The Creation of Anne Boleyn:
A New Look at England's Most Notorious Queen
Published 2013, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Part biography, part cultural history, The Creation of Anne Boleyn is a fascinating reconstruction of Anne’s life and an illuminating look at her afterlife in the popular imagination. Why is Anne so compelling? Why has she inspired such extreme reactions? What did she really look like? Was she the flaxen-haired martyr of Romantic paintings or the raven-haired seductress of twenty-first-century portrayals? (Answer: neither.) And perhaps the most provocative questions concern Anne’s death more than her life. How could Henry order the execution of a once beloved wife? Drawing on scholarship and critical analysis, Bordo probes the complexities of one of history’s most infamous relationships.
Bordo also shows how generations of polemicists, biographers, novelists, and filmmakers imagined and re-imagined Anne: whore, martyr, cautionary tale, proto “mean girl,” feminist icon, and everything in between. In this lively book, Bordo steps off the well-trodden paths of Tudoriana to expertly tease out the human being behind the competing mythologies.
'Why is Anne Boleyn so fascinating?' Susan Bordo asks at the beginning of her richly engrossing new book The Creation of Anne Boleyn...Her enthusiasm is infectious, and her range is impressive, covering a dozen major novels – from Francis Hackett’s 1939 novel Queen Anne Boleyn to Margaret Campbell Barnes’ Brief Gaudy Hour (1949), Norah Lofts’ The Concubine (1963), and more modern bestsellers like Phlippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies—and all the major film and stage interpretations of Anne’s tempestuous relationship with Henry VIII, including the Charles Laughton camp-fest The Private Life of Henry VIII, the BBC mini-series The Six Wives of Henry VIII, the great 1969 movie Anne of the Thousand Days, and of course Showtime’s vamping, moronic The Tudors...Bordo charts the changes in Anne’s portrayal over the years, drawing up handy lists of historical errors, sparing nobody, not even Mantel...The focus of the book in these parts shimmers all over the fictional landscape, always with an acute eye:
The Tudors has replaced Charles Laughton’s blustering, chicken-chomping buffoon with Jonathan Rhys Meyer’s lean, athletic bad boy. Wolf Hall exposes Thomas More as coldly, viciously pious and turns the ruthless, calculating Cromwell we know from depictions of his role in Anne Boleyn’s death into a true “man for all seasons”: warm, loyal, and opportunistic only because his survival requires it...The Creation of Anne Boleyn creates in its readers the deep hunger for more of the same; it’ll be a cold-hearted reader indeed who doesn’t finish the book wishing Bordo would have expanded it into a big fat study of the history and fiction of all the wives – or better yet, of Anne’s own daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. But our author is something of an intellectual dynamo, and unlike poor Anne, she’s got plenty of options.
Open Letters Monthly,
By turns sassy and serious, playful and profound, Susan Bordo cuts through the layers of legend, fantasy, and untruth that history and culture have attached to Anne Boleyn, while proving that the facts about that iconic queen are every bit as intriguing as the fictions.
If you think you know who Anne Boleyn was, think again. In this rigorously argued yet deliciously readable book, Susan Bordo bursts through the dead weight of cultural stereotypes and historical clichés to disentangle the fictions that we have created from the fascinating, elusive woman that Henry VIII tried—unsuccessfully—to erase from historical memory. This is a book that has long been needed to set the record straight, and Bordo knocked it out of the park. Brava!
Susan Bordo astutely re-examines Anne’s life and death anew and peels away the layers of untruth and myth that have accumulated since. The Creation of Anne Boleynis a refreshing, iconoclastic and moving look at one of history’s most intriguing women. It is rare to find a book that rouses one to scholarly glee, feminist indignation and empathetic tears, but this is such a book.
A great read for Boleyn fans and fanatics alike
The University of Kentucky humanities chair does a superb job of separating fact from fiction in contemporary accounts of Boleyn’s life, before deftly deconstructing the myriad and contradictory portraits of her that have arisen in the centuries since her death.
Susan Bordodid the impossible - made me excited to read about the Tudors again while reminding me to approach history and historical fiction with curiosity and a questioning mind.
Historical Fiction Notebook
Rivetting…Bordo’s eloquent study not only recovers Anne Boleyn for our times but also demonstrates the ways in which legends grow out of the faintest wisps of historical fact, and develop into tangled webs of fact and fiction that become known as the truth.
Delightfully cheeky, solidly researched…[Bordo] uses her good sense and academic training to shrewdly chip away at historical commentary, which has hardened speculation into supposed 'facts.'
The Daily Beast
A feast of feminism and history…fascinates readers, and informs and entertains along the way.
A fascinating and accessible study of Anne Boleyn's history and popular myth.
Bordo’s sharp reading of Boleyniana and her clear affection for this proud, unusual woman make this an entertaining, provocative read.
The Boston Globe
Beautiful, intelligent and true
Genevieve Bujold, actress,
Eloquent, moving and discerning
Natalie Dormer, actress,
The New York Times
Bordo does a superb job of separating fact from fiction in contemporary accounts of Boleyn’s life, before deftly deconstruction the myriad and contradictory portraits that have arisen in the centuries since her death.
Delightfully Cheeky, solidly researched
Moving, disconcerting and exhilarating