The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory

Title: The Other Boleyn Girl6980828
Author: Phillipa Gregory
Pages: 661
Year: 2003
Publisher: Touchstone
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis: 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 realises 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 fate into her own hands.

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.

This is the fluffy, chick-flick version of history, and I loved every second of it.

Mary Boleyn, our married protagonist, is at the ripe old age of 14 (FOURTEEN.) when her family forces her to woo King Henry XVI. (Winner of the Husband of the Year Award and Most Likely to Want a Son Superlative.)

Mary (the fourteen year-old) is driving the struggle bus for most of their relationship. She is incredibly awkward (much like any of us are around a crush or a large pepperoni pizza) and doesn’t know what to do with her hands. Most of this I attribute to her age, as she would have been in the 8th grade in modern times. Nearly-Headless Anne has to step in 98% of the time and focus the King’s attentions back on Mary to keep him from losing interest. An effort that Mary barely appreciates since she seems to view Henry as a spoiled brat who stamps his foot to get what he wants. (#meninist)

Henry, who wants a son, loses interest in Mary after the birth of their SON. (THE SON HE HAS BEEN BITCHING ABOUT FOR 500 YEARS). Mary is indifferent about this turn of events until she realizes that he has moved onto Anne. She is so determined to show that she doesn’t care that she starts sleeping with her husband again (who she doesn’t care about, FYI.) Meanwhile, Anne is busy being a massive tease and terrorizing the Queen. As we know from history, Anne rises further than Mary ever could, eventually overturning Henry’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon, being an instrument in changing the official church of England from Catholic to Protestant, and eventually becoming queen herself. This is all well and good until she miscarries a few pregnancies, sleeps with her brother (what is this, Game of Thrones?), practices “witchcraft,” and ends up a head shorter.

In the modern era, it would have been national news that a major political figure was sleeping with a child. Meanwhile, this is completely accepted and encouraged during the Renaissance. (Gross.) Mary is expected to act like an adult and use her “feminine wiles” to control the King and use him to raise her family’s status in society. I repeat. A fourteen year-old child is expected to act beyond her means and place herself in harms way so that her family can have titles and lands. I guess modern societal standards and the rise of feminism have influenced my opinions, but I just can’t believe that any parent would subject their child to something like this. Granted, Mary was all for it at the beginning. She fell in lust with the King and held his attentions for two years. However, her family treats her and Anne like they are disposable and interchangeable. Their lives don’t matter as much as the power they get.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is interested in Henry XVI and Anne Boleyn. While this obviously isn’t the most historically accurate piece of literature you will ever read, it’s definitely entertaining.

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