Friday, December 28, 2012

Historical Fiction: 16th Century England

I am reading The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau set in 16th century England.  The Matthew Shardlake historical fiction series written by C. J. Sansom cover this same period.  Whereas Sansom's first book in the series and our book club selection, Dissolution,  took us into a monastery; The Crown takes us inside a nunnery.  The narrator is Joanna, 27 years old, a novice of the Dominican Order at the Dartford Priory, a former lady in waiting to Queen Katherine; King Henry V111's first wife, cousin of King Henry himself, and a member of the nobility; of the Stafford clan.  The book opens with Joanna leaving the convent, without permission, to be with her cousin Margaret Bulmer at her death; actually her burning to death.  Margaret was accused of  high treason and the specific time period is very much like Sovereign by C. J. Sansom.  The historical figures mentioned to establish the historical setting are Anne Boleyn who is about to give birth, Sir Richard Rich, Thomas Cranmer and also Robert Aske, leader of the Pilgrimage of Grace; an uprising in York.

Joanna's challenge is to find the former King Athelstan's crown which is supposed to be hidden in the Dartford Priory and get word secretly to Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, advisor to King Henry V111  in exchange for her father's safety.  So far this is not a thriller like the books in the Matthew Shardlake series but it is very interesting with a lot of historical details about the Kings of England.

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