To Die For – A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Sandra Byrd

Meg Wyatt is pledged forever as the best friend to Anne Boleyn since their childhoods on neighbouring manors in Kent. When Anne’s star begins to ascend, of course she takes her best friend Meg along for the ride. Life in the court of Henry VIII is thrilling at first, but as Anne’s favour rises and falls, so does Meg’s.

Sandra Byrd portrays the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn through the eyes of her close friend, Meg Wyatt.  While Anne Boleyn could never really fade into the background this is really Meg’s story. Meg is the younger sister of Thomas Wyatt, the second daughter in a family ruled by a formidable and often tyrannical father. Meg certainly has her share of heartache and disappointment while she watches her childhood companion grow into a glamorous and intelligent young woman who captures the heart of the King.

This is one of the more sympathetic treatments of Anne Boleyn I have read. Thankfully we’re not subjected to the usual scheming shrew and we see a good, complex portrayal of a woman who actually fell in love with a Monarch and the growth from a young girl to the Queen. Key figures and historical events are touched on throughout, but are subtly woven into a larger story. So often authors gloss over Anne Boleyn’s part in planting the seeds for the Church of England, but this is the story of the beginnings of the Reformation told through the eyes of a Reformer.

I found Meg’s journey from almost losing her faith to becoming interested in the new learning fascinating. Meg had some very strong moments in the book, including a profound feeling of relief when she confessed her sins privately to God, a renewal of faith and a strong sense of her place in the world and where she felt her responsibilities lay.

This is essentially the story of two women trying to make their way in a world which leaves no easy path for them and a touching story of enduring faith and friendship. Nice language, good imagery, well written and very well researched.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Be sure to read the Author Notes at the back of the book, there is also a bibliography, Reading Group Guide, and Author Q&A.

To Die for: A Novel of Anne Boleyn

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