Review: The Six Wives of Henry VIII

The Six Wives of Henry VIIIThe Six Wives of Henry VIII
by Alison Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Six Wives of Henry VIII / 9780802136831

I am really starting to enjoy Alison Weir's Tudor history -- I enjoyed "Mary Boleyn" and I loved "The Lady in the Tower", particularly the audio book version of the same. I picked up "The Children of Henry VIII", only to see in the foreword that the book continues on from THIS book, "The Six Wives of Henry VIII", so I put down "Children" and bought a copy of "Wives".

And, really, this book is lovely. All the history you love to hear from Weir, all the careful sourcing and citing of who is biased and how and in what time period they were writing, and all combined in a really stream-lined, efficient narrative. There's a wealth of valuable information here and it's a joy to read; I'm really sorry there doesn't seem to be an audio book version of this because I think it would be delightful to listen to.

I especially enjoy that this book really is about the wives and not about Henry. There's some introductory stuff about Henry woven deeply into the opening chapters about Katherine of Aragon, but once that's out of the way the focus returns closely to the wives. The historical narrative deals with the women chronologically (which flows nicely since there isn't too much overlap between the wives), and once Henry dies, Weir continues the stories of Katherine Parr and Anne of Cleves to their final conclusions. Everything about this portion of the narrative is superbly written and easy to follow.

If I have a gentle criticism of this book, it is that much of the section on Anne and Mary Boleyn is later contradicted by Weir in her more recent books, "Mary Boleyn" and "The Lady in the Tower". There's nothing wrong with that -- I'm pleased that Weir is the kind of historian who is willing to refine her statements in the face of new evidence -- but I wanted to make a note of it for readers. If you're going to read this book (and I highly recommend it!), I suggest pairing it with "The Lady in the Tower" for a more complete look at the life of Anne Boleyn.

~ Ana Mardoll


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