Published by Touchstone on May 28, 1998
Genres: Historical Fiction
Robin Maxwell’s debut novel introduces Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth: one was queen for a thousand days, the other for more than forty years. Both were passionate, headstrong women, love and hate by Henry VIII.
At the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign, her mother’s private diary is given to her by a mysterious lady. In reading it, the young ruler – herself embroiled in a dangerous love affair – discovers a great deal about her much maligned mother.
Through Anne’s writing, Elizabeth finds an echo of her own dramatic life as a powerful young woman at the center of England’s male establishment and, with the knowledge gained from it, makes a resolution that will change the course of history.
Large portions of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn center around the fictional diary entries of Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife to King Henry VIII. Beginning around the time of Anne’s entry into the English court as a Lady in Waiting to Queen Katherine of Aragon in 1522, the diary entries chronicle Henry’s pursuit of Anne, the ascension of Anne to the throne, the birth of the future Queen Elizabeth I, and ultimately ending with Anne’s last night in the Tower of London before her execution on May 19, 1536. Framing Anne’s diary entries is the story of her daughter, Elizabeth, struggling to cope with the demands of being a new monarch, arguing with her councilors about the matter of whether or not to contract a foreign marriage, and deciphering fact from fiction as she learns about the mother she never knew through the diary brought to her by Lady Sommerville, one of the last ladies to see Anne alive in the Tower.
I enjoyed reading this book for a number of reasons. The diary format made it easy to pick up and put down at neat intervals. This is useful for me since I tend to get interrupted a lot when I’m trying to read. That, and I hate putting down my book in the middle of a scene. *grin* Also, the language used in the diary entries seemed to suck me right into the world of the magnificent Tudor court. It brought Anne to life in a way that was so intense and realistic that there were times I almost forgot this was a fictional diary. Finally, I liked how Ms. Maxwell used the content of Anne’s diary entries to reflect lessons Elizabeth needed to learn in her own time. From across time, Anne implores her daughter never to let a man rule her life, to become master of her own destiny, and to recognize her own own worth and power as a woman in a male-dominated society.
Anne Boleyn is a polarizing character from history (with good reason). She is either loved or reviled for her part in bringing about the Protestant Reformation to England and convincing King Henry to divorce Katherine of Aragon and proclaim himself Head of the Church of England. The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn paints Anne in a favorable light, though not entirely innocent of the machinations of her ambitious family. While this book is not entirely historically accurate, it is an enjoyable read for any lover of Tudor England.