The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell
Paperback, 281 pages
May 28, 1998
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Personal Collection
One was queen for a thousand days; one for over forty years. Both were passionate, headstrong women, loved and hated by Henry VIII. Yet until the discovery of the secret diary, Anne Boleyn and her daughter, Elizabeth I, had never really met.There have been many books written about Anne Boleyn but I don’t think one has been written in this manner. The present time in this book is the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth I – she is 25, in love, and newly come to the throne. One day an old woman comes to her presence chamber with a diary for her – the diary of her mother, Anne Boleyn. In this diary, Anne wrote of her life from before her ascendency to the throne right up to just before her execution. As Elizabeth reads through this diary she learns a lot about the mother she doesn’t remember and learns many valuable lessons that she will apply during her reign as Queen of England.
Anne was the second of Henry's six wives, doomed to be beloved, betrayed and beheaded. When Henry fell madly in love with her upon her return from an education at the lascivious French court, he was already a married man. While his passion for Anne was great enough to rock the foundation of England and of all Christendom, in the end he forsook her for another love, schemed against her, and ultimately had her sentenced to death. But unbeknownst to the king, Anne had kept a diary.
At the beginning of Elizabeth 's reign, it is pressed into her hands. In reading it, the young queen discovers a great deal about her much-maligned mother: Anne's fierce determination, her hard-won knowledge about being a woman in a world ruled by despotic men, and her deep-seated love for the infant daughter taken from her shortly after her birth.
In journal's pages, Elizabeth finds an echo of her own dramatic life as a passionate young woman at the center of England 's powerful male establishment, and with the knowledge gained from them, makes a resolution that will change the course of history.
I thought that this was an amazingly well written book. I enjoyed how the story bounced back and forth between the present time with Elizabeth and the time while Anne was alive, in the diary. As Elizabeth learned things from her mother she would then apply them to how she ruled her kingdom. It would be neat to think that this was actually the case. It’s a unique way to look at such a sad story.
The character of Anne Boleyn was written in a sympathetic manner. She is not depicted as a cunning, power hungry woman. Instead, she is written as a woman who didn’t really want what happened to her and absolutely loved her daughter. There are several touching scenes between mother and daughter that happen through this diary. Elizabeth learns about her mother first-hand, as opposed to what she has always been taught about her mother being a whore, traitor, and a witch. Elizabeth understands more of whom she is and where she came from and that forms the way she will carry herself from that point on.
I really enjoyed this book, mostly for the connection between mother and daughter and for the depiction of Anne as wholly human. I look forward to reading more of her books, I have Signora da Vinci on my shelf.
Robin Maxwell has written several novels including: Madamoiselle Boleyn, Wild Irish, The Queen's Bastard, To the Tower Born, Virgin, Signora da Vinci, and O, Juliet. You can visit Maxwell's website for additional information about the books.
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