Richly textured spiritual novel explores karmic balance, stays true to history
Why did King Henry VIII nearly destroy England and create a new religion in order to marry Anne Boleyn, only to have her executed three years later? Nell Gavin’s fascinating, well-written spiritual novel makes the compelling case that his nearly incomprehensible behavior is explained by the karma created throughout their many lifetimes together.
Story: In 1536, Henry and Anne are at the mercy of influences outside their control, explosively incompatible, and caught in a marriage that ends in betrayal so shocking that Anne requires lifetimes to recover. Henry, seemingly in defense of Anne (but more likely acting out of “stubborn perverseness,” she observes), terrorizes England and decrees widespread political murder in order to protect her. Ultimately, to Anne’s horror, this once passionate husband turns on her and has her executed as well. Threads, a reincarnation fantasy, opens with Anne’s execution. Her fury at her husband s betrayal has enough momentum to survive centuries, but in Threads she learns that she has been assigned a hard task: she must review their history together through a number of past lives, and find it within herself to forgive him. This may prove difficult and take some time. The husband in question is Henry Tudor, the notorious Henry VIII. The narrator is the stubborn, volatile Anne Boleyn, who is not at all inclined to forgive. (From amazon.com)
Spiritual/metaphysical content: High. In the opening chapters, Anne finds herself in a “place of peace” after her execution. There she reviews her life with Henry VIII in England, as well as a dozen other lifetimes that she and Henry, along with other family and friends, share in various combinations. Gavin suggests that the crux of Anne and Henry’s tumultuous relationship partly results from Anne’s abandonment of her child (Henry) in a previous life. Henry pursues her and obsesses over her beyond all reason, she says, “as only a lost child could or would.”
Gavin carefully constructs the “place between lives,” where words are physical beings with vibrant form, color, and substance. With the help of the Voice, Anne begins to understand the complex interactions within this group of souls, which choose to incarnate together across three millenia. She focuses on the emotional relationships within the group, what lessons they need to learn, and what contributes to or hinders their growth. Toward the end, she feels herself “grow small with understanding” as she glimpses the true nature of reincarnation.
Gavin offers an interesting approach to understanding karma: Success earns us karmic cash, while failure forces us to borrow. We “pay for what we take and are paid for what we give” across lifetimes. If a person successfully completes their assigned job, says Gavin, that success can be used “like currency toward the next existence on earth. The tally determines destiny, good or bad, upon one’s return” to the place between lives.
My take: This elegant literary novel, rife with imagery and insight, focuses on the emotional and spiritual relationship between Anne and Henry, emphasizing psychology over history. I was grateful that I had read several of Philippa Gregory’s excellent novels about the English Reformation, which helped me follow Gavin’s minimalist portrayal of events and time lines. The historical details are painstakingly researched, and Gavin offers fascinating psychological insight into how karma and reincarnation nicely account for the almost inconceivable manner in which Henry VIII pursued and then discarded Anne.
Gavin is a skilled and powerful author, and Threads is an elegant tapestry of Henry and Anne’s many lives together. Gavin develops her characters more fully than most books can, not only exploring the physical and psychological dynamics of their relationship, but also projecting those dynamics across 3,000 years of shared history. This adds a rich spiritual dimension to her characters that is not possible in many novels. I highly recommend this historical novel to readers interested in learning how reincarnation may influence their own relationships.
Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn, by Nell Gavin
Book and Quill Press, 2011
Kindle, 6500 (approx. 300 pages)
Buy at Amazon