Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir
Six Tudor Queens. Hachette, 2019. ISBN: 9781472227737.
(Age: Adult - Adolescent) This compelling work vividly recreates the rule of the iconic King Henry VIII. Anna is forced by her brother, Wilhelm, ruler of the duchy of Kleve, to marry the English King Henry, in order to align their countries. Henry had liked her portrait and finds that he likes her, but cannot make love to her to produce the important extra heir to the English throne. In this new historical novel, part of her series Six Tudor Queens, Alison Weir has vividly recreated Anna's story from the surviving historical documents. This was a time when alliances were being made by those who supported the growing Protestant movement, a time of great upheaval in Europe where Catholicism had been dominant for so many years.
Weir's narrative is richly detailed and deeply thought-provoking. She raises the issue of planned alliances, with the 'right' marriage considered as useful in healing rifts and cementing support among the many countries of that world. Yet we are aware of the fear of those who are involved in withholding truth and of those who do not do what Henry wants, that they may be jailed, beheaded or hanged for their perceived crime. Anna's secrets make her fear for her life.
While Henry cannot understand his inability to love Anna as he had planned, her intelligence gives her an advantage that is outside the realm of her questionable sexual attraction. When Henry decides that she is a good friend to him as a dear 'sister', her fear begins to lessen, although the secret that she keeps from him is never far from her mind, as is her fear that the truths that she conceals will be her undoing.
This is a compelling story, one that is indeed hard to put down. Written for those who love history, particularly when the writer recreates the world of the text so brilliantly, this novel is powerful, its characters and issues staying in the mind long after the book is finished. It is appropriate for adolescent and adult reading, particularly for readers who enjoy the vivid recreation of the life and times of such an iconic king as Henry Tudor.