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Friday, February 1, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl (Jan '08)

To further feed my fascination with the Tudor period I just completed The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory. What a great book! I was familiar with Gregory from listening to the audio version of The Constant Princess. In that book she introduces Queen Katharine of Aragon and shows how her upbringing in the Spanish courts prepared her to be a strong, capable leader. In this book we meet Mary and Anne Boleyn, sisters who vie for the favor of their King. I was familiar with this story but not all the details. Did you know that King Henry had two sons with his mistresses? One was born to Mary Boleyn, and later adopted by her sister Anne when she became queen. All that fuss by the King over the lack of a legitimate son ... he could have just acknowledged one of his bastard sons and that would have been the end of it!

As with all historical novels, I read this with a critical eye. I always want to see where history ends and imagination begins. Gregory did an excellent job of explaining the historical basis of the novel in the interview at the back of the book. [There were also discussion questions in case you read this in a book club.] I also saw a webcast interview with her in which she explained how she weaves together history and creativity in her novels.

There are aspects of the book that bother me a bit, just as there were in The Constant Princess. I'm leery of conjecture; I never want to guess what a person's motives might have been, or whether or not something is really true. But at the same time I love historical fiction for the alternative view it gives of actual events. On the whole I enjoyed this book very much.

Here's a link to Trish's Reading Nook's review of this book. And here's one from A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore.

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