Threads is a unique look at the life of Anne Boleyn from the vast perspective of a disembodied soul. It is a sensitive, well written novel with strong metaphysical themes. There is much here to provoke contemplation about the purpose of life, or lives. A truly delightful read on many levels.
Anne has been beheaded, and after her death reviews not just her past life with Henry the 8th, but also many previous lives that she shared with him and others that played major roles in her life as Anne. With another soul to help her, Anne sees the lessons she has been learning in her series of lives and begins to understand how the actions she has taken in one life have affected other lives. When she has been hard on others, she will one day be in the situation of those she had been harsh with, receiving the same kind of abuse from others as she gave out herself. In the same way, the situation she found herself in in her life as Anne were due to her actions in previous lives. She understands that the lessons will continue until she, like all souls, learns to cherish all beings equally.
Ms Gavin paints Anne as a victim of her time and of a man who grows unbalanced in his later years. But the experiences of and decisions made in her other lives also play a part in creating the Anne that made the choices that lead to Henry’s dissatisfaction and eventual betrayal. This is a multi-layered story, rich with interwoven threads of colour – an apt title indeed. The section on the very young Anne and Henry from their life as traveling players was truly delightful, especially the scene where Anne discovers sex, and decides they must make sure it fits before they commit to marriage.
The historical era of Anne’s life and reincarnation as a plot device makes this story very suitable for the omniscient viewpoint which Ms Gavin uses here. The soul of Anne has the clairvoyance usually attributed to souls between lives, so she can understand others motivations, desires and insecurities, or strengths, carried with them from previous lives. This allows her to put her and others behaviour in a greater perspective. In order for her soul to move forward on her journey (to enlightenment/union with God) she will one day have to forgive Henry for having her beheaded, but she is not ready . . .not yet.
The writing is mostly expositional, but it is a relevant way of writing this particular story, after all, Anne is looking back at her lives, she is no longer in them. The emotional distance in telling her story rather than writing it as if she were living it now is necessary for her to be able to review her lives with equanimity. Some readers will find this less than engaging, and the book probably would have been better with a more immediate approach to the actual lives, but, for me, it works here. The thrust of the book is, after all, not so much the life of Anne Boleyn as the review of all lives relevant to that one.
The book ends with her in a later life meeting Henry again. She is no longer a disembodied soul, so she has forgotten all those other lives, but she has a feeling, one that draws her to him at the same time that it makes her want to flee. We are left wondering what her choice will be, to share another life with Henry, or to walk away. The question is, is she ready to forgive. How many lives does it lake to forgive your beloved turning on you so completely that they order your execution?
This is one of those rare books that offers readers much more than a great story, it also offers wisdom – the kind honoured by all spiritual traditions – and rouses compassion for all those who find themselves in difficult circumstances. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys historical literature with a metaphysical slant, but be warned, it is not your ordinary historical fiction focused on action and intrigue, or even on one story. Its focus is contemplative and its scope that of several seemingly unrelated lives.
I received this book free in return for an honest review.