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Brief Gaudy Hour (Barnes) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
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Barnes gives us a sympathetic version of Anne—an alluring beauty who dazzles two European courts, French and English, with her lively wit, keen intelligence and remarkable grace. Imperious and a schemer, to be sure, but not the grasping monster of Philippa Gregory's book. (Read more...)
A LitLovers LitPick (Sept. '10)


The current Tudormania makes Barnes' historical fiction (My Lady of Cleves, etc.) as welcome today as in 1949, when this novel first appeared. Barnes lucidly envisions the well-documented events of Henry VIII's second wife's brilliant short-lived career: her education in manners, dress and dance at the French court; her tutoring in political scheming by powerful relatives who wish to be more powerful still; her determination not to end up a discarded royal mistress like her older sister. She offers credible interpretations of undocumented aspects of the Boleyn legend (such as Anne's sixth finger) and convincingly depicts Anne as she manipulates Henry to divorce Katherine, break with his chief advisor Cardinal Wolsley and abandon the Catholic Church. She's less good on Anne's relationship with poet-ambassador Thomas Wyatt, and on her loss of Henry's affection: in Barnes's old-school retelling of the journey from courtship to queenship to execution, sexual innuendo stops at innuendo. But she vividly depicts Anne's hopes and fears in an age where royal marriages were brokered like a cattle fair, and beheading could befall even a Queen.
Publishers Weekly




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