Title: Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia Fox
Summary (off Goodreads): In a life of extraordinary drama, Jane Boleyn was catapulted from relative obscurity to the inner circle of King Henry VIII. As powerful men and women around her became victims of Henry’s ruthless and absolute power–including her own husband and her sister-in-law, Queen Anne Boleyn–Jane’s allegiance to the volatile monarch was sustained and rewarded. But the cost of her loyalty would eventually be her undoing and the ruination of her name. For centuries, little beyond rumor and scandal has been associated with “the infamous Lady Rochford,” but now historian Julia Fox sets the record straight. Drawing upon her own deep knowledge and years of original research, she brings us into the inner sanctum of court life, teeming with intrigue and redolent with the threat of disgrace. In the eyes and ears of Jane Boleyn, we witness the myriad players of the stormy Tudor period, and Jane herself emerges as a courageous spirit, a modern woman forced by circumstances to make her own way in a privileged but vicious world.
I bought this book at a discount book fair, really excited about it. I love Tudor England; it's my favorite time period to read about. I love Henry VIII and how he completely reformed the church, all while sinning exponentially and trying to create an empire. I like reading about his wives and how they reached their downfalls. I love reading about Elizabeth and everything that she had to go through to become queen. So I figured learning about Jane, the supposed betrayer of the Boleyn family, would be fascinating. Unfortunately, Julia Fox forgot to add in the fascinating part.
Fox had more information in her book about Henry's wives than she ever did about Jane. We learned about Jane's early life, how she was raised and how she came into her marriage to George and, inevitably, into the Boleyn family. That part was interesting because it talked a lot about the politics of marriage and how she had to negotiate her way in life. It also talked about how much financial trouble Jane would be in were George to die before she did, which of course the reader knows DID happen. You basically watch a disaster lying in wait because everyone is working on the assumption that George is going to live.
However, that was the end of Jane in this book that was supposedly about her. Fox went into a lot of detail about the Queens that Henry married, most specifically, Anne Boleyn. But Fox was incredibly bad at tying Jane's fate into Anne's. All I kept hearing was about Anne (Or Jane Seymour, or Catherine Howard or Anne of Cleves) and then a line that was some variation of "there is a high likelihood that Jane was present for that event." It was an entire book of what someone of Jane's stature deserved and therefore, Fox assumed that Jane received it but we never really knew for sure. It was a book of assumptions.
Don't misunderstand me, I love learning about Henry VIII and his wives but if I had wanted to read about them, I would have picked up a book about them and one that was written better. Because the book wasn't really about the Queens, my interest in them waned and the information was poorly written.
Fox also painted a slightly romantic view of Jane's life. Jane had an arranged marriage and while she might have been close with Anne Boleyn, she was not romantically content in her marriage. George is often believed to be a homosexual and his marriage to Jane was not a wonderfully happy one. Even if George hadn't been promiscuous, he was hardly ever there. Even Fox, who continually was trying to convince her reader that Jane was living in a happy marriage and life, told us that George was often abroad doing work for Henry. Jane had no children and spent a lot of time with Anne, attending her. Fox tries to convince her readers that Jane was living wonderfully when, in reality, she probably had many problems with her marriage.
It wasn't until the end that I felt I learned anything about Jane. In the last twenty pages or so, we learn about the extent of Jane's involvement with Catherine Howard's infidelity. Jane wasn't the great betrayer to the Boleyns; she was the great betrayer to Catherine Howard, giving every sordid detail she knew about Catherine's affair. However, one of the most interesting things about Jane Boleyn, was barely mentioned. I would have really liked Fox to go into Jane's insanity and what pushed her to it, the events surrounding it and her eventual recovery, but all Fox told me was two lines that it happened and with a quick trip to the country she was cured.
Overall, it was an extreme disappointment. I didn't think that I would dislike this book so much. No time period in history interests me as much as Tudor England and I figured a laundry list from that time period would fascinate me. I still think that's true but this book was duller than a laundry list and misleading. It was a book about Henry's wives and, maybe, "Jane was there too."
Books so far this year: 18/75
Currently Reading: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
You can read this review and all others at my Goodreads account and at im_writing .
X-Posted to bookish and bookfails