Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Who isn’t fascinated by King Henry and his Tudor England? The story begins with a beheading scene (proper foreshadowing), with Mary, Anne Boleyn’s younger sister, watching, who continues to narrate the story. Gregory’s novel is compelling, interesting, and reads quickly. I enjoyed the pace of conversation.

Mary is young, naïve, and compassionate. She learns through tough experience to trust herself, although her loyalties regularly get her into trouble—only because she wishes to hurt no one and to be everybody’s friend. Mary is a character that every person can fall in love with. +/-

Having said that, Anne is most definitely the exact opposite of her sister. She’s conniving, hateful, and selfish. She’s pretty much the devil incarnate, conjured up into a female body from the fire of hell. A very interesting interpretation from Gregory, and a brave one. It works for the story though, and it moves along quite well, as both sisters try desperately not to become the “other boleyn girl,” being left behind when losing the king’s favor. Her characters are well-developed and interesting people, although some certainly more pleasant than others.

Although a creative and interesting story, I found myself still quite unsatisfied in the end. The writing is sometimes overly raw or carnal, which successfully illustrates the lustful nature of King Henry’s reign, but which also gives the story an unsettling roughness. The liberties Gregory took with the story were also somewhat disturbing, especially considering Anne, but is this not to be expected? After all, what is fiction for.

Overall, I liked the book, but I believe my interest in Anne Boleyn/Queen Elizabeth is more to blame. I don’t think I’ll seek out any other Gregory novels.

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