Wednesday, September 9, 2009
BOOK REVIEW: A Lady Raised High, by Laurien Gardner
A Lady Raised High is the story of Frances Pierce, Anne Boleyn’s first maid-of-honour; loyal and faithful to her until the queen’s tragic end.
Frances‘father was a baronet in Hertfordshire and her mother, a French baron’s daughter. The family pretty much ran their own estate and took care of their lands and tenants. Against the proper order of things, such as finding a husband and living off the land-Frances, a seventeen year-old girl who cared more about writing poetry than learning how to fold linen, aspired to a life filled with poetry, romance and adventure.
The story begins with an adventure in itself when King Henry VIII, his hunting party, and the Lady Anne, his future bride, pass through Frances’ village. Contrary to Frances’s excitement of witnessing the event, some of the milling villagers had another kind of welcome in plan for England’s future queen…
Rather than the usual cheering and festive turnout for such an occasion, some of the local women had gathered mud to slay the hated woman who they thought bewitched the King into throwing their good Queen Catherine aside. Aware of their dangerous and humiliating plan, Frances immediately rides her horse to the receiving side to serve as shield and protector. Frances takes the blows of mud and stones for the beautiful Lady Anne.
Anne is grateful to Frances for her display of courage and protection. In turn, she summons the brave girl to her court where she appoints her as lady-in-waiting. Needless to say, this is a great disappointment to Frances’ family. Despite her beliefs, Frances’ mother understands that being at court could increase her daughter’s chances of marrying well. Hence, she concedes and gives Frances permission to go.
From then on, Frances is always by Anne’s side. Frances’ innocence, kindness and attempts to cheer through verses and rhymes endear her to her Queen. She becomes Anne’s most trusted confidante. A rarity in itself since life at court was a place where no one could be trusted. Deception and treachery abounded in every corner and Frances’ innocence led her to almost lose her ways. ..Enter Jack Carlisle…her savior in more ways than one- but also King Henry’s faithful servant and right-hand man…
The story, seen through Frances’ eyes is told with such clarity and flow that it was an absolute pleasure for me to read this. Throughout the book we encounter historical figures that play both key and minor roles in Anne’s life. I really enjoyed reading some of the dialog that Frances shared with Mary Howard, her then good friend. Tid-bits of other characters’ lives are also enmeshed into the plot-making it such an interesting and credible read. For instance, George Boleyn is an integral part of this book seen through the eyes of an infatuated young Frances, bringing about a completely different perspective that resulted in a course of events that I wasn’t expecting at all.
Another thing that was especially captivating was the way the author, Laurien Gardner, adds creative dimension without necessarily depriving her work of historical accuracy. Dialogs contain depth as well as spontaneity and the language is prim and typical of the times.
A Lady Raised High brought Anne closer and more real seen through such a devoted perspective. That said, there was neither embellishment of character nor misleading interpretations. The storyline flows, reads well and is completely absorbing. It is an excellent read for Anne Boleyn lovers and for those who care to learn more about this misunderstood queen and the lady who served her as friend, confidante and devoted subject.
Posted by Lucy at 9:37 AM