In celebration of the release of Josie Rourke’s Mary Queen of Scots (2018), this issue is going to be dedicated to all things historical fiction. Realistically, I could fill several full University Express issues if I didn’t narrow it down. So for this issue, given the familial connection with Mary Stuart, I have condensed it down to the various offshoots and key players of the Tudor dynasty. Enjoy!
Hot or Not
Wolf Hall (Trilogy 2009-2019) by Hilary Mantel (9/10)
A fictional account of the years Thomas Cromwell, notorious advisor of King Henry VIII’s, was in office this series has so far proved to be an engrossing portrayal of
an elusive man. There is not much historical evidence to be found on Thomas Cromwell and yet Hilary Mantel has brought him to life. An even greater if unexpected achievement, Mantel portrays him as a thoroughly likeable man. Wolf Hall (2009) focuses on the rise of Anne Boleyn while its sequel Bring Up The Bodies (2012) turns its attention to her swift fall. The second book in particular is the most compelling fictional representation of just how quickly the machinations of the Tudor court facilitated a take down on the whims of their king. The last book of the series, The Mirror and the Light, will be released later this year and will (spoiler alert) document Cromwell’s own downfall. So it’s as good a time as any to get stuck in!
The Other Boleyn Girl (2001) by Philippa Gregory (3/10)
The rise and demise of Anne Boleyn, told from her sister Mary’s perspective, is arguably the weakest in Gregory’s Tudor series. Perhaps I am being too harsh. For someone who has never read any Tudor history then this book would be a compelling read and, to her credit, Gregory has a gift in representing the emotions that permeate through history to modern day. She makes Tudor history accessible and relatable. But for someone with any knowledge of the Boleyn family Gregory’s liberties with history are far too distracting. Woeful inaccuracies aside, Gregory’s characterisation of Anne is cruel and unfounded. Though a complicated woman to be sure, with a temper to say the least, there is a determined effort in the book to erase any of her positive attributes or actions. Which would of course be more forgivable if Gregory didn’t expressly state in an interview with the Alliance of Film Women Journalists, “I don’t take liberties”.