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"Bordo’s sharp reading of Boleyniana and her clear affection for this proud, unusual woman make this an entertaining, provocative read."
—The Boston Globe
"A fascinating and accessible study of Anne Boleyn's history and popular myth."
"A feast of feminism and history…fascinates readers, and informs and entertains along the way."
"Delightfully cheeky, solidly researched…[Bordo] uses her good sense and academic training to shrewdly chip away at historical commentary, which has hardened speculation into supposed "facts."
—The Daily Beast
"Engrossing…blending biography, cultural history and literary analysis with a creative writer’s knack for narrative and detail."
—Louisville Leo Weekly
"Rivetting…Bordo’s eloquent study not only recovers Anne Boleyn for our times but also demonstrates the ways in which legends grow out of the faintest wisps of historical fact, and develop into tangled webs of fact and fiction that become known as the truth. "
"Bordo’s skills are sharp as ever as she compares narratives from history and popular culture, revealing the bits of truth we know to be for certain about one of history's most elusive characters."
"The perfect book for anyone interested in Anne Boleyn. Highly readable, interesting and thought provoking."
—The Anne Boleyn Files
"Susan Bordo's Boleyn did the impossible - it made me excited to read about the Tudors again while reminding me to approach history and historical fiction with curiosity and a questioning mind."
—Historical Fiction Notebook
"The University of Kentucky humanities chair does a superb job of separating fact from fiction in contemporary accounts of Boleyn’s life, before deftly deconstructing the myriad and contradictory portraits of her that have arisen in the centuries since her death. . . . The young queen has been the source of fascination for nearly half a millennium, and her legacy continues; this engaging portrait culminates with an intriguing exploration of Boleyn’s recent reemergence in pop culture." —Publishers Weekly
"A great read for Boleyn fans and fanatics alike"
"Susan Bordo astutely re-examines Anne’s life and death anew and peels away the layers of untruth and myth that have accumulated since. The Creation of Anne Boleyn is a refreshing, iconoclastic and moving look at one of history’s most intriguing women. It is rare to find a book that rouses one to scholarly glee, feminist indignation and empathetic tears, but this is such a book."
—Suzannah Lipscomb, author of 1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII
"If you think you know who Anne Boleyn was, think again . In this rigorously argued yet deliciously readable book, Susan Bordo bursts through the dead weight of cultural stereotypes and historical clichés to disentangle the fictions that we have created from the fascinating, elusive woman that Henry VIII tried—unsuccessfully—to erase from historical memory. This is a book that has long been needed to set the record straight, and Bordo knocked it out of the park. Brava!"
—Robin Maxwell, national bestselling author of Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn and Mademoiselle Boleyn
“By turns sassy and serious, playful and profound , Susan Bordo cuts through the layers of legend, fantasy, and untruth that history and culture have attached to Anne Boleyn, while proving that the facts about that iconic queen are every bit as intriguing as the fictions.”
— Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
"In The Creation of Anne Boleyn, we watch Anne Boleyn the woman transform into Anne Boleyn the legend—a fascinating journey. Susan Bordo covers Anne's historical footprints and her afterlife in art, fiction, poetry, theater and cinema, each change reflecting the concerns of a different era. Meticulous, thoughtful, persuasive—and fun."
—Margaret George, author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I
A Review From Open Letters Monthly:
"'Why is Anne Boleyn so fascinating?' Susan Bordo asks at the beginning of her richly engrossing new book The Creation of Anne Boleyn. 'Maybe we don’t have to go any further than the obvious. The story of her rise and fall is as elementally satisfying – and scriptwise, not very different from – a Lifetime movie: a long-suffering, postmenopausal wife; an unfaithful husband and a clandestine affair with a younger, sexier woman; a moment of glory for the mistress; then lust turned into loathing, plotting, and murder as the cycle comes full circle.' The invocation of the syrupy American cable network Lifetime is both a neat stroke and a warning flag – readers traumatized by flippant pseudo-history grow hyper-sensitive to such showbiz namedropping, and Bordo’s credentials as a feminist scholar can, in such circumstances, increase the fear of grating anachronisms (the past was a different country, a wise man once said, hardly needing to add, "They called ‘apples’ ‘oranges’ there"). Nightmare visions of 'Anne the Party Grrrl' loom, hardly alleviated by Bordo’s puckish choice of section titles ('In Love (Or Something Like It),' 'A Perfect Storm,' etc.).
But such worries are dispelled early on in The Creation of Anne Boleyn and never return. Bordo spends the first part of her book, 'Queen, Interrupted,' recounting much of what we know about the actual history of Anne’s rise, reign, and ruin. It’s nimbly done, managing the small miracle of not feeling redundant despite the staggering number of times the story has been told before. But it’s the book’s second part, 'Recipes for 'Anne Boleyn',' and its third part, 'An Anne For All Seasons,' that gaily raise this book to the status of something quite memorable; it’s in these parts that Bordo gets at the real heart of her subject – not Anne Boleyn, but rather the infinite variety of cultural reconstructions of Anne.
Her enthusiasm is infectious, and her range is impressive, covering a dozen major novels – from Francis Hackett’s 1939 novel Queen Anne Boleyn to Margaret Campbell Barnes’ Brief Gaudy Hour (1949), Norah Lofts’ The Concubine (1963), and more modern bestsellers like Phlippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies (partisans may wish she’d spared a mention for Suzannah Dunn’s sly and extremely impressive 2005 novel The Queen of Subtleties) – and all the major film and stage interpretations of Anne’s tempestuous relationship with Henry VIII, including the Charles Laughton camp-fest The Private Life of Henry VIII, the BBC mini-series The Six Wives of Henry VIII, the great 1969 movie Anne of the Thousand Days, and of course Showtime’s vamping, moronic The Tudors. It’s a shrewd strategy: now that Bordo has supplied her readers with the history, she can thrill and provoke them by citing the countless ways all these adaptations get the history wrong:
Anne of the Thousand Days, in addition to numerous other alterations of history, has that invented – yet somehow perfect – scene in the Tower between Anne and Henry. The Private Life of Henry VIII turns Anne of Cleves into a wisecracking cardsharp who is physically disgusted by Henry rather than (as history tells it) the other way around. A Man for All Seasons neglects to mention that Thomas More, besides being a witty intellectual, also burned quite a few heretics and was apparently not quite the devoted husband he appeared to be. The BBC production of The Six Wives of Henry VIII barely notes that there was a conflict of authority between Henry and the Church, beyond the issue of the divorce; its actually much more the wife-centered, 'feminized' history that [David] Starkey berates than [Showtime's] The Tudors, which spends a lot of time on the more 'masculine' (and for Starkey, historically central) end of things: diplomatic skirmishes, wars, and court politics.
Half the fun of these segments of the book will be arguing with them. For instance, the claim that there’s no dramatization of the conflict between king and Church in The Six Wives of Henry VIII is starkly wrong – indeed, it’s in the Jane Seymour episode of the series that its star Keith Michell gives one of his most passionate performances, on precisely the subject of Henry’s struggles with Rome. Likewise the sustained, extremely intelligent attention Bordo lavishes on The Tudors, and especially petite, slope-mouthed Natalie Dormer, whose Anne Boleyn is about as sexually alluring as a distracted basset hound: the reader might fundamentally disagree with the elevation of such an unworthy subject (so to speak), but the discussion itself is too interesting to forego (when Bordo interviews Genevieve Bujold, who shot to fame in Anne of the Thousand Days, the actress simply says 'Anne is mine').
Bordo charts the changes in Anne’s portrayal over the years, drawing up handy lists of historical errors, sparing nobody, not even Mantel, whose books come in for some sustained nit-picking (although nothing on the order of the full-dress deconstruction Gregory gets)(and yet it’s all done with such wonderful candor that it wouldn’t be surprising to learn the novelists themselves enjoyed the critiques). The focus of the book in these parts shimmers all over the fictional landscape, always with an acute eye:
The Tudors has replaced Charles Laughton’s blustering, chicken-chomping buffoon with Jonathan Rhys Meyer’s lean, athletic bad boy. Wolf Hall exposes Thomas More as coldly, viciously pious and turns the ruthless, calculating Cromwell we know from depictions of his role in Anne Boleyn’s death into a true “man for all seasons”: warm, loyal, and opportunistic only because his survival requires it.
The Creation of Anne Boleyn creates in its readers the deep hunger for more of the same; it’ll be a cold-hearted reader indeed who doesn’t finish the book wishing Bordo would have expanded it into a big fat study of the history and fiction of all the wives – or better yet, of Anne’s own daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. But our author is something of an intellectual dynamo, and unlike poor Anne, she’s got plenty of options."
Posted April 6, 2013
For me, this was a book like no other! I have not found myself underlining, making margin notes and dog earring a book for many years - but this book just ignited me so much that I had to make notes, notes and more notes! I did not merely really like this book, I loved it! No, I have none of those conspiratorial affiliations or associations - this book is just unique and very different. I'm a history buff, especially a British history buff, and I love the cultural aspects of history. This book could have been more tailored to my interests!
Susan Bordo is a philosopher, cultural & feminist historian, and humanities scholar from the University of Kentucky. She has presented us with a finely detailed, acutely researched and edifying history about the 'becoming' of the famous English Queen, Anne Boleyn. Ms. Bordo details precisely how the myth of Anne Boleyn has been created, defined and re-defined over the centuries.
This is not just a history book, nor is it to be considered necessarily biographical in nature. It is rather a book that details how the cultural history of Anne Boleyn over the centuries has morphed into the myth behind the Queen and about how those myths have shaped our understanding, and our version about the 'reality' of this fascinating woman, who, many feel, was a modern age woman confined by the 'feminine strictures' of her 16th century world. Anne Boleyn; was she a saint or a sinner? Was she really the instigator of reformed religion in Britain? Was she, in fact, malformed? Did she truly have the adulterous relationships that led her to the scaffold or was this simply a conspiracy that allowed Henry to bed a more fecund woman who could, he hoped, provide him with a true heir to his throne? How have the myriad characterizations of Anne in books, plays and movies, shaped our common perception of her as a female and Queen? What do we really know about the woman who was Anne Boleyn.
Drawing from myriad and prime sources such as the writings of Eustace Chapuys ,and Thomas Wyatt, Ms. Bordo sets the stage for the beginnings of the mythology that would develop. Topics covered in this book include how a variety of plays and movies, and the actors and actresses in them, have formed a part of our cultural understanding of Anne Boleyn. Ms. Bordo goes into detail about how each actress who has portrayed Anne Boleyn, and each writer who has written about her, have added their own 'personality' stamps to our conceptualizations about this legendary Queen. She has interviewed many of the living actress' and writers up to, and including, Natalie Dormer who played the Queen in the acclaimed TV series, "The Tudors" and writers such as Hilary Mantel. "Additionally, Ms. Bordo has spoken to the directors of plays and films about Anne Boleyn as well. She has researched all of the biographies and extant writings about this, most famous, Queen, and she delineates how these very diverse depictions have shaped our modern understanding and cultural opinions about this maligned, but thoroughly modern, Queen and woman by looking at her in relation to the realities and social norms of her own time.
I especially like an included quote from the famous author, Hilary Mantel, ( author of "Wolf Hall" and "Bringing Up The Bodies" fame) which states "...we always write from our own time...". How true is that? Each generation puts it's own stamp on the 'reality' of history and historical figures. Ms. Bordo attempts to sift through the various 'versions' of Anne Boleyn that have been devised by many authors, film makers, actors, and 'news' sources over the ages to try to distill what the reality of Anne Boleyn was.
I even enjoyed the Chapter headings of the book! They are all so descriptive! Here are a few:
Part One : Queen Interrupted
Henry: How Could He Do It?
Part Two : Recipes for Anne Boleyn
Annes After Lives from She-Tragedy to Historical Romance
The notes and sources pages are monumental! The pages are filled with rich fodder for future reading. The sources include books, periodicals, and websites. Another favorite inclusion is a "fact checker" which posits the facts versus the fiction in some well read books such as "The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory.
When I read historical fiction I remember, first and foremost that I am reading historical fiction - not history. One of my favorite things to do is read a good historical novel along with a non-fiction book concerning the same time period. I enjoy understanding to what extent the author has used the facts and how they have woven their fiction around the facts.! I think doing this had provided me with a wealth of solid historical background that I would certainly not have enjoyed had I merely read the fictional work. I love factual history, which in many cases, can be even more fascinating than fiction!
Have a look at "The Creation Of Anne Boleyn's" Face Book page and the author's blog/website.
This book was a delight to read, and I know, without any doubt, that it will be of interest to a wide array of people; those who love history, those who love British history, cultural historian fans, those who question how the media can "make or break" popularity. It's winner of a read!
This is the advertising verbiage for the book:
"...Part biography, part cultural history, The Creation of Anne Boleyn is a fascinating reconstruction of Anne’s life and an illuminating look at her afterlife in the popular imagination. Why is Anne so compelling? Why has she inspired such extreme reactions? What did she really look like? Was she the flaxen-haired martyr of Romantic paintings or the raven-haired seductress of twenty-first-century portrayals? (Answer: neither.) And perhaps the most provocative questions concern Anne’s death more than her life. How could Henry order the execution of a once beloved wife? Drawing on scholarship and critical analysis, Bordo probes the complexities of one of history’s most infamous relationships.
Bordo also shows how generations of polemicists, biographers, novelists, and filmmakers imagined and re-imagined Anne: whore, martyr, cautionary tale, proto “mean girl,” feminist icon, and everything in between. In this lively book, Bordo steps off the well-trodden paths of Tudoriana to expertly tease out the human being behind the competing mythologies...."
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Posted May 4, 2013
In The Creation of Anne Boleyn, feminist scholar Susan Bordo began with an agenda.
"I would find the 'real' Anne Boleyn and rescue her from the pile of mythology that had built up around her. Presumptuous. Grandiose."
As she proceeded to explore the various historical sources, and the spins and interpretations put upon Anne Boleyn by a plethora of historians, novelists, playwrights, moviemakers, actors, and bloggers, Bordo discovers the “real” Anne Boleyn is not so easy to find.
The book is divided into three sections: Queen, Interrupted - a look at the historical record; Recipes for “Anne Boleyn” - how the fictional story of Anne Boleyn has been mixed and rebaked, according to the time in which it was told; and An Anne for All Seasons - a look at how Anne has been portrayed in motion pictures, with especial attention to Anne of the Thousand Days, the BBC series The Six Wives of Henry VIII, and the Showtime series The Tudors.
I found this book provocative and insightful, the arguments well made, and the book itself flowed well. If you are an Anne Boleyn fan, or even an enemy, you need to read this book.
Bordo points out (repeatedly), that the main historical source for much of the contemporary material about Anne’s life comes from her sworn enemy, who had his own agenda and was trying to the best of his ability to instigate a Spanish invasion of England. Eustace Chapuys, Spanish ambassador, and personal friend of Katharine of Aragon and Princess Mary, never heard a rumor that was derogatory to Anne that he failed to pass on, whether it could be verified or not. Most historians agree that Chapuys was an extremely partisan and unreliable source, yet while sometimes they dismiss what he wrote, in other places they heavily depend upon him for some or much of their material. Additionally, each historian brings his or her own prejudices about Anne, which become apparent in their choice of language (including Bordo, as she admits).
Like Anne Boleyn herself, Susan Bordo is not afraid to make enemies and burn bridges. She blames historians David Starkey and Alison Weir, among others, for giving too much credence to questionable historical evidence and negative portrayals of Anne Boleyn. She also loathes the way popular novelist Philippa Gregory has played fast and loose with what historical facts are agreed upon. Bordo even picks fault with novelists she greatly admires, such as Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall and Bring Out the Bodies. When it comes to motion picture portrayals of Anne, even though Bordo cites the historical inaccuracies of Anne of the Thousand Days, and The Tudors, she is a big fan (as am I) of the underlying spirit, sexuality, and complexity brought to the role of Anne by actresses Geneviève Bujold, and Natalie Dormer, both of whom she interviewed at length for this book.
Bordo takes an analytic look at how Anne Boleyn has fascinated generations, and how each has remade Anne to fit its stereotypes and needs. Was she a scheming seductress? A Protestant martyr? A loving, protective mother - or a cold, calculating one? A raging, vindictive nag? A helpless victim? Was she an early feminist, insisting on sovereignty over her body, and the freedom to express her thoughts and ideas? Bordo includes some interesting answers from a web poll asking “Anne Boleyn - Angel or Devil?:”
“It’s far too simplistic to define her as either an ‘angel’ or ‘devil.’ She was an intelligent, educated, highly sophisticated woman, who certainly possessed many flaws, significant among them being considerable arrogance, but who was also far too complex to be dismissed simply as a ‘bad’ or ‘good’ character... She really was a great deal more than a home-wrecking harlot who ran off with another woman’s husband, but she also wasn’t an innocent lamb who had no idea what she was getting herself into. She was hugely complicated and not easy to dismiss.”
I loved this book because it challenged me to think beyond my own vision of “who Anne Boleyn really was” and to consider that all great historical and fictional characters are impossible to fit into neat little boxes.
"Anne has been less the perpetual victim of the same old sexist stereotyping then she has been a shape-shifting trickster... In cutting her life so short and then ruthlessly disposing of the body of evidence of her “real” existence, Henry made it possible for her to live a hundred different lives, forever."
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Posted June 29, 2013
Like the author I have a huge interest in Anne Boleyn and feel she was not quite as horrible a person as history has made her to be. That being said I don't quite know if I got my money's worth from this book. The first half is more "scholarly" than the second, but I found some of the author's facts to be puzzling. She mentions a "Sommersby" portrait of Anne Boleyn I can't find anywhere online except for a mention on her own website. I did find a "Somerley" portrait online with comments that it could be Anne, was the author meaning to reference this portrait instead? She also asserts siblings kissing on the mouth is "completely appropriate behavior". Maybe so for her, but in my opinion I don't think so. I also was not surprised, knowing the author is a feminist, to find many of the wrongs done to Anne attributed to women hating men. The second half of the book was fun review of most books and entertainment about Anne. Being a fellow fan of The Tudors I loved the interview with Natalie Dormer. It did feel though like I was reading more of a fan magazine than histrical novel.
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Posted July 4, 2013
Confused--your distribution chart lists a one star rating, but there isn't one among the actual ratings/reviews.
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Posted July 11, 2014
In The Creation of Anne Boleyn, Susan Bordo impressively analyzes how and why the modern world sees the doomed queen. Simultaneously scholarly and conversational, she debunks the "truths" nearly everyone spouts about Anne and presents contemporary Tudor era accounts and biases which curiously resemble our own political situation. "Who" reports information becomes paramount in discerning the truth of the information reported. Those characters with political and personal agendas are exposed and reevaluated. Yet Anne remains an enigma who will continue to haunt us all.
This is a book Tudor scholars and casual fans can enjoy.
Posted June 6, 2013
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Posted July 17, 2013
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