Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

A friend of mine recommended this book to me many years ago...before the movie was even thought of. But I just got around to reading this for book club. I haven't made a book club read or meeting in at least a year so my new goal for 2013 was to get back into it. I actually tried last December with Looking for Alaska but I missed it by a day.

First of all, I was pretty happy to have made it since I started on >700 page tome January 11th and I finished it the weekend before our meeting. I don't consider myself a fast reader so to manage to get this done in time, well, I am pretty pleased with myself. It helped to have my friend Kerry rooting me on via Goodreads with my status updates on my reading progress.

I enjoyed this novel. As one reviewer described this novel as "Faction", I was intrigued by the 16th century era and couldn't wait to finish it so I could look up the 'facts' behind the historical characters I was reading about.

***Spoilers***

As the title suggests, the book is about Anne Boleyn...and her sister Mary Boleyn. The "other" sister goes back and forth between Anne and Mary.

Anne is portrayed as a selfish, queen-wannabe, no matter what it takes. Initially, she is not happy that King Henry VIII makes his moves on her sister, Mary, who is quiet and already married. But the Boleyns (and the maternal side, the Howards) were hell bent on having ties to royalty and having Mary as the mistress to King Henry was fine and dandy with them. This also meant she would be an adulteress, since she was already married to Sir William Carey. The marriage was still intact but William was told to back off and allow Mary to have her sexual liaisons with the King.

Oh. And he was still married to Catharine of Aragon. But Catherine would 'look the other way' with this (and apparently others before Mary) affair.

The relationship between Anne and Mary was competitive and not so loving, yet some strange loyalty to each other, and to this family that would pimp out their young, married daughter to the King. Mary, as young as she was (14), was initially enamored with the King and high on the fact that she "won", or was better, than her sister Anne. Anne, while doing what she could to help Mary seduce the King, was envious throughout.

Mary bore two children to the King but had to always be at court, so her children were raised by nursemaids at one of the Boleyn family estates. After bearing children, Mary is seen as someone who would rather abandon the royal fare and stay in the country with her children. But, again, the loyalty to her horrible sister and family was more strong than the desire to be with her children.

Eventually, Anne caught the eye of the King and turmoil begins: seeking the annulment of his marriage to Catherine, even though they had a daughter together (Elizabeth, who, in real life became Elizabeth I...you may have known this but *I did not*), separating the Church of England from the Catholic Church and subsequently being excommunicated. All of this losing favor with the people, who started to see Anne as evil woman and feeling sorry for Catherine, the woman scorned.

The portrayal of Anne Boleyn was hard for me to take. I had a very romantic (ignorant) notion of Anne Boleyn and the way Philippa Gregory decided to portray her in her "faction" novel was awful. Anne was a horrible sister to Mary and eventually, when she became close to queen (and eventually *the* queen), it all went to her head and she treated every one like her minion, including her brother, George, and her family who pushed her (after giving up on Mary) to becoming queen.

The novel is scandalous and wow, all the sex and debauchery that took place in the 1500s is mind-blowing. George Boleyn may have had sex with Anne to produce a son to fake an heir to King Henry's throne. The baby that was miscarried was developed enough to come out deformed that Anne was accused of witchcraft and sorcery to make such a baby.

George is also gay, which is a big no-no in the 16th century, despite women doing everything else in a sexual nature...

Henry is portrayed romantic, then a downright asshole, especially after sending Catherine of Aragon, his wife of 24 years (but annulled the marriage) to a nunnery. He becomes even more of an asshole when he plans Anne Boleyn's demise. He had already fallen for Jane Seymour and Anne's spoiled brat attitude was too much for him...he took all the accusations against her, both true and false, and used it to accuse her of treason, adultery and incest. As in real life, Anne was beheaded in front of the people, with Henry nowhere in sight.

It ends with Mary fleeing the court right after Anne's beheading, with her second husband, William Stafford, to be with her children and live happily ever after. Both lived, supposedly, well into their 40s, which back then, was pretty darn good.

It was a great novel to read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I may entertain the idea of reading some of the other novels, as this is one of The Tudor Court novels, which covers some of Henry's other wives, and so on to Mary, Queen of Scots.

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