Friday, February 29, 2008


Some of you may know, from reading my primary blog, that reading historical fiction is one of my guilty pleasures. Aware that the movie "The Other Boleyn Girl" would be opening this weekend, and that I had a copy of the book by Philippa Gregory in my historical fiction stash, I read the book this past week.

Most everyone knows about Anne Boleyn, the ill-fated second wife of Henry VIII of England. But not many know that there was another Boleyn sister, Mary Boleyn. According to Gregory's book, narrated by Mary, she was Henry's mistress before Anne and bore him a son and a daughter. (Remember that the term "Historical Fiction" includes the word "fiction.") History tells us that there actually was a Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne, but whether or not she bore Henry's child is questionable.

But no matter to the reader who is willing to suspend disbelief. What matters to me is that this is a ripping good story, a page turner. I couldn't read the 660 pages fast enough. It soon enough became clear to me that either Anne or Mary could be referred to as "The Other Boleyn Girl", for each had her ascendancy in Henry's court, Mary first and Anne second.

Actually, the title of this book should be "One or Another of the Boleyn Girls", for the whole theme of the book is that both Mary and Anne - and their brother George - were controlled by their power-hungry family, the Howards/Boleyns. The two girls were interchangeable pawns in a game to win the heart of the king.

For some reason, I had the (incorrect) impression that Philippa Gregory was a bodice-ripper type novelist who wrote this and other books years ago. She is very much a contemporary writer and she is an extremely capable writer. The portrait of the court, the life of Tudor England and the emotions of love, lust, revenge, hatred, intrigue and familial loyalty are totally believable and absolutely enthralling.

As I mentioned before, a movie has been made based upon the book. Scarlet Johansson plays Mary, Natalie Portman is Anne and Eric Bana is a young, virile Henry VIII, long before he was the fat, spindly legged King of the famed Hans Holbein portrait. I'm going to see the movie, if, for nothing else, to see those fabulous costumes and royal scenery.


Victoria said...

I had the same incorrect impression about Philippa Gregory, though I think I may have read a book or two by here sometime in the past.

As you know, my favorite type of novel is historical fiction and while I have seen this book on various sites around the internet I never paid much attention to it until now, after reading your review. I have no choice now but to add it to my TBR list!

Very nice review, Julie and I like the look of your Bookshelf blog!


Leanne said...

I havent read any of Philippa Gregory's books that i can recall, i'll look out for them julie

can i recommend someone to you, if you like historical fiction?

Check out an English writer, Barbara Erskine. she is fab, its all historical fiction, (she has a degree in scottish mediaeval history i believe) and the books weave fiction around true historical happenings, often with a supernatural thread running through too. real page turners that you dont want to end.

a tip though, read them in chronological order as the first 3 or 4 sort of follow on historically. Start with 'Lady of Hay' I have all her books, and I am eagerly waiting the latest one, published this summer.

leanne x

Janet said...

She is one of my favorite authors and I loved this book! I read it a few years ago and am reading "The Boleyn Inheritance" right now.

AnnieElf said...

I too have read no Philippa Gregory and actually read very little historical fiction. That being said, I have "Becoming Jane Austen? on the table, next up to read, and this title will now go on my list as well. Thanks for an excellent and inspiring review.

Casey said...

It sounds like a great book. When my current class is over, I'm going to try to cram in as many books as I can and I think this may be one of them. Thanks!

lila said...

Congratulations on your new blog!!! It looks great and I know we will all enjoy it so much!