Friday, March 07, 2008

13. Innocent Traitor

by Alison Weir

Weir is a well-known historian, with four of her books about Henry VIII, his wives and children. This is her first novel, about Lady Jane Grey, the “nine days queen.” Weir does an excellent job of reflecting life in late-1500s England, especially from a child’s viewpoint (the story of four-year-old Jane’s solution to a need to relieve herself at a formal dinner is priceless!).

I would characterize this book as a biographical novel, similar to those of Irving Stone, rather than as historical fiction. It is written in a diary-like style so popular today, and from multiple viewpoints. This helps to clarify Jane’s rather complex story.

The audiobook did an excellent job showcasing these viewpoints with different, talented British actors and actresses, many that I’ve heard on other recent audiobooks:

Stina Nielsen as Jane (marvelous, only unbelievable as a four-year-old narrating her own story – I know children and especially girls had to mature more quickly in those days, but her vocabulary at that age is rather unrealistic, and this is the fault of the writer and not this narrator);

Davina Porter as Jane’s hard-hearted, ambitious mother, Frances Brandon, niece of Henry VIII;

Jenny Sterlin as Jane’s life-long nurse and surrogate mother, Mrs. Ellen;

Jill Tanner as Jane’s guardian (briefly), protector, and advocate, Queen Katherine Parr, widow of Henry VIII and then wife to Thomas Seymour, who was maneuvering to marry his nephew, Henry’s son King Edward, to Jane;

Bianca Amato as Jane’s distant cousin, Princess/Queen Mary, oldest daughter of Henry VIII; and

Gerald Doyle as John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, who schemes to put Jane on the throne after Edward’s death and marries his son to her so he may be king (his voice sounds particularly evil, fitting his character).

The print version does have a few things the audiobook does not, however; namely a family tree and map, as well as an author’s note (which could have easily been read in the audiobook) that explains that most of the characters and events in the book really existed/happened. Weir used as many of Jane’s own words as possible, and states that “Some parts of the book may seem far-fetched; they are the parts most likely to be based on fact,” and gives examples.

I thought this was a fantastic book and I am looking forward to reading other histories by Weir as well as her upcoming second novel on Elizabeth I. This book also spikes my interest in reading some of Philippa Gregory’s books on Ann Boleyn and others in the same era.


  1. I just finished The Other Boleyn Girl, which I thought was a great read. This sounds like a nice complement - maybe I'll download it from Audible at some point. I noticed that Davina Porter is one of the narrators. She narrates the Outlander series, and I have really enjoyed listening to her!

  2. Here's a good interview with the author about the book - meant to include this link in my review!