The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory. Review by S.K. Slevinski

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In Print
In The Boleyn Inheritance Philippa Gregory offers up an independent sequel to her historical novel, The Other Boleyn Girl, giving fans a tale of lesser known historical figures that is just as compulsively readable as her first Boleyn novel.

This story begins as Queen-to-be Anne of Cleves is first chosen to come to England for betrothal to King Henry, a match predicated on the perceived political gain of allying with her Lutheran brother, the Duke of Cleves. Meanwhile in England young, wealth-bedazzled Catherine Howard, a cousin to the infamous Anne Boleyn, has convinced her powerful uncle—through a precocious display of poise and flirtatiousness—to send her to serve in the glamorous royal court. Already at court to witness the arrivals of these two young women is Jane Boleyn, wife of George Boleyn who was executed on the charge of adultery with his sister, Anne Boleyn, only a few days before her historic beheading. Jane is still haunted by their deaths and the role she played in their convictions, but turns her attention dutifully to court service as these two future queens navigate royal politics.

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On Audio
The Boleyn Inheritance has much to recommend it, perhaps even more than Gregory's excellent The Other Boleyn Girl. While a goodly number of fundamental facts are known about Queens Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard, they are not nearly as well-attested in history as Anne Boleyn, and furthermore, the historical facts of their lives that are available are not as well-known to the casual reader as the life of Anne Boleyn. Thus, the events of this novel will be more of a surprise to readers who aren't experts in English history. Gregory also makes a somewhat daring and successful storytelling choice in this novel by using first-person, multi-viewpoint narration; chapters alternate among viewpoint characters Anne, Catherine and Jane, though each chapter is told in the first person by each of these characters. This choice of Gregory's is well-accented in the audiobook by the production choice to use a different narrator for each woman.

Just as in The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory combines character-rooted storytelling with historical fact in order to make The Boleyn Inheritance an absorbing read.


S.K. Slevinski is senior editor for ARWZ Literary Magazine and a long time reader of alternative reality fiction. She is currently a graduate student, specializing in folklore.