By Susan Bordo. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 368 pages. $27
By Suzanne Wardle | firstname.lastname@example.org
When Susan Bordo began researching Anne Boleyn for another project, she found conflicting representations — Henry VIII’s second wife was the ultimate sinner, a misunderstood saint, a raven-haired schemer, a blond intellectual, the deformed bearer of a deformed fetus, the dignified mother of the king’s healthiest child.
Entranced not only by these depictions of Anne, but also by the woman herself, Bordo compiled her findings, thoughts and research into “The Creation of Anne Boleyn,” a book that examines Anne’s portrayal in books, movies and television. The result is a feast of feminism and history.
Bordo begins with the history of Anne and analysis of the historical sources from which we draw our information — most of them, she points out, are detractors eager to smear her. Their unreliable commentary turned into myth then crystalized into information commonly accepted as facts — Anne’s infamous sixth finger, her alleged sex with her brother, her machinations against various figures at court. Bordo pokes holes in each one, with assuredness and a touch of humor. It’s necessary background and a must-read for anyone who thinks “The Tudors” or “The Other Boleyn Girl” are factual, but it does drag a little for those familiar with Anne and the Tudors.
The most interesting parts are the research into Anne’s death — a fate even her critics admit she faced bravely — and an analysis of Henry VIII’s abandonment of the woman for whose hand he caused years of turmoil. Read more »