Monday, November 12, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory)

Taking another break from editing (holy crap, I'm falling behind!)

Two sisters competing for the greatest prize: the love of a king.

A rich and compelling novel of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue, The Other Boleyn Girl introduces a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most exciting and glamorous court in Europe and survived by following her heart.

When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family''s ambitious plots as the king''s interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king and take her fate into her own hands.


You know the drill, review from GoodReads and all that jazz.

It took me three days to read this, and then another three days to collect my thoughts for a review. And trust me, collecting my thoughts was no easy task. You ask why? Because this one put me through the wringer, no two ways about it.

In summary, I loved Mary and Queen Katherine, was in love with William Stafford, liked George, went all over the radar with Henry, and utterly despised Anne--or, as I took to calling her, "that b**** Anne." The movie played up sisterly love only impeded by rivalry, but reading this I got the sense that there was no love lost between Annamaria and Marianne. None whatsoever. There was more respect and affection between Mary and the queen, with the drawback to that relationship being Mary's reluctant loyalty and obedience to her family, which tended to cause a bit of unpleasantness. Well, that and the fact that Mary was Henry's mistress before she was put aside for Anne, who succeeded in pushing Katherine off the throne and unintentionally paved the way for her own downfall. This thing is full of backstabbing, double-crossing, and treachery, but what do you expect? It's the Tudor court, children!

I'll probably regret reading what's known as Philippa Gregory's best book before I got to the others, but I'm not concerned about that at the moment. I was certainly impressed with the way she combined vice and luxury, opulence and decadence, to make ambition and deception seem very glamorous indeed. This is what made the court of Henry VIII so fascinating! The intrigue! The debauchery! The constant threat of treason clashing with the unending flirtation! Granted, since this is a novel as opposed to a biography, liberties are taken with some of the facts, but it's not far from the truth to say you could rise to power in the blink of an eye, then fall from grace just as quickly; just pray you didn't land on the scaffold, because Henry sure did like beheading people who disagreed with him.

I knew how this was going to end, being a Tudor enthusiast since I was eight years old, but I spent all six-hundred some pages on tenterhooks wondering who in the world was going to screw up next. Not to mention all the times my heart broke, I lost my temper, or was just plain dumbfounded. It was an exhausting read, but I couldn't put it down! I was always fascinated by Anne Boleyn the most out of Henry's wives, as she seemed like a cold, dangerous woman, to be so ambitious and so hell-bent she turned the kingdom and half of Europe upside down to gain the throne of England. I liked Ms. Gregory's angle of it being a twisted form of vengeance for being separated from her girlhood love, as it gave her a motive beyond plain calculation and cunning. It gave her a heart, one so corrupted by the loss it drove her to madness. But still, I felt no pity and no sympathy for her, this harsh, ruthless, and at times evil woman.

Now, Mary, on the other hand...I felt for her. There were times when I wanted to slap her for going along with her dysfunctional and just plain warped family's plans and times when I wanted to strike them all dead for using her as they did, as a piece on a game board and less than human. I moved between annoyance with her for being so subservient as to put their plots before her own conscience, but I was ready to champion her when she was mistreated and cheering her on when she finally got the courage to stand up for herself. And I mentioned Katherine above...pure admiration. I wonder what it really must have been like, to have to smile and look the other way while her husband was philandering in front of the whole court and know that sooner or later, her marriage would come to an end, even if it was still binding. I'm almost glad for her that Henry was arrogant enough to declare it invalid. As humiliating as it must have been, I know I would have been relieved it was all over.

There was some excellent writing here, and I feel no guilt in flinging some of my favorite quotes at you:

"Why should Anne be the one who says how things are done?" I demanded. "Why d'you always listen to Anne?"

..."Because she's got a head on her shoulders and she knows her own value...whereas you have behaved like a fourteen year old girl in love for the first time."

"But I am a girl of fourteen in love for the first time!" I exclaimed.

"Exactly," he said unforgivingly. "That's why we listen to Anne."


"Something is lost for you. Your innocence, your first love, your trust. Perhaps your heart is broken. Perhaps it will never mend. Poor silly do one man's bidding to please another man and get nothing for yourself but heartbreak."


It felt as though we were fighting something worse than Anne, some demon that possessed her, that possessed all of us Boleyns: ambition--the devil that had brought us to this little room and brought my sister to this insane distress, and us to this savage battle.


Her bleak view of the world made me pause. But then I thought of my own children. "After your baby is born, and you are well--then I go to Hever," I stipulated.

"After the baby is born you can go to hell if you like."

Returning to the review...and wrapping it up as fast as possible. I liked this one. Historically skewed? Why, yes. Good enough I'd read it again? I think five stars speak for themselves.

Your humble book nerd,

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