In this second novel of Alison Weir’s epic Six Tudor Queens series, the acclaimed author and historian weaves exciting new research into the story of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s most infamous wife, a woman ahead of her time whose very life—and death—forever changed a nation.
Born into a noble English family, Anne is barely a teenager when she is sent from her family’s Hever Castle to serve at the royal court of the Netherlands. This strategic move on the part of her opportunistic father also becomes a chance for the girl to grow and discover herself. There, and later in France, Anne thrives, preferring to absorb the works of progressive writers rather than participate in courtly flirtations. She also begins to understand the inequalities and indignities suffered by her gender.
Anne isn’t completely inured to the longings of the heart, but her powerful family has ambitious plans for her future that override any wishes of her own. When the King of England himself, Henry VIII, asks Anne to be his mistress, she spurns his advances—reminding him that he is a married man who has already conducted an affair with her sister, Mary. Anne’s rejection only intensifies Henry’s pursuit, but in the absence of a male heir—and given an aging Queen Katherine—the opportunity to elevate and protect the Boleyn family, and to exact vengeance on her envious detractors, is too tempting for Anne to resist, even as it proves to be her undoing.
While history tells of how Anne Boleyn died, this compelling new novel reveals how fully she lived.
Praise for Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obession
“Superb . . . page-turning biographical fiction, hauntingly and beautifully told . . . psychologically penetrating.”—Historical Novels Review
“Immaculately researched and convincing . . . This tale of Anne’s ascent and demise cannot escape comparisons with Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall series.”—The Times
“A tragic, misrepresented figure, one of history’s original nasty women . . . Weir’s fictional Anne is ferociously smart and guilty of nothing but craving the power that's rightfully hers to claim.”—NPR
“One of historical fiction’s most compelling and exciting portraits of the enduringly fascinating and mysterious Anne Boleyn.”—Lancashire Evening Post
“As always, Weir demonstrates a keen eye for crafting dramatic scenes of beautiful, accurate detail, instilling in the reader a vivid sense of being there.”—Booklist
About the Author
Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen; The Marriage Game; A Dangerous Inheritance; Captive Queen; The Lady Elizabeth; and Innocent Traitor and numerous historical biographies, including The Lost Tudor Princess, Elizabeth of York, Mary Boleyn, The Lady in the Tower, Mistress of the Monarchy, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of Elizabeth I, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. She lives in Surrey, England, with her husband.
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Reading Group Guide
1. From the opening scene of A King’s Obsession, Anne Boleyn is impatient for change—-for something new and exciting to happen. She is a capricious child, highly aware of her mother’s ancestry on one hand and her father’s ambition on the other. How do you think her character is influenced by this family background? How does Thomas Boleyn’s tendency to value his children in terms of their use to the Boleyn name affect Anne’s actions throughout her life?
2. By including Anne’s education in the courts of Margaret of Austria, Queen Claude and Marguerite of Valois, Alison Weir explores a fascinating world of high culture and intellect. What key lessons does Anne learn at each court, and how is her outlook changed by these three women? Does she manage to emulate them once she has the crown? Did anything Anne learned surprise you?
3. George Boleyn is a complicated and interesting character. He has a similar craving for power as Anne but has to find different ways to gain it. How are he and Anne alike, and how do they differ? On the surface he has far greater freedom, but is he also trapped into achieving the Boleyn family’s ambitions as firmly as she is?
4. Every scene in A King’s Obsession is shown from Anne’s point of view, so the narrative is shaded by her thoughts and emotions. How does this technique develop the “Anne Boleyn” Alison Weir has chosen to portray, and does sharing Anne’s viewpoint increase your empathy for her actions?
5. The behavior of powerful men toward women, including Mary Boleyn, causes Anne grief and anger. The shocking moments of discovery that a king’s sister is not protected, nor a favorite brother innocent, have a profound effect on Anne. How does she attempt to overcome this? How does she try to exercise her own control over others, and was there a scene when you felt she finally achieves this? When she does have power, does she ever use it well?
6. “ ‘You don’t love him, do you?’ Mary challenged. ‘You just want to be queen.’ ” Henry’s feelings for Anne are described by many as an obsession—-something emphasized even in the book’s title. Alison Weir’s interpretation shows Anne herself motivated by a desire for power rather than by love. Does this match with your idea of their relationship before reading the book and, if not, did Weir convince you? What is it about becoming queen that Anne finds so seductive?
7. Henry and Anne’s relationship is dominated by Katherine of Aragon, both in presence and absence. How does Anne reconcile her early affection for the queen with her need to remove and replace her, and justify her cruelty toward Katherine and Mary? Do you feel she starts to identify more with Katherine’s situation once she has won this battle, and when is this most starkly shown?
8. Anne’s role in encouraging Henry’s stance against the Church of Rome is an intriguing part of the novel, and she isn’t afraid to express her desire for change. How much do you feel this is through a powerful personal belief in the need for Reformation, and how much expedience to reach her own goals? How do Alison Weir’s descriptions of this period of history bring its turbulence to life?
9. A King’s Obsession is the second of six novels about the queens of Henry VIII. Anne’s impression of Henry is very different from that of her rival, Katherine. How does Alison Weir show Henry through Anne’s eyes, while retaining the character she developed in The True Queen, where Katherine of Aragon sees her adored husband very differently? How would you compare the voices of the two queens in the first two books in the series?
10. “ ‘Strike now!’ she cried, her heart hammering so hard and painfully in her chest that she thought there might be no need for any headsman.” The ending of A King’s Obsession is visceral and perhaps shocking but very vivid. How did you feel reading Anne’s last moments, and how effective did you find Alison Weir’s narration of her final experience on the block?
11. Alison Weir’s background as a historian means that she has distilled a huge amount of research into this novel, creating a rich and vivid background to the characters’ lives. However, as a novelist, she has had to choose a version of Anne’s story to tell. Do you agree with the journey Alison has given her, and did you discover a new angle on Anne’s life through A King’s Obsession?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Enjoyed the book. Good follow up to the first in the series which was about Katherine of Aragon. It was interesting to have both books written in the perspective of the main character. Looking forward to the next book about wife number 3!
This first person narrative throws new light on Henry's obsession and Anne's manipulation and ultimate loss.
Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession (ABAKO) was an interesting read, albeit a bit dry at times. Ms. Weir portrayed some characters very differently than I’ve previously read, including Mary Boleyn and Henry Percy. On the thread of characters portrayed differently, I didn’t particularly enjoy George Boleyn being so vilified. I wonder what evidence, if any, there is to support the misdeeds attributed to him in ABAKO beyond his vague execution speech. I’ve never read anything about Anne’s older brothers before, and had no idea they existed. However, according to an article by Ms. Weir, there is some evidence that they existed. I guess they simply don’t have enough of an impact on history to bother mentioning in the books I’ve read. The Henry Norris/Anne Boleyn romance was new to me as well. However, it seems to be purely conjecture on Ms. Weir’s part, although she bases it on a comment from Anne Boleyn which may indicate Anne loved someone other than her husband. As a side note, but irrelevant to my rating, I wish the Author’s Note at the end would have contained more actual information rather than references to Ms. Wier’s other books. As an author, I can appreciate the tactic to drive readers to her other books. However, as a reader, I’d rather be provided a summary of the pertinent information rather than be sent on a scavenger hunt through an entire other book to find it. I generally enjoyed ABAKO, although it didn’t drag me in as so many other Tudor historical fiction novels have in the past. I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it, but I think you’d enjoy it most if you’re a fan of Tudor history or Anne Boleyn.
Interesting but a bit slow for me. I was fortunate enough to have won a prize pack that included this book, and since I like historical fiction I was thrilled. Of course I was familiar with Anne Boleyn and have read all about her in other biographies, but this was the first time I encountered a historian fiction about her. I think Alison Weir did a great and thorough job but unfortunately for me the book just lost interest about half way through. I am an avid reader and its never good when reading a book becomes a chore and I pretty much forced myself to finish it, though I did skip ahead a bit towards the end. Overall an interesting read, just too repetitive and slow moving for me. I am looking forward to the next book in the series and hope that I make a better connection with Jane Seymore.
Finished the book and it was better than I first thought. Last 100 pages were the best.
An interesting take on the Anne Boleyn story, and probably closer to the truth than other novels present. The story line tended to drag in places.
I never really liked Anne Boleyn. Never wanted to know about her. I thought she ruined a religion, hurt a country and a queen. Wow are there things I had no clue about. I guess it goes to show, learn about things before you pass judgement. Anne Boleyn was way ahead of her time. She wanted women to play a bigger part in life, knew they had more to offer and had the intelligence needed to do just that. She was more than a queen who lost her head. Author Alison Weir weaves a story based on available writings, history and other information she could gather. Yes some of it is fiction, but it is excellent fiction. I really enjoyed this book and came away with a new sense of who Anne Boleyn may have been. Wonderful read! I was given a copy by the publisher. My opinion is not based on that and my own
Informed by her trademark impeccable research, Alison Weir gives us her fictionalised account of the life of Anne Boleyn from her childhood to her tragic death at the hands of Henry VIII. She details Henry’s pursuit of Anne, the political and religious consequences of his attempt to have his marriage to Katherine Aragon annulled and Anne’s eventual downfall. This is a long book and although I very much enjoyed the early sections covering Anne’s youth in the courts of Europe, I found the parts covering the “Great Matter” (Henry’s attempts to annul his marriage to Katherine) just a little too detailed. It felt almost as interminable to this reader as it must have done to Anne. Although I have enjoyed Philippa Gregory’s Tudor novels, I’ve sometimes found them a little light on historical content. However, I found myself rather longing for some of Gregory’s sprightly inventiveness to enliven this book. I feel Weir redeemed herself in the final sections covering Anne’s downfall as these were much more enjoyable and the final pages recounting Anne’s execution were heartbreaking. Lovers of serious historical fiction will really enjoy this book.
Like every Alison Weir book before, Anne Boleyn, A King's Obsession was fascinating. I had a hard time putting it down between reading opportunities. Weir's non-fiction is as readable as her fiction. All provide insight into some of England's great and/or just infamous characters. Anne Boleyn, A King's Obsession is NOT to be missed reading.