Posted By Claire on August 9, 2011
As someone who has been researching Anne Boleyn full-time for the past two years I’m always apprehensive about reading fictional portrayals of Anne and whether the author’s Anne will fit in with the Anne I’ve come to know from the primary sources. Fortunately, novelist Sandra Byrd made it her mission to tell Anne’s real story and even went as far as consulting an historical researcher, a lady I know well (Lauren Mackay), to make sure that her book was as historically accurate as possible. This attention to detail really showed.
“To Die For” is, as the subtitle suggests, a novel about Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, but it is told through the eyes of Anne’s childhood friend, Meg Wyatt. It is a book of two stories: Anne’s rise to Queen, and subsequent downfall, and Meg’s story. Meg struggles with her faith and her love for a man who seems out of reach and this is paralleled with Anne’s story as she seeks to further the reformist cause and falls in love with the King, a man who is already married and a man who has to take extraordinary steps to be with his love. We all know how Anne’s story ends but does Meg have a happy ending? Well, I won’t tell you as it would spoil the story.
I highly recommend this novel. I am hard to please when it comes to Anne Boleyn, as she is a huge part of my daily life, but Sandra did an amazing job of bringing her to life and not once did I want to throw the book out of the window or bang my head on my desk!
The reader can’t help but be drawn in by her story when her story is told by Meg, somebody who knows Anne inside out and who knows the ins and outs of the Tudor court and how fickle it can be. The Anne of the novel is a woman who is in love with the King, an evangelical who uses her position to reform the Church and a woman who trusted her husband implicitly. As Anne waits to die she talks to Meg of how people are saying that “justice is served” because she “forced Henry to set aside Katherine” but that she “truly believed” Henry, she believed him when he told her “that his marriage to Katherine had been dead for years… his marriage had been invalid, cursed, because of Arthur. That God had told him he must marry anew and get him a son for the realm. ” Anne goes on to say, “I trusted him and carried forth with honest intent certain in the knowledge that Henry would not lie to me.” Although many say that Anne Boleyn did not love Henry VIII and that she was simply an ambitious and manipulative woman who would do anything for power, these words ring true to me. I believe that Anne truly loved Henry and believed in his cause and the religious argument against his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. I think that Sandra Byrd explains Anne and her motives so well. Anne is real, she is tangible and her character makes sense. Congratulations, Sandra.
But what about Meg Wyatt? Well, the reader cannot help but fall in love with Meg. As someone who has a strong faith I could empathise with Meg as she questioned her faith and turned her back on it and my heart really did go out to her. She is a wonderful character. What is interesting, though, about Meg, is that she is not the Margaret Wyatt who became Lady Lee. Sandra writes, in the Author’s Note, of how the dates of birth of Henry Wyatt’s children, his date of marriage and the birthdate of Lady Lee suggested something else to her and the Lady Lee of her story is actually the daughter of Meg’s half-sister. Confused? Well, you’ll just have to check out Sandra’s “Wyatt Family Tree ” and Author’s Note where she explains this and many other things, like her thoughts on Henry VIII’s psyche, the Reformation and the fascination people have with Anne Boleyn. A very interesting section.
So, does this book pass my historical fiction test?…
1. Is it “unputdownable”? – A resounding yes. I read this book in a weekend and loved every minute of it. It was a delight.
2. Does it make you want to research the characters more? – Obviously I am already spending my daily life researching Anne Boleyn but I do believe that if somebody who didn’t know about Anne picked up this book then it would give them a hunger to find out more about her. It left me thinking that I really must research the Wyatts more as it is clear that the the Boleyns and Wyatts were friends.
3. Is it believable? – Yes. Sandra Byrd is a talented writer and really brings these women and the people around them to life, but she has also gone the extra mile and researched the period, the clothes the wore, what daily life was like for them etc. and that has really paid off.
Please do pick up a copy of “To Die For” if you love historical fiction, you won’t be disappointed.
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (August 9, 2011)
“To Die For” author, Sandra Byrd, has written a guest article over at The Anne Boleyn Files – see http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/meg-wyatt-the-faithful-friend-by-sandra-byrd/10464/ – and has also kindly donated a $50 Anne Boleyn Files voucher for our competition, plus 5 copies of “To Die For”. Find out more at http://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/to-die-for-competition/10466/