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The Creation of Anne Bolelyn: a New Look at England’s Most Notorious Queen by Susan Bordo

imagesThere has been no dearth of books about, and fascination with, Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII of England’s second wife. Of the 16th -century monarch’s six wives, Boleyn was the first of two to be executed. Whether her death was justified or based on conspiracy and false charges is a matter still widely debated today. Nonfiction biographies, historical novels and romances about Anne Boleyn have appeared for many years. She is even the subject of plays, movies, and at least one opera. Yet most of what we think we know about her comes from the accounts of other, often biased, observers and chroniclers. Almost nothing remains in her own words and as a historical figure, she has been maligned by writers contemporary and otherwise with different agendas–much like, for example, Richard III. Was she a viper or a saint, or somewhere in between? The Creation of Anne Bolelyn surveys many of the more popular novels, as well as films and television productions in which Boleyn appears, discussing in welcome detail more recent productions such as The Tudors, and how Anne is presented in each. On the less positive side, at times the author intrudes herself into the book to too great an extent as the book progresses, and occasionally talks down to her readers . With the vast number of people deeply interested in Anne Boleyn, it should occur to her that perhaps some of them have as wide a scope of knowledge and reading experience as hers, if not wider.  For example, she comments regarding the 2003 film Henry VIII (starring Ray Winstone) calling it “a pretty decent TV movie that no one remembers anymore” (p. 197—well, I remember it and have it in my DVD collection) and frequently presents her own opinions as facts. Aiming toward a wide audience excuses some of this, but more thoughtful wording choices could have helped her avoid such over-generalizations. But overall, this book approaches its subject in a new and fresh manner, focusing on angles that have not been covered in previous books. It is an intriguing addition to the many available materials.

Alison M.

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