Monday, February 18, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Published in 2001. 664 pages.

First sentence: I could hear a roll of muffled drums.

Brief plot summary: Told from the viewpoint of little-known Mary Boleyn (the "other" girl of the title), this is the story of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII.

Why I read this book:
A friend recommended this book to me some time ago, but I hadn't gotten to it yet. In December, I decided to put it on my 2008 TBR Challenge list, and then when Emily picked it as our IRL book club read for February, I had to read it now.

What I thought: When I was a child, historical fiction was a favorite genre of mine. I haven't read a lot of it in recent years, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I only had a cursory knowledge of Tudor England before reading The Other Boleyn Girl, but I'm eager now to learn more. Philippa Gregory appears to research her topics well, even if some people have taken exception to her conclusions. She certainly writes a compelling story. As she has stated,

I am very pleased when I can tell a slightly different story from the conventional one, especially if it makes readers see the more usual story in a different light. I like to give people a sense of a different sort of past. I like to challenge the conventional views.

Favorite aspects of the story: I loved the feminist attitudes that Gregory gives to Mary. For example, at one point, Mary laments,
"If women could only have more," I said longingly. "If we could have more in our own right. Being a woman at court is like forever watching a pastry cook at work in the kitchen. All those good things, and you can have nothing." [p. 304.]

I also loved the relationship between Mary and William Stafford.
The words froze on my pen, I could not say that I regretted loving William, for every day I loved him more. In a world where women were bought and sold as horses I had found a man I loved; and married for love. I would never suggest that this was a mistake. [p. 518]

Something I didn't need: The seduction of King Henry by both Mary and Anne is quite graphically described. A friend of my 12-year-old daughter has read this book, but I told Sugar Plum that there is no way that I would allow her to read it. (I did tell my 17-year-old that she could read it, if she wants.)

Continuing the experience: My IRL book club is going to see the film version of The Other Boleyn Girl when it opens at the end of the month. In March I'm going to read The Lady in the Tower by Jean Plaidy for my church women's group book club, which will give me another perspective on Anne Boleyn. And I suspect that before too long I'll be looking at the other books in Gregory's Boleyn series, perhaps starting with The Boleyn Inheritance.

How well I multi-tasked with this read: In addition to being the second of my 2008 TBR Challenge books, this book fulfilled requirements for the Unread Author Challenge, the 888 Challenge (in my "IRL Book Club Picks" category), the Back to History Challenge, Every Month is a Holiday (for Library Lover's Month), the Reading Full Circle Challenge, the Chunkster Challenge, the Winter Reading Challenge, and the A~Z Reading Challenge. Phew!



  1. I have this on my list. Thanks for the good review.

  2. Glad you were able to finish reading this one. I have a copy but haven't gotten to it yet, so your review was quite welcome - thanks!

  3. Glad that you enjoyed it. The Boleyn inheritance is very good as it tells the stories of the Queens people know least about.
    The Lady in the tower is also a great read.

  4. I've been seeing this one all over the book blogs. Sounds quite interesting even though I don't read much historical fiction.

  5. I'm dying to read this. ^^ Can't wait to, now!

  6. I enjoyed "The Other Boleyn Girl". I am glad that you did too. I have read "The Boleyn Inheritance" and "The Constant Princess",which is about Queen Katherine, Henry VIII's first wife. All three books are a good read, but I think that "The Other Boleyn Girl" is the best.

  7. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I have wanted to read this for a long time, and now I want to read it even more. I actually looked for it at the library the other day but it wasn't there. I like Tudor England and have always been fascinated with henry the eigth.

  8. I own this book a few others, but just haven't been able to fit them into my reading schedule yet. I love this time period and find it fascinating. It seems like there is a huge influx of books now based on this period! Glad you liked it.

  9. I've been wanting to read this one for a while. Great review!
    I wonder how the movie version will be, it looks good.

  10. I want to see the movie as well. I hope that it is as good as the book. But I can't see Natalie Portman as Anne Boylen.

  11. I have seen this around for a while and have thought about picking it up sometime. I also liked historical fiction when I was younger but have gravitated away from it. Your reveiw is great and boy were you ever efficient with this one!

  12. I love the way you organize your reviews. And I really enjoyed this one, it was definitely worth all the trouble it was to find a copy of it! (I don't like to buy books that I'm unsure of new). But I absolutely loved it!

    And I agree with Pabast - Natalie Portman as Anne just seems weird. Now if it was Scarlett Johanssen as Anne I could see it. But not Natalie Portman. I just don't know!

  13. I devoured this book last year!! I really enjoyed Stafford and Mary's relationship, too. I haven't seen the movie yet, but hope to soon. I have the Inheritance waiting patiently on my shelf.