Posts Tagged With: The Other Boleyn Girl

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

This is the story of Anne Boleyn, told through the eyes of her sister Mary.  As a young girl, Mary finds herself manipulated by her avaricious family to become King Henry VIII’s lover, with an end to usurping Queen Katherine of Aragon.  The Boleyn’s believe that if Mary becomes queen, they will be vastly elevated in terms of wealth and social status.  Even after having two children by Henry, Mary finds his interest in her waning, and sees that he is turning his affections to her sister Anne.  There is no other choice for Mary than to assist Anne in dethroning Queen Katherine.  As she matures, Mary grows tired of the political games played in the royal court, and decides to make her own way in life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  The Tudors have never been an exciting subject for me, but Philippa Gregory brings the era to life and makes it fascinating.  It should be remembered that this is a fictionalised account of events, and there are differences between what Mary tells and what current historians believe.  (For example, in the book Mary is portrayed as the younger sister, whereas in fact it is now widely accepted that she was older than Anne.  Also, while in the book there is no doubt that Henry is the father of Mary’s children, in truth it was never known for sure).

Each character is distinct and interesting.  Anne does not come out of this account well; she is portrayed as calculating and ruthless.  Mary is drawn more sympathetically (perhaps not surprising as the book is told from her point of view).  Another major character is their brother George, whose own fate is told in this story, and who is a charming and reckless man, who serves in the royal court.  Henry himself is brought to life as a headstrong, spoilt young man, who is utterly handsome and charming in his youth, but who, during the period which the book spans, becomes bloated and unwell.

The story moves along at a steady pace, and even though I knew the ultimate outcome, I still found myself turning the pages quickly, wanting to know what new developments were around the corner.  I would recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in the Tudors (and if you have no interest, this might be a book to change your mind).  After reading it, I found myself wanting find out more about this fascinating and brutal time in England’s history.

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The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Synopsis (from back of book):
Mary Boleyn catches the eye of Henry VIII when she comes to court as a girl of fourteen. Dazzled by the golden prince, Mary’s joy is cut short when she discovers that she is a pawn in the dynastic plots of her family. When the capricious king’s interest wanes, Mary is ordered to pass on her knowledge of how to please him to her friend and rival: her sister Anne.

Anne soon becomes irresistible to Henry, and Mary can do nothing but watch her sister’s rise. Anne stops at nothing to achieve her own ambition. From now on, Mary will be no more than the other Boleyn girl. But beyond the court is a man who dares to challenge the power of her family to offer Mary a life of freedom and passion. If only she has the courage to break away – before the Boleyn enemies turn on the Boleyn girls…

With The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory offers a tantalising glimpse at the life of one of history’s forgotten women – Mary Boleyn, younger sister of Anne who would go on to become Queen of England. The history of this story is interesting enough, but the richness of description and depth of character development mean that this is more than merely interesting to read – its compulsive!

I found myself able to sympathise with all three of the Boleyn siblings, in particular George, who has to deny his own sexuality and performs above and beyond the call of duty to further advance his beloved sister (although just how far he is willing to go would seem too far by any normal standard).

Mary’s predicament – of being both very young and very married – when presented to the King by her own family as a potential lover, is horrifying to say the least. That a family could be so coldly calculating in their ambition as to force their own daughters into such a precarious position is difficult to believe, and yet history itself tells us it is so – the Boleyns and the Howards were determined to see their fortunes rise by whatever means possible.

It makes for a tale that is both chilling and heart-warming in turn, set against the lavish background of the Tudor court that is so colourful and bright that the reader is lost in the madness of corruption and power plays. If Gregory’s other works are anything like this one, then I will heartily recommend picking them all up as soon as possible.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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