Published by Harper on Feb 18,2 008
Genres: Adult, Historical fiction, Romance
Format: Paperback from Purchased
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads
Everyone knows the fate of Anne Boleyn, but not many know the story of her rise to majesty and the part played by her rival and sister, Mary, who was Henry’s mistress and mother to two of his bastard children before the dazzling older Boleyn girl even caught his eye. Philippa Gregory, whose own role as the Queen of historical romance grows more secure with each new novel, has surpassed her self with this epic tale of lust, jealousy and betrayal.
The Other Boleyn Girl charts the lives of both Boleyns–each in their turn “the other Boleyn Girl” – and their fiercely ambitious, conniving family who used the girls as pawns to advance their own positions at the court of Henry VIII. At 13, Mary is little more than a child when she is presented to Henry, ordered by her scheming family to serve her King and country by opening her legs whenever commanded. And while his loins are satisfied, life at court is sweet for the unofficial Queen and her pushy coterie. Inevitably though, the King’s eyes soon begin to wander and Mary is overlooked, helpless to do anything but aid her family’s plot to advance their fortunes, replace her with Anne and give Henry the greatest gift of all: a son and heir.
I love the scandal and intrigue that is prevalent in stories from this time frame. There is always something going on: people conspiring, meeting, plotting in secret. It makes for a highly entertaining read.
This book was full of this, and more. I love that the viewpoint is from Mary Boleyn, who is the lesser known sister of Anne Boleyn. I found their interactions to be quite believable, and quite sad. In fact, Mary’s entire life is quite sad, when viewed by an outsider. It makes me very glad to live in a time where I am in control of my own life, and I’m not just a pawn to be ordered about and used for whatever purpose the male heads decide is best for the family.
Part way through the book, I had to stop and question whether I’ve read it before, or whether I’ve just read enough stories about this family that it only seemed familiar. I’m still not entire sure as the middle section felt like a huge deja vu moment, but some of the later scenes definitely felt new. That is a downfall to stories based on historical figures: there is only so much new information you can add or make up.
Overall, this was a very entertaining read. The characters are very well developed, and the interactions are so complex. I didn’t notice the repetition that I often find in Phillipa Gregory’s books, so that was a welcome change, and makes this one of the best stories I’ve read by her so far.