The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory

So here it is, a new start to an old blog…again. I’m going to try not to think about what this means about my basic personality and just get into it: I’m blogging again.

The Other Boleyn Girl

 

I recently read The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. This is the sixth book of hers I’ve read and I find that, generally, I enjoy them very much. What I like about her novels is how interesting they are. The first one I read was The Lady of the Rivers (part of The Cousin’s War series). I remember being skeptical at first, but quickly became completely captivated by it. The same has held true for all of her novels I’ve read so far.

 

The Other Boleyn Girl is about the ‘middle’ of King Henry VIII’s reign; Queen Katherine was getting older and had still not given him a son (which made the King very nervous), and the Boleyn Girls had begun to catch his eye. The book is told in the perspective of Mary Boleyn, of whom little is factually known in the historical record. Mary served as one of Queen Katherine’s ladies in waiting, giving her a close position to the higher ups of the royal court.

 

Mary’s family strategically plots a way for her to get close to the king in order to gain his favor and improve the family’s wealth, influence, and status. To achieve these means, they decide the best thing to do is use Mary as bait for an affair. In the novel, she is quite successful (though morally unsure about it), and her family is modestly rewarded for his affections…but they are hungry for more. Enter Anne Boleyn. While Mary is giving birth to Henry’s illegitimate son, Anne steps in to keep the King’s attention from wandering to another family. When it becomes obvious that he favors Anne over Mary once she is out of confinement, her family quickly changes strategies, and put all their hopes on Anne. Luckily (it seems), Anne has plans of her own, and it isn’t to just be a whore in the King’s bed.

 

There is quite a lot of hate on Philippa Gregory concerning ‘historical accuracy’. I’d like to quickly address this. First of all, I wouldn’t call myself a history buff, although ancient civilization is a passion of mine. But here’s the thing: Philippa Gregory is a novelist; in other words, one who makes things up for a living. I admire her work because she takes the bare bones facts we know, along with rumor and suspicion or events that may have taken place, chooses a narrator who would be able to tell the story she wants to get at, and weaves a story from there that is not only interesting to read, but also inspires readers (like me) to research the time period for themselves. I don’t pick up a Philippa Gregory novel in order to learn about historical facts, I read them to be entertained. There’s nothing wrong with that.

 

This novel is fast paced, emotional, and exciting. I always find Philippa Gregory reliable to ‘pick me up’ when I feel myself falling into a reading slump. Although the book is over 600 pages long, the writing is good enough and compelling enough to make it seem half that length. It’s full of romance, ambition, revenge, and secrecy, I would highly recommend it.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory

  1. I enjoy Philippa Gregory novels too and was interested in your comments about the historical accuracy and people moaning about it. I recently read Antonia Fraser’s biography The Six Wives of Henry VIII and I think without books like Gregory’s or TV programmes like The Tudors I wouldn’t have enjoyed it anywhere near as much. You’re right that they take the ‘bare bones’ but I think they make reading a denser non fiction book easier as I remember certain characters and how they behaved which certainly helps further my reading. A great review and welcome back to book blogging!

    • I completely agree with you. Reading books like this gives life and interest to people we would otherwise have trouble finding common ground with. When I see a portrait of King Henry VIII, or Anne Boleyn, or really anyone from that time period, it just looks like bad art and strange looking faces (was that really the fashion of those days? My goodness). What I feel historical fiction does for us is gives us sympathy for these people, and helps us to understand that although they lived 400 years ago, they were people too! They had the same impulses, the same desires, the same social problems (or close enough, at least, that we are able to relate to them). I love that novels like these change the way I think about true history. Since discovering Philippa Gregory novels, I have a whole new perspective on history altogether!

      Thanks for commenting! :-)

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