Friday, October 22, 2010
Brief Gaudy Hour
Oh entrancing, bewitching woman! Anne, how do you hold us captive five hundred years after your death? What compels us to read and write your story again and again and again?
"Brief Gaudy Hour" is a novel originally written in the 1940's that has a strange, haunting resonance today. It brings Anne Boleyn to life in a compassionate, honest manner that is both respectful and accurate (at least as far as the information in the 40's allowed).
Anne is a character with whom I have a sort of "Pride and Prejudice" romance. I've gone from hating her, to nearly revering her as the woman to whom I owe my current religious freedom. I suppose I see her in some was as the patroness of the current Protestant church, however unintended that result may have been.
She fascinates me, as I think she does many historians. Her marriage and coronation were completely unprecedented acts. So was her wretched farce of a trial and beheading.
What is so frustrating is that so many things about her will remain forever unknown. Her letters were nearly completely destroyed. We don't even know her date of birth. And yet she completely changed the world.
I've read many entries in the world of Tudor Fiction, and they all have their pros and cons. My favorite is undoubtedly "Coronation of Glory" (Lady Jane Grey) but I have to say, "Brief Gaudy Hour" makes a strong second. It portrays Anne very much as I imagine her to be. Neither saint nor sorceress. A woman aware of her own witchery and thrust into a situation where she had little choice to flee and ever chance of winning all by cunning wit.
It is an adult book, and deals with a court well seeped in sexuality. Yet it contains no overly graphic sexual scenes and treats the subject in a respectful yet historically accurate manner. I wouldn't recommend it for teen readers, but the college crowd and up should find it engrossing and well worth pursuing.