By Philippa Gregory
Genre: Historical Fiction based on real 16th century aristocrats
Major Themes: royalty, right from wrong, self versus family, family versus country, 16th century Europe, Boleyn girls, “true” selves, serving the greater good, women’s roles, whores
Age: 16+ for seduction, sexual promiscuity and content, fairly high level writing, and just general sexual innuendo
Smiles Book Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
The Other Boleyn girl is based on the true story of Anne and Mary Boleyn, two aristocratic sisters who lived in court at the time when King Henry VIII was in power. Apparently, this is a well known time in history for most people who know anything about that, but I knew nothing to the point of where I didn’t even realize it was based on a true story until after I read it and somebody told me. So, because of that I am going to give a brief non-spoiler summary. I feel like that’s the best way to do it without ruining the story for people who don’t already know it, because if you’re ignorant of history there are many twists and turns.
Mary Boleyn, the character in whose perspective this book is told, is the younger sister of Anne Boleyn. She is constantly frightened of being overshadowed by her dramatic, flirtatious, nearly perfect sister, a fear further exacerbated by the fact that they are living at court as the Queen’s ladies in waiting, a place where everyone’s eyes are on the prettiest girl in the room. Luckily for young Mary, she is already married to William Carey, a kind man who is willing to treat Mary gently, as she is just 14 years old at the time of their marriage. The Howard family (Mary’s mother’s side of the family) is far too ambitious for their own good, and are constantly scheming in an attempt to better their position in life. This means that when King Henry takes an interest in Mary, they are quick to throw her into the King’s path. The story continues from here, and slowly Mary grows from a young starstruck girl to a mature woman who realizes that she has her own opinions. Yet, Howard ambition is strong in everyone, and as is the competition between sisters. Through the drama of court life, it is difficult for Mary to understand what she really wants.
The characterization in this book is fairly good, especially of the main three characters, Mary, her sister Anne, and her brother George. The rest of the characters are left a bit vague, but it does not matter much as you become attached, or resentful, of the first three and that is enough to get you through the book. Anne is very clever, and she will do anything to better her own position in life, hurting everyone around her in the process. She is terribly arrogant, and I think you will find that it would be better if she was dead. George, is the sweetest brother you will ever meet, constantly delighting his sisters and the other women at the court because of his kind mannerisms– but perhaps he is too kind? There is something surrounding George and his friends that certain people at court do not seem to like.
It’s a huge book, but you will find that you read it quickly, because strangely enough the plot manages to keep moving forward. There is a significant amount of time hopping, where the next chapter will take you weeks, months, or sometimes years into the future in order to prevent a dull repetitive monologue, and it works for the way which the book is written. There is typically always something of interest going on, but not in a way where action happens each page of the book. Even reading about Mary’s walks through the woods or her thoughts are made interesting due to the sheer amount of activity which is going on in the court around her.
OTHER PEOPLE’S COMPLAINTS: I’ve heard some complaints come up when talking to others about the book, and since I didn’t have them personally, I didn’t include them above, but I figured to give an accurate review I should tell you the “problems” others had with it. I would not recommend this book if you were sensitive about talk of sex or the description of it, as that comes up nearly throughout. I read reviews on Goodreads where people complained about it, but honestly I didn’t think it was that graphic, it was just a fact of life. However, that aside, the book is very very good and will be sure to keep you interested in the drama of everyone’s lives. Mary is such a dynamic character, and Gregory did a great job of making her seem real. I have also heard some people complain that Gregory “takes liberties” with history, but I would like to point out that it is supposed to be FICTION. Like I said earlier, I don’t know much about history, but as far as I can tell the general facts are fairly accurate, and this part of history is highly theorized and unknown anyways for the most part, given all of the behind-the-scenes undocumented action going on. I mean, there’s hardly going to be written papers about how the king was disloyal to his wife! Overall, if you’re not going to be picky and you understand that this is historical FICTION, please please read the book, it was amazing!
If you’ve read this, I’d love to hear what you thought below!
Buy on Amazon