Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

In The Constant Princess, we were introduced to the character of Princess Catalina of Spain who through many tribulations finally became Katherine Queen of England. In The Other Boleyn Girl, we are introduced to two girls – actually three – who ruin everything for not only Katherine, but for the way the world worked as well.

Mary Boleyn is thirteen and married when the book begins with the beheading of someone that the king was close to. Mary is befuddled that the king didn’t stop the beheading, thinking that he would have offered clemency. She asks her mother this, and her mother tells her that that is not how it works in the court and if she continues to think that way then she is a fool. A year later, and Mary’s sister – Anne - has come back to the English court from France. By this time Mary is fourteen and has caught the wandering eye of the king. He flirts openly with her and the family begins to plot. Mary is commanded to woo the king and become his mistress, by this point Katherine is becoming infertile and the king is losing his patience with her. He must have a son to take over his throne.

After getting a girl on her, Mary does produce a son, but by this point it is already too late. While Mary was in confinement, her family commanded Anne to detour the king’s affection, so that way his thoughts were always on Mary. But when she comes out of confinement, she can tell with just one look that the king is besotted with Anne and another plot by the family is formed. This time it goes for all the marbles.

This is the third time I’ve read this book and I’m always astounded by how for such a smart woman Anne surely acts stupid and reckless. Personally, I’m astounded by all of the women characters in this book. The king is not a faithful person, so why do you keep demanding it of him? And why do you act surprised when he strays? My only explanation that I can think of is that they wanted to believe that they could be the one to hold him. It didn’t really work out, did it?

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. I really don’t understand how Henry and Anne couldn’t have worked out. They were perfect for each other! They were both vain and wanted the whole world to revolve around them. I felt bad for Mary who had to watch the death of her own sister, thinking – like at the beginning of the book – that the king would offer clemency at the last minute. Hadn’t she learned her lesson?

Bookshelf worthy? Considering how many times I’ve read this book, yes!

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