I have to start my review by saying how much I love this series. The Tudors have been in vogue for quite some time now, both in print and on TV, and while these different representations are often well done, they are also done from Henry’s point of view. What makes this series of books so special is that they are written from the woman’s point of view, which then provides a completely different perspective on a story that you think you already know. Plus as the queens’ stories intersect, you see an a particular moment in time from different perspectives as you go through the series, which is also very fun.
The second book in Alison Weir’s Six Tudor Queens series, A King’s Obsession is a story of self-preservation, an attempt to influence one’s own destiny, and the enticing temptation of absolute power. The book tells Anne Boleyn’s story, from childhood being sent abroad to the courts of Europe, to her courtship with Henry until she becomes Queen, and is then later (I don’t feel bad about this spoiler because honestly, if you didn’t know this … fix your life) beheaded for treason.
What I love is that while reading the book, the reader can really see her evolution as a person and the reasons why she became what she did. I was particularly interested in the beginning, where she started out as a young woman who was trying to learn from the mistakes of others and protecting her reputation at all costs and taking the example of forward thinking female leaders of the time. In the second part you see her transformation, first drunk on power and using it to push forward her religious reformist agenda despite her lack of love for the king, and then later her unravelling as she loses her grip on what is happening around her, until she eventually loses everything.
What I find most compelling in this story (outside of the fact that history really does provide the best gossip) was the plight of the women in the story, and their limited choices. The king of France raped Anne’s sister Mary, she had no recourse and her reputation was ruined. Anne was pursued by the King, she had to be very careful on how to handle the advances because she could not simply say she was not interested and go off and live her life. When she tried, it was the men of the court, her father, the Cardinal, the King, and so many others, who blocked her choices, using her for their own political gains. A woman did not exist for herself, but for the betterment of her family. She tried to make those gains her own, and even won for a while, but as always when in a position of weakness such as hers, with no recourse, it is difficult to come out a victor. Undoubtedly lessons learned by her daughter when the time came for her to rule.
While of course things have changed today in some parts of the world, it got me thinking about the plight of women in general, and the fact that in many parts of the world, this is still the case. How sad it is that even after hundreds of years, things haven’t changed that much. Or perhaps better put, not enough.
I would definitely recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction, even if you think you know Anne’s story. The main plot elements are the same, but the perspective changes everything. The writing isn’t magical, but it’s an interesting story, a fun and easy read.