The May Bride is Suzannah Dunn's fifth historical novel and fans of Philippa Gregory and Victoria Lamb will delight in her depiction of Tudor life. Dunn departs from the habits of most historical novelists by using comtemporary language and dialogue, it takes a little getting used to but does lend the story immediacy. There are many novels about the Tudors; it is almost an industry in itself, but Dunn has managed to hit upon a subject matter in The May Bride which has quite literally become a mere footnote in history. The novel deals with the scandal at Wolf Hall that rocked the Seymour family while Jane was still a teenager. Jane narrates the story and this gives us great insight into her character. History has relegated Jane to the role of a mousey, obliging, dull little woman who gave Henry VIII his only surviving male heir and died before he got bored of her. This book shines a light on Jane's girlhood and Dunn certainly does give us a portrait of the straight laced and obedient daughter and sister but it is precisely Jane's place at the sidelines of the action that gives her an insight into those around and helps her to develop a watchfulness which serves her well in adulthood. The story opens with the arrival of a new bride the wife of Jane's older brother Edward. Jane is the eldest girl and at 15 she is captivated by the style and manners of Katherine Filliol, over the course of the summer she becomes Katherine's ally as she negotiates her first year of married life. However as she recounts the story Jane starts to see the game that Katherine has been playing and it's devastating consequences. Dunn is excellent on the sights, sounds , smells and everyday routines of Tudor life and for anyone who like me is having withdrawal symptoms after Wolf Hall this book is a perfect read.
Thanks to Poppy Stimson at Little Brown for a review copy of this book.