by Philippa Gregory
'The #1 New York Times bestseller from “the queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) Philippa Gregory is a rich, compelling novel of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue surrounding the Tudor court of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and the infamous Boleyn family.
When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of the handsome and charming Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family’s ambitious plots as the king’s interest begins to wane, and soon she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. With her own destiny suddenly unknown, Mary realizes that she must defy her family and take fate into her own hands.
With more than one million copies in print and adapted for the big screen, The Other Boleyn Girl is a riveting historical drama. It brings to light a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most exciting and glamorous court in Europe, and survived a treacherous political landscape by following her heart.'
I stumbled across the movie version of this on TV back in 2010. Not knowing diddly about Henry VIII or the Boleyns at that time, I was immediately hooked. I bought the book soon after, but got sidetracked by watching as many other Tudor shows and movies as I could get my hands on. I finally tackled this nearly 700 page beast of a book, and it has absolutely rekindled my interest in the whole Tudor era.
As for the book, I knew going into it that it's been blasted by historians as being grossly inaccurate. I think all historical fiction takes liberties, so I wasn't too overly concerned. As with the other Philippa Gregory books I've read, it gives enough of a story to get you hooked on it and go looking for more information. I'll try to keep my thoughts related to this book only.
First I can't believe how horrible the father and uncle were to these Boleyn girls, and to their brother George. Their greed and family ambition was unbelievably disgusting. They absolutely used any girls in the Boleyn-Howard family as pawns in their game of more more MORE. Girls were meant to seduce and keep the king's favor so titles, lands, and riches could be handed out like candy to the family members. Children of these Boleyn-Howard girls were sent away so as not to be a distraction in the sick uncle's plans. Oh, you're having a baby? Great, push that thing out and get back to court. Gah!
I can never understand people with grand ambitions like that. Even in more modern times, people with mob ties who live the grand life. For what? To live every day in fear that someone will backstab you and it will all fall apart? To have to put on your game face around your king or 'boss' and never really get to live your own life in your own way? So you have all the best things and tons of money and attend the highest functions and rub elbows with other 'highly favored' inner elite. That's all that you need out of life? As long as you're dressed nicely and having fun, that's all there is?
All these people of the Tudor court . . . what exactly did they *do* for a living? Dance and eat and wear nice clothes? It all seems so pointless to me. I'm sure there are still people like that today (um, Kardashians anyone?) but wow, I just can't comprehend it. It was so refreshing when Mary Boleyn took an interest in her children and actually enjoyed her time back at her childhood home of Hever. I loved that she took an interest in the farmers around the area and learned about crops. I loved when her eventual husband William came into the picture and bought a farm in effort to persuade her to leave the court life and do something more meaningful. In the end it saved her, and her children.
Back to the over the top Boleyn-Howard ambition, it's no wonder Anne's power went to her head in this book. She was groomed for it, and she took it too far. I absolutely hated her in this book. She wasn't a powerful queen, she was a raging bitch. I had mixed emotions when it went too far, when her uncle refused to help her once her downfall started. On one hand I was like, how could he be such a dick?! HE put her in this place! On the other hand I kinda felt like, HA! She's getting what she deserves for snubbing the people who had helped get her up there. In general though, I hated Anne Boleyn in this book.
Henry VIII is well known as a monstrous tyrant. I admit most of what I know about him is during the Anne Boleyn days, but it seems like he wasn't always that way. He did strike me as a spoiled, arrogant child almost. He loved having fun, loved to win, and used his position to get whatever he wanted. But a lot of the time he seemed to be overly influenced by whatever his current interest or romantic fling was and didn't really seem to keep business and pleasure separate. Was he a good political leader? I have no idea because all we ever hear about is the drama with his wives. Someday I'll have to study up on just Henry.
Regardless what I felt about Anne, at the end I was emotional for her situation. It was obvious Henry was done with her and her greedy family, so it was frustrating that there was no way any testimony or evidence was going to help her. It was shocking that he'd taken it to such a brutal extreme though. Why couldn't he have just shipped her off like he had with his first wife? Because his life hadn't been crawling with disgusting fake and ambitious Boleyn-Howards back then?
I'm glad to have finally read this book and it does make me want to know more about Mary. Sadly there isn't a lot known about her. There are gaps in her life where it isn't even known where she was. This makes it easy to build the fictional life that Philippa Gregory has presented to us. Historically inaccurate or not, this is still an enjoyable and grand story.
Are you a fan of all things Tudor?