Je Anne Boleyn is a beautifully written, first-person account of Henry VIII’s courtship of Anne Boleyn. The book begins at their first real exchange, and ends at their marriage.
I read it both as a Tudor fan and as someone who seeks to write about them. As a Tudor fan, I loved the details the author included. Vasoli did an immense amount of research – she even visited the Vatican to inspect Henry’s actual love letters – and it really showed. As a Tudor author, I appreciated things like Vasoli’s choice of Lady Margaret Wyatt as a companion to Anne, someone that Anne could talk to and get out of her own head. Few others in Anne’s life could have fulfilled this role as well.
Bottom line: I loved the book.
I have to admit, I wasn’t sure I would. I have had Anne Boleyn’s voice inside my head since I was eight years old, and I tend to dislike accounts in the first person narrative for that reason. But I have to say, Vasoli’s skill made first-person the right choice: it got us deeper into the story, more intimately than third person would have.
[Spoiler alert: I’m about to get a little specific about certain choices the author made, stop reading now if you prefer to be swept along by the tale….]
Vasoli was also able to overcome my tendency to dismiss accounts that in any way go against my long-seated beliefs: she managed to not only keep me hooked but even open my mind. Specifically, I have always believed that Anne did not cede her virginity to Henry until they were in Calais – even after her ennoblement as Marquess of Pembroke. But Vasoli created a compelling alternative and made me see how Anne could have given into the temptation right before they left for Calais, then agreed to live as husband and wife with him in Calais and beyond.
Most important, Vasoli is the first author I’ve read who made Calais as magical as it deserved to be. No one else has ever come close. Of course, this required that she gloss over the insult of Francois suggesting that his mistress greet Anne, since his wife and his sister had refused or were “unavailable.” But Vasoli was right to do so. As readers, we would not have been able to suspend our indignation enough to appreciate the grand scale of Anne’s triumph.
My one complaint? That the sequel was not immediately at hand – I cannot wait to immerse myself in the next installment of this compelling story!