Mademoiselle Boleyn is Robin Maxwell’s follow up to her debut novel, The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn. Once again, Maxwell gives the reader an innovative, imaginative while plausible account of Anne Boleyn’s youth during her service at the French court. It was refreshing to delve into this period of Anne’s life that has been mostly overlooked. Certainly these were Anne’s, like most young girl’s, formative years and I believe that Anne’s personality was greatly shaped by her time in France. Also refreshingly Maxwell gives us a warmer relationship between Anne and her sister Mary. It has always perplexed me as to why these two women are cast as bitter rivals. Quite possibly, despite the enormous differences in their personalities, these two women found common ground as sisters and I think most would concur that Anne learned a valuable lesson from Mary, the importance of maintaining one’s virtue in a world controlled by men; indeed it seemed to be one of the few things that women could try to preserve. Maxwell also offers a different interpretation of Mary, not the sensual and promiscuous mistress to kings and courtiers, but a girl forced by own her father into seducing and bedding Francois I, to further his interests. Mary is then further humiliated when Francois offers her to his friend’s for their enjoyment.
While Mary is drawn in by the trappings of being a royal mistress and perhaps feels compensated by the gifts as well as the attention she receives at court. It is Anne who observes and learns and in time develops her own views on the world. Anne is deeply impacted by her relationship with Francois’ sister Marguerite. Marguerite encouraged Anne to step outside the traditional confines of woman and Catholic and to learn but more importantly interpret the world independently. Indeed, one could assume that Marguerite’s freedom to explore the ideas of the Reformation greatly impacted Anne as did Marguerite’s ability to defy the retrains placed on women and very much led her own life. In Marguerite, Anne had a wonderful and influential example of independence and freethinking, which certainly she nurtured for herself as she grew into a woman. Maxwell does insert a purely fictional relationship between Anne and Leonardo da Vinci. Nevertheless, I found the relationship comforting knowing that Anne who most certainly lacked for a loving and nurturing paternal figure and at least had this important influence in fiction at least.
Mademoiselle Boleyn is another wonderful and innovative look at Anne Boleyn from Robin Maxwell. While it completely stands alone from The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn it is just as wonderfully crafted and imaginative. I found that Maxwell’s fictional account of the formation of Anne Boleyn’s character to be not only enjoyable to read but historically plausible. If you are a fan of Anne’s strength, fearlessness, intelligence and allure then Mademoiselle Boleyn will not disappoint.