In The Lady in the Tower, Alison Weir has turned her sights toward that much maligned figure, Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII. Most everyone knows the story of how she captured his attention, igniting the English break with Rome amid a scandal of epic proportions. Ms. Weir has focused this book on the final few months of Anne's life, when her detractors came together and brought her down from the mighty heights she had climbed. Meticulously researched, Ms. Weir shows us, in intimate detail, the events leading up to Anne's arrest and execution, and even gives us a glimpse into the immediate aftermath.
Beginning around the time of Anne's miscarriage of her hoped-for prince in January 1536, Ms. Weir brings to light the machinations of Thomas Cromwell, the King's powerful secretary, in trumping up charges of sexual scandal and treason against Anne. Ms. Weir makes her case very plainly, showing in well-documenteed detail how Cromwell was able to take a few random instances and make them seem much more sinister, thus dooming Anne, her brother George, and four more men to death. She lays a case for the reasons behind his motives, and even gives logical explanations for how Henry was brought to believe his wife, for whom he had given up his religious tradition, had had multiple lovers who had plotted his death. The characters surrounding the tragic events are well drawn out; the reader is able to grasp personalities and see just how Anne was trapped through those about her and her own foolish mouth.
The Lady in the Tower is very well written and very readable; it is advisable to have at least a small working knowledge of the era and the circumstances in order to help keep all the characters straight (and many of them have very similar names to make it doubly hard!). But the style of writing, while academic, is very accessible and easy to follow. A few times I almost felt there was too much information given, but Ms. Weir uses it all to build a very strong case for exactly how Anne's removal transpired. Very informative and interesting, this is a non-fiction book that reads more like fiction. Truly enjoyable.