Review: Mary Boleyn, Alison Weir

Rating: 2 out of 5

Well, I stepped into this myself. I know how Ms Weir writes and what she writes about. What I don’t know is why I even chose a book called “Mary Boleyn” to read — I think I misread the title to be either “Anne Boleyn” or “Mary Tudor”. Oh well, turns out I was going to learn about someone else – Mary, sister to Anne and mistress to Henry VIII. That doesn’t sound that bad, right?

Where I should have stopped again and thought about this is the stage at which I realized any primary source material on Mary Boleyn is practically non-existent. Or, well, at least non-existent enough that a narrative that stretches to 338 pages might be not too plausible. As it happens, that is exactly correct. What this book covers and how it should be titled is “The Story of Mary Boleyn and the Boleyn clan along with the children to the third degree of Mary”.

I should say at this point that I really appreciate the mission that Ms Weir has — promoting the history of women and their stories. I do not fault that in the least. I do, however, fault trying to inflate a subject into degrees that are not necessary to cover the main subject. There is, also, almost naturally, the near-compulsory description of a Tudor living room, etc, to fill in other gaps of what we don’t know, but this is such a standard device of Ms Weir’s books no one should be surprised.

There was also frequent repetition — frequent enough that I started swearing upon seeing the phrase “There is even evidence to suggest that Henry VIII was prudish” appear again (four times altogether?) without for once actually describing the evidence in detail at that time. Similarly, there’s pages of negative speculation (because Mary isn’t recorded doing A, she might have been doing B).

Overall, I found Mary Boleyn and her story to be interesting. I did not, however, find this account to be the best representation she could get.

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