time period? That’s where Weir’s famous attention to detail comes into play: she really does examine the evidence thoroughly. People like Thomas Cromwell and Jane Seymour, as well as Anne’s family, don’t come off well in this book, but Henry VIII is treated rather compassionately, all things considered. I’ve always thought of Henry in the traditional, tyrannical sense, and Weir’s spin on Henry’s actions and reactions really made me think about things for a bit. For someone looking for a general biography of Anne Boleyn, they might be disappointed by this book; but otherwise it’s an excellent, in-depth look at the last days of one of Europe’s most famous queens.
Also reviewed by: Tanzanite's Shelf