The Queen of Subtleties: A Novel of Anne Boleyn

The Queen of Subtleties: A Novel of Anne Boleyn - Suzannah Dunn I picked up The Queen of Subtleties in the book store and was immediately impressed by the opening lines, written in the voice of Anne Boleyn: "Elizabeth, you'll be told lies about me..." (1). Since I'm a firm believer in a book with a good opening, I picked it up and settled down to read it. I think Dunn has really brought her two narrators to life. Chapters forming a letter from Anne (imprisoned and awaiting her execution) to her daughter alternate with standard first-person narration from Lucy Cornwallis, confectioner to Henry VIII and friend of Mark Smeaton. While Anne's chapters look back on her rise to power, Lucy's deal with the Queen's fall. The two women have very different views of the world, of politics, of love, and Dunn has succeeded in showing that not only through what they say, but how they say it. One could not mistake one of Anne's passages for one of Lucy's. But within this wonderful characterization, I did have a little trouble with the language of the novel. While I understand that a novel written in the English of 1535 would be incomprehensible to modern readers, I found that Dunn's prose really lack a sense of 'old-worldliness'. Several of her phrases jarred me completely out of the past, such as Anne referring to her former suitor as "her ex", and Smeaton translating Anne's motto of "It's going to happen, whether they like it or not" into the so-modern-sounding "Tough." Striking a balance between past and present English is a tricky thing, and I think Dunn's scale is weighted a little heavily on the modern side. If one doesn't mind that, as much as I do, I know The Queen of Subtleties will provide wonderful entertainment. As it is, I still enjoyed it.