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Book Review: "The Boleyn Bride" by Brandy Purdy

"The Boleyn Bride" by Brandy Purdy

The Boleyn family has gotten its fair share of portrayals and appearances in historical fiction. Anne Boleyn naturally stars in many novels, but her sister Mary, brother George, father Thomas, and even some cousins have gotten portrayals and appearances. The woman that gave birth to Anne Boleyn has seriously been neglected in historical fiction. Only mentioned or having a brief appearance, Elizabeth Boleyn's story has never truly been told. Brandy Purdy changes that and gives a voice to the mother of the infamous Anne Boleyn in "The Boleyn Bride".

Seen through the eyes of Elizabeth Boleyn, "The Boleyn Bride" begins with Elizabeth reflecting on the loss of her children in a garden at Hever Castle she designed in the madness of her grief to represent her three very different children. Elizabeth reflects on Anne's rise, downfall, and true innocence, George's constant loyalty to Anne, and Mary's safety from the court, but distance from her family. The novel then goes into Elizabeth's life from spoiled and selfish court beauty looking for pleasure everywhere, her unhappy marriage to Thomas Boleyn, her surprising romance with Remi Jouet, a doll-maker, the births, childhood, and adulthood of her illustrious children, and then the downfall of each of her children with the fates of Anne and George to be particularly heartbreaking. The novel ends with Elizabeth reflecting on her life and the lives of her family. This novel shows the reign of King Henry VIII and the rise and downfall of Anne Boleyn seen through the eyes of someone who was there for it all, but has never gotten a portrayal.

"The Boleyn Bride" is interesting as it has hits and misses. Purdy's writing is at her most beautiful. Purdy's describes everything from the characters to their wardrobe to the actual events occurring with such beauty and detail. Purdy's prologue and epilogue are the two most moving and emotional parts of the novel because of this powerful writing and detail. This is also where Elizabeth Boleyn's voice shines the most. You really understand her as a character and sympathize and even like her.

The novel is at its weakest in Elizabeth's describing of her life. Elizabeth seems more like a passive bystander in the tale of her children. She describes all the situations and events that happen in the rise of her daughter, but you never actually see any true interaction with her children or members of the court. The novel suffers from a lack of dialogue and action. It is more of a recap of what happened.

Also, perplexing is Elizabeth's characterization at times. She's a very vain and snobby woman yet she's passionately in love with a chubby doll-maker. Her support is with Catherine of Aragon and not her own daughter and even admits she lacks a relationship with her daughter, but goes into an emotional depression after the death of Anne. Elizabeth's characterization is strange.

There is nothing new or groundbreaking in "The Boleyn Bride". While the writing is beautiful and it is interesting to have the story told from the perspective of another character, the novel does not give fans of the Tudor period anything new. This novel had the right intention, but suffers in the execution.

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