I finished this a couple of weeks ago but am just now getting around to writing a post about how much I enjoyed it. “The Other Boleyn Girl,” by Phillipa Gregory, is a novel that blurs the lines between fiction and history. I don’t know enough about the period or Henry VIII to say whether or not it was accurate, but I can say that I really enjoyed it.
It’s a long book, but I couldn’t put it down (not that it left the house — I had the hardcover, which is a bit big for carrying around town on the T). It focuses mostly on the rivalry between Anne and Mary Boleyn. It picks up just as Mary (who is about 14 at the time, and already married) is forced by her family to become the king’s mistress. After she has a couple of children by him, she loses interest in being a courtier and wants to focus on the kids. At that point, her older sister Anne decides that she wants to be queen. From that point, the book follows both sisters (whose lives still closely intertwine — Anne cannot seem to function at court without Mary and their brother, George, by her side) as they struggle to get what they want. Anne wants to be queen, and needs to solidify her position by giving the king a son. Mary wants to get out of court and go live at the family home in the country with her children, though she still feels a strong pull to be loyal to her family and be at court to help her sister gain and keep the throne.
I can’t say that the ending was particularly surprising — my lack of knowledge about the time period notwithstanding, I do at least know that Henry had lots of wives and beheaded most of them. Since Anne was only #2 I figured she was doomed.
In any case, I found the story and the characters compelling, and recommend it (unless you are a stickler for history, or it bothers you to see history fictionalized). Phillipa Gregory has written a lot of other novels similar to this, and I picked up another one to read later this summer.
And if anyone has recommendations for an interesting history book on Henry VIII & his wives, I’d love to hear them.