Sunday, June 08, 2008

32. The Boleyn Inheritance

by Philippa Gregory
audiobook narrated by Davina Porter, Bianca Amato, and Charlotte Parry

This excellent Tudor historical fiction was made even better by outstanding narration on the audiobook. Gregory's book focuses on Henry VIII's fourth and fifth wives, Anne of Cleves and Katharine Howard. Tying their stories together is Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, wive of George who was executed along with his sister Anne Boleyn, thanks in part to Jane's testimony. Jane serves as a lady-in-waiting to both Anne and Katharine.

Davina Porter narrates Jane, and her voice is perfect for the bitter widow who refuses to acknowledge her part in her own husband's demise. Gregory's portrait of the Germanic Anne of Cleves, voiced by Bianca Amato, is that of a not-unattractive, intelligent woman hampered by her sheltered upbringing, unfashionable style, and poor English. Gregory contrives a plausible incident for Henry taking an immediate dislike to Anne.

The highlight of this novel was Charlotte Parry's rendition of Tudor teenager Katharine Howard - at times overly excitable, at times sulky, always a bubbly airhead. Gregory started most of Katharine's narrations with "now, let me see...what do I have now?", an accounting of the materialistic girl's rising, then declining wealth. I loved the way Gregory had Katharine use the French "voila!" when realization dawned on the naive girl, and Parry did a marvelous job depicting Katharine's flirtations and growing passion for the king's aide, Thomas Culpeper.

Gregory's books have made me want to read more about these real people, including the ambitious and cruel Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard, kin to Jane and Katherine, who used them both.

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