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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Concubine by Norah Lofts

Genre: Historical Fiction

Copyright: 2007 (first published 1974)

Pages: 464


Let me start this review by saying that this is the BEST novel I’ve ever read on Anne Boleyn. Like EVER.

I shant bore you with a summary since everyone and their dog knows the story of Anne Boleyn. I will say that Lofts portrayal of Anne seems to me to be the most believable and that this is actually the first novel that I’ve read where I felt empathy for Anne. Anne chose the motto, “The Most Happy”, but her story seems to be far from happy.

From this novel I learned a few things that had never really been focused on before. The heartbreak Anne experienced in her teens when Cardinal Wolsey dashed her hopes of marrying the first and only real love of her life, Henry Percy, was a turning point in Anne’s life. Gone was the romantic, lively girl who only wanted to be a simple Knight’s wife (she says she would rather be Henry’s Countess than Henry’s Queen) – in her place a hardened, spiteful woman emerges. Anne vowed then and there to revenge the wrong Wolsey had done her and she would live her life dedicated to that mission.

Another thing I didn’t realize is how quickly Henry’s love for Anne dies after she finally surrenders to him. After all those years of dragging him along, the night he had been dreaming of for seven long years fails to live up to the hype and he’s pissed! I’m not sure what he expected given that Anne was still a virgin, but Henry lost whatever had attracted him in the first place instantly that night.

There are also a few differences with historical facts in this novel that have me confused. It was written in 1963, so I’m thinking it may have to do with when it was written and what new facts came to light after:

• Lofts had Anne’s mother dead before Anne met Henry. Her mother was actually still alive 2 years after her execution.
• Lofts speaks of Henry having had an affair with Anne’s mother. I had never heard that before – I wonder if there is any truth to that.
• In Lofts version, Anne miscarries after getting the news that Henry was dying from a fall, but I’ve also read that she miscarries after finding Jane Seymour sitting on Henry’s knee. Also, Lofts suggests that the baby she was carrying was not Henry’s. Supposedly Anne had miscarried Henry’s baby months ago, but was afraid to tell him, so she needed to get pregnant again to keep her lie.

If you have any thoughts as to the above, I would love to hear what you think!

Overall, The Concubine is an engrossing and riveting novel of an enchanting woman and I most highly recommend for anyone wanting to get to know the real story of Anne Boleyn.

Visit Amy @ Passages to the Past


dolleygurl said...

I haven't read this book yet, but it has been on my TBR for awhile. It is always interesting to see how different authors understand facts. Some of those historical "differences" are interesting. The one that most bothers me is that she had miscarried his baby previously and got pregnant again - that sounds like someone perpetrating the evil anne angle. Great review!

lilly said...

I haven't even heard of Lofts, not to mention this particular book but I guess there's just one more HF author to jump on the TBR bandwagon :).
Anyway, I am slightly tired with all the books and movies and series about Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII but maybe I will give this book one last chance because it does sound interesting.

Robinbird said...

I have this and enjoyed it, though some of the facts you pointed out did make me raise an eyebrow. I have read in other books that there was suspicion that Henry may have had an affair with Elizabeth Boleyn but I don't know if there was ever any evidence. In Harper's "The Last Boleyn" it is put forward that he asked Elizabeth B to be his mistress and turned him down, pissing off her husband royally.

As for her mother, I've come across different accounts: that she was alive after Anne was executed, that she had died years before, and also that Anne had a stepmother at the time she met Henry.

Ms. Lucy said...

Amy this sounds so good! You know, you pointed out something that made me think..I too have yet to read something that totally endears me to Anne- the empathy thing..It would be interesting to read how the author helps bring that out- I'd love to read it.
As for the other facts; I always thought her mom passed away before her. And as for Henry and his mother-in-law (OK the guy had lots of defects but...)I never read that anywhere before.
Great review Amy- Thanks!

Daphne said...

I agree 100% with you - it's my favorite as well (Plaidy's The Lady in the Tower is a close secdon). I really do think we have to be a little more lenient regarding some historical "facts" with older books. Sometimes, new information is found which makes things previously thought as "fact" no longer the case. Plus, they didn't have the internet to do research!

Bella said...

Oh you had me with the first paragraph. I'm definitely going to have to get this one.

Thanks for the great review :)

Kate said...

I've never heard of this book before. But I want it now. It sounds like my type of book.

Esme said...

Thanks for the review I will add this to my TBR-like it needs another book.

The Book Resort said...

It's going on my list. Thanks!

Jennifer said...

Brilliant review! I am definitely adding this to my TBR list. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I love books on Anne Boleyn, but I must say my favorite one was Murder Most Royal by Jean Plaidy. I think her portrayal was sympathetic as well as realistic,

Thanks for the review on this one. I will be sure to pick it up

Jenny Girl said...

sounds like a great read. Whatever people may say about Anne, the woman knew what she wanted, went after it, and got it. Anne helped to change England and people tend to forget that I think.
All she did was use the tools that God gave her ;)

Teddyree said...

I've got a few Norah Lofts' books on my wishlist, will have to check if this is one of them... it sounds great.