We all know the famous Boleyn girl, don't we? The one who married King Henry VIII after his famous divorce (which led to his rejection of the authority of the Pope in Rome and ultimately the creation of the Anglican Church) and ended rather -- ah, shall we say -- badly? She's famous for saying (as she was being led to the scaffold) "I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck".
I refer, of course, to Anne Boleyn, second and most famous of Henry VIII's six wives, first to be beheaded, and mother of Elizabeth I, arguably one of England's greatest and most famous monarchs.
But what about her sister, Mary? Many wouldn't know that Mary Boleyn (Anne's older sister but portrayed in the novel as her younger sister) was Henry VIII's mistress well before Henry ever set eyes on Anne. Interesting historical fact, no? Two sisters, the same powerful lover...you can see where it might lead...and this is where Philippa Gregory's novel (due to be released in film version in February 2008) takes off.
Through the eyes of Mary, the lesser known of the two sisters, Gregory paints a remarkably vivid picture of the glamourous Tudor court and the inevitable sibling rivalry as Henry's interest in Mary wanes and Anne is manoevred in by The Family to take her place in Henry's bed and, incredibly, on the throne.
Historically accurate enough, Gregory still takes a good deal of creative license (this is historical fiction, after all folks), and the result is a page-turningly vivid yet authentic snapshot of a remarkable family in Europe's most exciting court. In the end, readers will identify with and cheer for Mary who, as a woman in Tudor England, was nothing more than a pawn for her family's political ambitions, yet nonetheless managed to break free of her bondage, follow her heart, and survive where her royal sister did not.
My opinion? I loved this book; read it twice in a row, then ran out and read its (then) sequel: The Queen's Fool (also twice!). Since I first read The Other Boleyn Girl and The Queen's Fool, Philippa Gregory has written three other books in this loose "series": The Constant Princess (about Katherine of Aragon), The Boleyn Inheritance (about Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard, Henry VIII's 3rd and 4th wives, respectively) and The Virgin's Lover (about Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley).
Shoud you read it? Emphatically, yes. I say run, don't walk to get your hands on this book. Due to the impending movie release, copies will be hard to come by at your local library, but I've never felt that buying a book was a waste of money. Even if you're not a re-reader like me, you can give the book to someone else when you're done.
Have you read it? If so, let the rest of us know what you thought! Rate The Other Boleyn Girl below.
About the reviewer: Kath is an urbanmoms.ca staffer and blogger AND an avid reader. Check out her weight loss blog, Losing It right here on urbanmoms.ca, and her brand-spanking-new indie blog, This Is Kat.