Sunday, November 4, 2007
Review: The Other Boleyn Girl
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Summary (from Library Journal): Before Henry VIII ever considered making Anne Boleyn his wife, her... sister, Mary, was his mistress... The sisters and their brother George were raised with one goal: to advance the Howard family's interests, especially against the Seymours. So when Mary catches the king's fancy, her family orders her to abandon the husband they had chosen. She bears Henry two children, including a son, but Anne's desire to be queen drives her with ruthless intensity, alienating family and foes. As Henry grows more desperate for a legitimate son and Anne strives to replace Katherine as queen, the social fabric weakens. Mary abandons court life to live with a new husband and her children in the countryside, but love and duty bring her back to Anne time and again.
My thoughts: Right after I finished it, I had this very un-courtly, modern reaction to this 16th century-set blockbuster: "Man, that was a crazy-good book!!" :-) It kept me on the exercise bike twice as long as usual so I wouldn't have to stop reading and also up into the wee hours last night.
So, I loved it. I'd enjoyed Gregory's The Queen's Fool earlier this year, enough to give the author another go and boy, am I glad I did! It had all the scandals and sex of a soap opera but was well-written and very well-researched. I've always been quite interested in Elizabeth I and this was a fascinating look at her mother and her mother's family. I hadn't realized how long it took Anne Boleyn to actually get Henry VIII to marry her - I thought he divorced Katherine of Aragon very quickly, but Anne actually had to keep him interested without bedding him for 6 years, quite an amazing feat considering he was so selfish and fickle. And I had no idea that her younger sister had had him first! It was quite a portrait of a complex sisterly relationship - the Boleyn girls seem to have a had love/hate relationship where they alternately hated and really needed it each. I found it interesting but sad that they kept alternating between being "the other Boleyn girl" and that their family really didn't much care which of them was doing what, as long as the family was advancing. So it was also a very interesting look into court life and how high-born women were nothing but pawns in men's plans, even after if they were Queen of England. After reading this, I can see even more clearly how incredibly smart Elizabeth I was to avoid marriage and remain queen in her own right.
The Tudors sure are hot these days and I'm on the bandwagon! I'd better get to the Elizabeth sequel and I'm looking forward to the movie based on this book. And I've only seen one episode of The Tudors so far, for shame, especially since it seems to be set at exactly the same time as this book, when the Boleyn girls first came to court. And I might just finally check out a biography of Elizabeth I, which I've been meaning to do for some time. And, ooh, I almost forgot, there's her newest book, The Boleyn Inheritance! I see a Tudor binge coming on...