Philippa Gregory’s ‘The Boleyn Inheritance’
This is only my second outing with Philippa Gregory, and it took me a while to decide that she was worth my time. The Other Boleyn Girl, was, of course, my first and I had mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I though Philippa a beautiful and intelligent writer, on the other, the content and characterisation irritated me. Gregory as often stated that her books follow fact but only fills in the gaps where facts are either unknown, uncertain or speculative. She chooses to fill in these gaps with the most outrageous theories that she can possibly find about these historical figures. It’s a little bit annoying.
I can’t quite forgive the heavy hints she made in The Other Boleyn Girl that Anne Boleyn did commit incest with her brother. That did not make good reading, it made it offensive. Offensive to Anne’s memory and a mockery of all the historian’s that have found that Anne was executed solely on trumped up charges. Only the other day I read on a message board from a reader asking if Boleyn really had sex with her brother. I despair that someone even has to ask that question.
In this book, Katherine “Kitty” Howard, Henry VIII‘s fourth wife is to suffer the same treatment from Gregory. I commend Gregory’s treatment of Anne of Cleves which I found admirable (she uses the language barrier as a reason to why she was, wrongly (according to Gregory) often regarded as a bit dim). Howard is yet again the silly little slut. I could not believe how thin her character was. I will be the first to admit that it was amusing that many of her narratives opened up with ‘Now, let’s see, what do I have?’ but Gregory does not explore her any further than a ridiculously stupid little girl. As a result, she is repetitive; she only concerns herself with dresses, jewels and how she looks. I found this as boring as anyone in their right mind would.
Jane Boleyn, the wife of George Boleyn and Anne Boleyn’s sister-in-law is probably the most drawn out character of the book. Gregory explores her regrets of giving evidence against them in detail, but unfortunately, it also makes Jane’s narrative repititive. If I were a lesser reader, I may have well skipped many of her paragraphs that had her expressing her undying love of George, yet again, but I gritted my teeth.
The book as a whole could have done with a lot more editing. I found nothing lacking or repetitive in Cleves’ narrative, but the other two characters needed a lot more slicing and chopping. This could have been almost half the book it was and would have been a lot better for it.
I did, however, enjoy this book, though I was getting bored by the end (I had heard everything the characters had to say before). I do love her portrayal of court life (though the politics is lacking) and her repitition aside, I still find her a lovely writer, but I think that I will leave Gregory to rest now. Indeed, she seems to only serve as a reminder for to pick up some Eric Ives or David Starkey. I may well leave Tudor fiction for good. The Tudors are such interesting people, with enough political intrigue that they are easily sustained by fact alone. They do not need the further soap opera treatment.