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Of Letters and of Sciences

Welcome! This is a blog about literature and books that are critical to any social discourse: literary, cultural, racial, gender-based. A blog for humanists, scholars, the curious, and thinkers and thinkeresses.

"Jane Boleyn": Currently Reading...And Ranting

Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford - Julia Fox

This is making me very upset indeed.


The author is not a historian. That can be fine, but when you're dealing with biography and history, particularly history of another nation 500 years ago, you need to be a trained historian or, at least, a biographer to understand and clearly communicate the trends and threads in the subject's life.


I feel as though Julia Fox has as much of an interest in Tudor history as I do, but, literally, the first 150 pages of this (300 page) book are the most generic, social-studies-y sentences I've ever read as an adult. I'm not intending to be harsh. Phrases such as the following abound:

"The Field of the Cloth of Gold occurred in 1520. Here's what happened: [insert entire account of the Field of the Cloth of Gold]. + [Fox remembers she is writing a book about Jane Boleyn] + Per this historical event, we do not know whether Jane attended it, but she likely did because a Tudor woman at court at that time likely would have gone to the event. We also don't know if Anne Boleyn was there, but  maybe she was! And, hey, maybe the two of them met! We don't know, but maybe Jane caught a glimpse of her future sister-in-law!"


And so on.


It's really disappointing :(


I am by no means suggesting that only historians should write these kinds of books; I just don't think Fox is a good writer. She's been loosely explaining the general world of Tudor politics to me for 150 pages. It's great if you're completely unfamiliar with Tudor England, but not so great if you're looking for a specialized, pointed account of a relatively obscure figure in history (Jane Boleyn), as I was.


Also, I suspect most people interested in books like these are not newcomers to the historical atmosphere in which the events occurred. And I know it's important to understand the backdrop of Jane's life, but, for God's sake, in a biography, do not waste 100 pages talking about things that relate little or not-at-all to your subject. This needn't be a speculative "Jane may have done this because many Tudor women did". It needs to be pointed, clearly stated, and even aggressive in tackling its subject matter.


Oh, and may I add that dramatic writing has no place in such a book? As in, using fragments for dramatic effect. Case in point: (paraphrasing) "This was not good for Henry. At all." or "This made things hard. Really."


That's just not good writing.


//end rant.