Saturday, December 6, 2014

Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia Fox (2007)

Jane Boleyn is one of those classic bitches from historical fiction, mean girl extraordinaire.  Almost a comic villainess, and always portrayed a certain way.  Whether stylishly literary in Hilary Mantel or high historical fiction in Philippa Gregory, she's a conniving, back stabbing, whispering witch.  She's usually a supporting character to the drama of Anne Boleyn as well, hiding in the shadows until out from under her rock she springs, to sink her fangs into Anne's

Julia Fox's subtitle makes you think you're going to get some juicy details on Jane Boleyn.  It's all marketing though - the real Jane Boleyn, or at least what Julia Fox can find out about her - is so boring.

What's truly frustrating is the many, many times Julia Fox use conjecture  in the life of Jane Boleyn.  Horses stamp nervously twice - clearly fiction, as Fox wasn't there to see them.  Sometimes Jane is excited or nervous, or "obviously" sees or does something - but I'm not exactly sure how Fox knows this.  I can forgive all this except for the one major piece of conjecture, Fox just skates right over:  why would Jane Boleyn betray her sister-in-law and husband, even accusing them of incest?  That's a pretty shitty thing to do, however you slice it, and at the very least Julia Fox could give us some guesses as to why.  But (so far) she's mum on this subject, and it's driving me nuts.

Why even write about Jane Boleyn if you aren't going to give us some new theories on her treachery and betrayal?  So very, very disappointing.

I finally put this down.  Here's a few annoying sentences, verbatim:

"When she attended the Field of Cloth of Gold, Jane had wandered through the Great Hall of Henry's temporary palace at Guisnes, spellbound by what she had seen."  How does she even know ANY of this?  According to the notes for Chapter 2, Fox guesses that Mistress Parker from the records present with the English court at the Field of Cloth of Gold is indeed Jane Parker (pre-Boleyn) - but how does Fox know what she did while she was there?  And spellbound?  Maybe she spat and farted upon the clothes of gold.   This is annoying.

Here's another one.  The sack of Rome by Emperor Charles, Fox claims that "Jane was as horrified as the rest of the court by these outrages."  What the what?  How does Fox know she was horrified?  Maybe she hated the pope.  Maybe she didn't even care. She was only a teenager at the time, maybe cared more about clothes and boys than the faraway pope.    This is annoying.


Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady RochfordJane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia Fox
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book is full of little stinging bugs that fly out and bite the reader all the time.  Little annoyances.  Let's start with this one:  "When she attended the Field of Cloth of Gold, Jane had wandered through the Great Hall of Henry's temporary palace at Guisnes, spellbound by what she had seen."  How does Fox even know ANY of this?  According to the notes for Chapter 2, Fox guesses that Mistress Parker from the records present with the English court at the Field of Cloth of Gold is indeed Jane Parker (pre-Boleyn).  I'm good with the guessing about the identity of Mistress Parker; I think the records come close enough to proving this.  And maybe Fox can even guess that Jane wandered through the Great Hall.  But spellbound?  She was a teenage girl at the time - maybe she was catty about everything and giggled at inappropriate times.  Maybe she shat upon the cloths of gold.  My guesses about Jane Boleyn's feelings are as good as Fox's. Biting flies: here's another: The sack of Rome by Emperor Charles, Fox claims that "Jane was as horrified as the rest of the court by these outrages."  What the what?  How does Fox know she was horrified?  Maybe she hated the pope.  Maybe she didn't even care. Maybe cared more about clothes and boys than the faraway pope.    Biting flies.  Horses stamp nervously - twice.  Annoying.  Jane Boleyn is a shadowy figure; if you know anything about Tudor history, you know that she's a supporting character at best. Her portrayal in historical fiction, whether literarily by Hilary Mantel or scandalously by Philippa Gregory is always a gossipy, scheming, unpleasant and at the end treacherous bitch.  Julia Fox's subtitle would lead you to believe that we're going to hear the true story of Lady Rochford's infamy.  But I'm calling bullshit on this book.  If Fox is going to guess about horses stamping and girls being spellbound, She can at the very least make her main study INTERESTING.  Or maybe even sympathetic.  Fox just made her boring.  And Jane Boleyn was probably NOT boring.


View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive

Followers