It's impossible to know the real truth about Anne Boleyn because much of the stories about her are written by her known enemies and detractors. Gavin strives to give Anne a voice upon the moment of her death. As she reexamines her life and relationship to Henry Tudor, the truth about what they mean to each other is revealed. Through the centuries, Anne and Henry are always together and there is a reason for this - they are soulmates. What happens to love when you're soulmate is the one responsible for your death?
I will admit to being instantly draw to Thread: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn the moment I saw the title. I've long been a history buff and have been quite fascinated with the British monarchy. Thread: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn is fantasy in that it assumes thoughts and idea which historians most certainly could not verify and because it enlarges the story of Anne and Henry to encompass various incarnations throughout the centuries. Anne herself appears in ancient Egypt, in Europe as part of a traveling Romani circus, the 1800's New York, and in Brooklyn during the seventies. Each new life is a chance to grow and to pay for the sins of the last life. As a prostitute working in the Valley of the Kings in ancient Egypt, Anne would amuse herself by mocking and bullying a fellow prostitute who had an extra finger, causing her to be born as Anne Boleyn and also have an extra finger which she would strive for the entirety of her short to life to hide.
Because this is a historical fantasy, certain liberties were clearly taken with Anne and Henry's lives. Thread: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn is not an academic text and most certainly does not read like one. Anyone familiar with the history however might enjoy the speculation into what Anne might have been thinking when Henry broke off her engagement, or her loss at dealing with the fact that despite her supposed power, so much was really outside of her control. I'm not sure that Gavin's tone always rang true but that didn't detract my enjoyment with the story.
I found that when the story switched to Ancient Egypt in particular, Gavin really set a beautiful stage and I could picture all of her characters vividly and their setting. Henry as a gay male prostitute who craved the love of a family because he was rejected by his own, made sense to me. I do however wish that the only LGBT representation of sexual identity had not been reduced to prostitution and dependency on a straight woman for companionship.
The premise of Thread: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn, is that Anne keeps returning to earth after each death to pay a penance for the mistakes that she made in each previous life and to continue to grow as a soul. Anne learns early on that she and Henry are soulmates and have been twins, husband and wife, friends many times over. They are continually drawn to each other. Also in Anne's orbit are many people that she met in her lifetime as a queen. Some come back as her children and still others are her friends. Percy, Anne's betrothed for instance was a regular customer of hers when she was a prostitute in ancient Egypt, while Katherine turned out to be her daughter.
Obviously reincarnation is not a new idea, nor is the concept of learning lessons with each additional life new. I'm not disturbed by the idea of Anne and Henry being soulmates, particularly because they had varied relationships in the different lives. What I am disturbed by is Anne reviewing her lives in order to find a way to forgive Henry. By every definition possible, Henry Tudor was a very abusive, angry man. He raped Anne and then had her head cut off. Gavin worked hard to suggest that because of Henry's syphilis ( a condition that has only been speculated about and not proven) that Henry was not himself and therefore entitled to Anne's forgiveness. It was very much implied that Anne could not move on if she didn't find a way to forgive Henry. Even in fiction, perpetuating the idea that an abuser is deserving of forgiveness from their victim is harmful.
As much as Gavin sought to explore the inner feelings of Anne, She also spent a lot of time justifying Henry's actions. Yes, syphilis can attack the brain but does that justify executing Anne? What about Catherine Howard? Even if I were to simply accept syphilis as a justification, it does not explain why in a previous life, Henry tricked Anne into sleeping with him by suggesting he wouldn't marry her unless his penis fit inside her. Anne, who was raised to believe that Henry would be her husband had to submit to the size check. How is that not abusive?