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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Book Review: The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell

Book Cover The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell
The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell
Paperback, 281 pages
May 28, 1998
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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.

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.
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.

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.
Other reviews of this book by other bloggers:
Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Robin Maxwell:
mademoiselle boleyn
Mademoiselle Boleyn
Jane [My Review]
o juliet
O, Juliet [My Review]
queens bastard
The Queen's Bastard
signora de vinci
Signora da Vinci
wild irish
The Wild Irish

Find Robin Maxwell: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Copyright © 2009 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. It really sounds good. I love reading about the good sides to Ann and her gentleness in character. Reading about her and Elizabeth must have been very touching. I love your review:) Thanks!

  2. I loved how the book was written too! It made is exciting. Ha I finally fixed my settings and now can post a comment. I have been reading all your posts but I could not comment. Now I can and I love your thought processing style it is very refreshing. Keep it up, your doing great!

  3. this book does sound interesting. Usually Anne is the biggest bizatch in the world in the books I've read. She was the wicked witch of England in The Other Boleyn Girl. I think I'll give this book a try it'll be hard to picture Anne in a nice light.

  4. I just love Anne Boleyn books.... I have several and it all started with Phillippa Gregory;s The Other Boleyn Girl

  5. Hi Heather and all who commented. I'm Robin Maxwell, who wrote SECRET DIARY OF ANNE BOLEYN. Yes, my depiction of Anne was the first (and might still be in all these years since the book was published in 1997) novel that is truly sympathetic to Anne's character. If you want even greater insight into this world-changing woman, you might want to read a more recent one of my books, MADEMOISELLE BOLEYN, which is about Anne and Mary Boleyn growing up in the very licentious French court. It's just a fabulous period, and the characters are wildly colorful and stranger than fiction.

  6. Wow! Thanks for visiting my blog and I definitely plan on picking up the next book!

  7. I also enjoyed this book and appreciated a different view of Anne. When you truly think about it, she was one of the most influential women of her time. It's no wonder her daughter was so great. Excellent review!

  8. I too really enjoyed Robin's book. The diary idea is a great way to tell Anne's story in her own words and to show a link between her and Elizabeth. It is so sad that Elizabeth grew up without her mother and it's nice to think that she might have had something of her mother's to cling on to her memory.
    I wil have to read Mademoiselle Boleyn too, it's on my list of must-reads.


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