The Queen of Subtleties by Suzannah Dunn

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A tremendously vivid, page-turning and plausible novel that depicts the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, the most spirited, independent and courageous of Henry’s queens, as viewed from both the bedrooms and the kitchens of the Tudor court.

Everyone knows the story of Anne Boleyn. Henry VIII divorced his longstanding, long-suffering, older, Spanish wife for a young, black-eyed English beauty, and, in doing so, severed England from Rome and indeed from the rest of the western world. Then, when Henry had what he wanted, he managed a mere three years of marriage before beheading his wife for alleged adultery with several men, among them his own best friend and her own brother.

This is the context for Suzannah Dunn's wonderful new novel, which is about – and told by – two women: Anne Boleyn, king's mistress and fated queen; and Lucy Cornwallis, the king's confectioner, an employee of the very highest status, who made the centrepiece of each of the feasts to mark the important occasions in Anne's ascent. There's another link between them, though: the lovely Mark Smeaton, wunderkind musician, the innocent on whom, ultimately, Anne's downfall hinged…

Suzannah Dunn has all the equipment needed for literary-commercial success: wit, a mastery of dialogue, brilliant characterization, lack of pretence, and good humour. The Queen of Subtleties adds to that mix a wonderfully balanced, strong story; Dunn has plumped for a fascinating retelling of one of the most often-told, most compelling stories of our islands' history. In doing so, she's turning from contemporary stories to historical fiction. The result is sensational.


About Suzannah Dunn

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Suzannah Dunn is the author of nine previous books of fiction: ‘Darker Days Than Usual’, ‘Blood Sugar’, ‘Past Caring’, ‘Quite Contrary’, ‘Venus Flaring’, ‘Tenterhooks’, ‘Commencing Our Descent’, ‘The Queen of Subtleties’ and her most recent success ‘The Sixth Wife’. She lives in Shropshire.
Published April 28, 2011 by William Collins. 339 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Queen of Subtleties

Kirkus Reviews

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A devout Catholic, Catherine refused to divorce Henry when he wanted to marry Anne and sire an heir.

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The Guardian

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The Queen of Subtleties by Suzannah Dunn 311pp, Flamingo, £17.99 One of the unfortunate effects of thinking about books in terms of genre is the way the differences between individual titles are squeezed out, so that they appear as one great slab.

Jun 12 2004 | Read Full Review of The Queen of Subtleties


While Anne's narrative focuses on her relationship, marriage, and then downfall with King Henry VIII, Lucy's focuses on her life as the confectioner of the English court, the gossip and scandal spreading throughout the court, and her affection for Anne Boleyn's most beloved musician, Mark Smeaton.

Nov 11 2009 | Read Full Review of The Queen of Subtleties

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