Loose “Threads”

Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

Image via Wikipedia

I doubt there’s a soul left who knows me yet doesn’t know of my deep and abiding passion for the Tudor dynasty, but just in case it bears repeating. Also common knowledge is that my favorite of Henry VIII’s wives is Anne Boleyn, and that I believe she’s gotten a terrible reputation from the perpetuation of inaccurate historical reports not only in nonfiction writing but also in novelizations of her life.

That being said, I can’t pass up a good story about Anne Boleyn. I was doing research on the ill-fated Queen and came across “Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII Miscellaneous Facts” at nellgavin.com.  I learned while reading that Gavin had written a book – Threads – about a reincarnated Anne having to make peace with and forgive a reincarnated Henry for his treatment of her. I decided to take a look (“it’s in a book…” ~ Reading Rainbow fans, this is for you)…

Gavin’s clever wordplay and use of imagery draw the reader in from the first page, and though the book’s sections don’t follow each other in a straight linear path they are clearly marked and not difficult to follow. Gavin retells the story of the Tudor queen using well-documented historical information, but rather than that being the central plot it is only one scenario in “Anne”‘s recollection. Threads is what Gavin refers to as a “reincarnation fantasy”, in which we meet “Anne” between lives in a limbo where she evaluates the life she has just finished and the lessons brought with her from lives before it. The reader has the opportunity to see those lives as well, and each one contributes in some way to explaining why Queen Anne lived and died as she did.

In order to avoid confusion, and in a move I appreciated completely, Gavin uses the “Tudor” names for characters who appear in each of Anne’s lives, and only occasionally offers an alternative name for the life in question: Henry is always Henry, Thomas Wyatt is always Thomas Wyatt, Princess Mary is always Princess Mary, and so on. As with Anne, Gavin’s treatment of each character and how they relate to one another provides a compelling literary explanation for the occurrences at Whitehall in the early 1500s; when combined with Anne’s omniscient “inter-life” reflections, it fleshes out an age-old story in a new and refreshing way.

As is usually the case, I drew a certain conclusion from the brief description I read on Gavin’s Web site, and I was eager to see a modern-day Henry-Anne relationship much like the relationship between Declan and Angelina in Nora Roberts’ Midnight Bayou (side note: don’t judge, and if you’re ever looking for a “romance novel” that defies its genre, check her out) — a story of physical and metaphysical reconnection that ultimately resolves a centuries-old conflict between two people. Unfortunately in this case, Gavin had other plans. Without thoroughly giving away the ending I will simply say I was disappointed with it and, had I wielded the pen, I would have done things differently.

However, I finished the book last week and have since taken a few days to mull it over. I may not agree with Gavin’s ending, but I appreciate how well it fits with the rest of the story — rather than jumping on a one-way train to the conclusion, Gavin focuses on every minute aspect of the journey and really makes the reader feel a part of it. Likewise, I disagreed with her use of certain apocryphal tales about Anne (such as the sixth finger rumor) and with one plot point that she explains in the Afterword has absolutely no basis in history, but the incorporation of each of those details is done purposefully and justified in the narrative.

I will read this story again. Hopefully next time I will pick up on even more than I did in my first read, but either way I know that I’m in for a wonderful story.

You can find Threads in print and for the NOOK at Barnes & Noble in print or NOOKbook, or at other major book retailers.

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