Title: The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn
Author: Robin Maxwell
I am starting 2013 off right – two books featuring Anne Boleyn in one month. I came to read The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by walking around Barnes & Noble aimlessly, consulting my GoodReads iPhone app for various titles about Anne Boleyn. I chose this particular book out of the lineup, however, because I have a weakness for stories told through the medium of diary entries or letters. I had a book by Jean Plaidy on order from the library that I knew would be coming in soon, so I wanted a book that I could consume in a rather short period of time.
The story is set during the early days in the reign of Elizabeth I. Recently made queen, she is still learning the ropes in what it means to actually be Queen of England. An old woman visits her with a precious gift – Anne Boleyn’s secret diary. Elizabeth learns that this woman was with Anne in the Tower leading up to her execution and came to love the then-Queen very much. By giving this diary to Elizabeth, this woman was fulfilling her last promise made to Anne Boleyn.
The majority of the novel is then told through Anne Boleyn’s diary entries. For Elizabeth, this is the first time that she is truly getting to know her mother and she is warming to her memory while cooling to that of her father. From the information in this diary, Elizabeth becomes equipped to “grow up” and to start making some real decisions for her own rule.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. My main gripe was that the presence of Anne’s supposed sixth finger. I feel rather protective of Anne Boleyn and do not believe that she had the sixth finger, so to see its rumor woven into this story was somewhat disappointing. However, I reminded myself that this is a work of fiction. I sucked it up and read on.
I also enjoyed reading a story about Elizabeth, as well, as I have yet to read any focusing on her life and reign. It delights me to know that while Anne was only queen for 1,000 days and her end was wrought with scandal, lies, and betrayal, her daughter reigned over England for more than 40 years.
Here is a synopsis from Maxwell’s official site (linked to above):
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.