Saturday, October 14, 2006

All or Nothing

Meyer, Carolyn. 2002. Doomed Queen Anne.

Doomed Queen Anne is the third book in Carolyn Meyer's series Young Royals: Tudor women. I've already reviewed Mary, Bloody Mary, and Beware, Princess Elizabeth. Reading Doomed Queen Anne does provide more perspective on the situation. Elizabeth grew up never knowing her mother, but her half-sister Mary, unfortunately knew more than she ever wanted of Anne Boleyn. But it is this changing or sliding of perspectives that makes the book series so appealing to me. I think we have a tendency to look at things only through one perspective never considering how 'reality' would look if we were gazing through another's eyes. Doomed Queen Anne does just that. Called the 'Great Whore' and a 'witch' in Mary, Bloody Mary, Carolyn Meyer finally allows Anne to have a voice, to make an appeal, to seek an understanding and forgiving reader.

The book begins with the prologue in which Queen Anne is in the towers awaiting her execution. The book then is a way of having her life flash before her eyes, her recounting of her life to the readers before her death. While the book makes no apologies for some of Anne's actions--her harsh treatment of Mary and her mocking scorn of Queen Catherine--the book does allow the reader to see that her death was nothing more than King Henry VIII getting tired of having her around (both to talk to and sleep with) and wanting to avoid the hassle of another divorce. Although her actions would make her the evil stepmother in the fairytale, her actions did not warrant death.

Does the reader ever feel sorry for Anne? Is she sympathetic even when close to death? Yes and no. (First of all, I can only recount if the author evoked feelings of sympathy from this reader.) Knowing that someone is falsely accused and condemned of crimes they did not commit, one can't help feeling that injustice was done and that Henry VIII was the one that needed punishing...after all he was the one to blame for everything...he's the one who sought Anne out in the first place...the one that fought against his marriage and sought divorce, the one who ignored his children and declared them bastards, the arrogant, selfish man who would deny himself no lust. But the reader is also aware of the fact that Anne was more than a willing accomplice. She sought the fame and glory of being a Queen. She wanted it all and ignored dozens if not hundreds of warnings from her family and friends that she was pushing too hard and too far and that she'd end up destroyed by her own ambition. A reckless dreamer seeking it all--glory, love, fame, some ways proving that you reap what you sow. She showed no mercy, no compassion, no thought of anyone but herself, so none was showed to her. So in a way, the reader can view Doomed Queen Anne as portraying a tragic hero with a tragic flaw--a character trait that led to her own demise. (Although I must admit Henry VIII seems to play the villain in each of these books!)

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