The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory.
History differs on many accounts of Anne Boleyn’s life, whether she was the younger or older of the sisters, whether or not she had a physical deformity of her hand, whether or not she surrounded herself with homosexual men and mostly about her relationship with her brother. But all accounts agree, Anne Boleyn, raised in the French courts, came to the English court of Henry the VIII and Katherine of Aragon. Her sister was a prior mistress of Henry’s and Anne succeeded her in this and then was successful (intentionally or unintentionally) in unseating Katherine, the Spanish queen, from the throne. Because of her inability to deliver a male heir to Henry at least, she was accused of several crimes, imprisoned in the Tower of London and beheaded.
I started out the year reading The Queen’s Fool and The Virgin’s Lover also by Phillipa Gregory. Gregory knows how to tell a story. She can lure you into the courts of royalty, she can make you follow to abject poverty and I always want to continue reading the story she shares.
Having read a previous historical fiction story earlier this year about Anne Boleyn, The Dark Rose by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, I was curious to see how Ms.Gregory would handle the story. She took a totally different approach to the account. Her tale is told in the first person voice by Mary Boleyn, who in this tale is the younger of the Boleyn sisters.
What Gregory does is takes the myths, the fact and the suspicions and weaves them into a seductive tale, casting Anne in a role that makes her the total mistress of her destiny. She is determined, aggressive, greedy and focused. She is charming and shrewish. She is totally overcome with her own vision for her life.
In this story we also see Mary, who is not as widely discussed as Anne. Mary is the sister Henry tired of dallying with. She is the sister who survived the whole family and went on to have a somewhat complete family life with a man she was purported to be in love with—a totally unfashionable proposition at that time.
I’ve read reviews arguing Ms. Gregory’s historical accuracy and I am not enough of a scholar to dive into the fray. But what I’ve noticed is that even the reviewers who are not content with the facts cannot deny this is a story that is hard to put down. Grab your hat because The Other Boleyn Girl is a riveting read that has Phillipa Gregory’s trademark characters, so personal, vulnerable and believable, present throughout, leading you down the path of a great story.
The Other Boleyn Girl is also being made into a movie. This looks like one I will enjoy!
Fall Into Reading Challenge is hosted at Callapidder Days by Katrina. Lots of reviews are up. Check out what everyone is saying!