THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL by Philippa Gregory Review | Book Talk

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People have been shocked when I have told them that I have never read a Philippa Gregory book although I am a historical fiction fan. Well, that fact remains true no more.

The Other Boleyn Girl was a sort of trial-run for me to see if I would be interested in reading more from Gregory. And I would say that it has been pretty successful. First, though, I would like to tell people that this book should not, by any means, be used as a biography of Mary Boleyn or Anne Boleyn (or any character in the book for that matter). This book is better to go into with the stance that this is a fictional take on life in the court of Henry VIII and Mary and Anne Boleyn. It does have historical fact sprinkled throughout but much of what is written in the book has been cried out against by historians. But… I’ll get into more of that later.

That being said, this book was addicting. I’ve been interested in European history for as long as I can remember and Anne Boleyn has been a long-held obsession of mine. I was uncertain if I would like this book because I had heard that much of it (including Anne being cruel, Mary’s naïve nature, etc.) is well… largely false. But I was quickly drawn into the storyline and I had a hard time putting it down (though it took me a while to read due to school projects, etc). 

My favorite thing about this book is probably the choices that Gregory made with the narration of the novel. Having Mary narrate a story that is largely about her sister, Anne, was a very well-executed, interesting choice. 

I also fell in love with the title. The Other Boleyn Girl. It’s not an entirely intriguing title at first sight, that’s true. But as I read, I realized that I was constantly trying to figure out who “the other Boleyn girl” was. Mary? Or Anne? And really, at the end of the story, you’re still left wondering that to a certain extent.

One thing that I was slightly disappointed about in this book was that I did not really, truly have a favorite character. I did like the characters, yes, but I never really felt the connection that you feel to a favorite character (if you know what I mean). Anne was probably the character that I liked most from the novel because she was more-or-less unpredictable throughout the novel. The thing that put me off about her though (and the reason why she is not a character that I would label “favorite”) is how utterly cruel she could be at times (which is, according to most historians and contemporary accounts completely untrue). I did think that this sort of characterization of her gave the story a little bit more of a drive and made for a better story. 

All-in-all, I’d say that The Other Boleyn Girl was a pretty solid read. I’d definitely recommend it if you like historical fiction and Tudor history, especially if you will not be easily irritated by historical inaccuracies!

SLIGHT SPOILERS (THOUGH NOTHING THAT WILL REALLY RUIN YOUR READING EXPERIENCE)

I am of the personal opinion that Mary is meant to be “the other Boleyn girl” not because of Anne overshadowing her, but rather because she chose to be. I do, however, think that Gregory’s intention was to leave this as a somewhat ambiguous title and leave it up to the reader to decide who the title is speaking of.

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