The Other Boleyn Girl

The Other Boleyn Girl

Two sisters competing for the greatest prize: The love of a kingWhen 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 beg...

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Title:The Other Boleyn Girl
Author:Philippa Gregory
Rating:
ISBN:0743227441
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:661 pages

The Other Boleyn Girl Reviews

  • Mandy
    May 18, 2007

    Disclaimer: Don't confuse this book with a biography of Mary Boleyn. It's fiction all the way. It's a good read when you remember that this is fiction and not a blow-by-blow account of historical events. And because it is fiction, Gregory is able to play a little fast and loose with historical fact. Mary was most likely the oldest Boleyn child, not the youngest as presented here. She had also served the French kings court, just as Anne did, but was sent home in disgrace after tales of her promis

    Disclaimer: Don't confuse this book with a biography of Mary Boleyn. It's fiction all the way. It's a good read when you remember that this is fiction and not a blow-by-blow account of historical events. And because it is fiction, Gregory is able to play a little fast and loose with historical fact. Mary was most likely the oldest Boleyn child, not the youngest as presented here. She had also served the French kings court, just as Anne did, but was sent home in disgrace after tales of her promiscuity got out, including the fact that she was probably also that king's mistress. She was probably not the young, inexperienced girl Gregory chooses to portray her as. Gregory also depends heavily on Retha Warnicke's thesis that a homosexual ring surrounded Anne and included her brother George. This has been widely discredited by historians, since both Anne and George were very religious, and George was also a renowned womanizer.

    Otherwise, it was a decent book. There were parts I thought went a little far, especially with Mary and George teaching Anne "whore's tricks" to woo the king without actually having sex with him. Granted, activity like this may have happened, but I don't necessarily want to read about it. I loved the love story between Mary and William Stafford, and would have liked to seen more of the relationship between Anne and Henry, when they were younger, seemingly in love, and she was as much a partner and advisor in his affairs as king (especially in religious thinking and such) as any man at court.

    Somehow though, this book has tarnished my romanticized concept of courtly behavior. It's horrifying to consider that some of the political wrangling and the use of women as temptations, mistresses, and pawns to rise in society, titles, and the court probably happened, at least to some extent. If this was the way life was in those days, I would hope that I was a commoner. Because being in the court and used as someone's chattel to get what they wanted with no regard for my desires or who I loved would have been awful.

  • Madeline
    Jun 02, 2007

    Some people (read: uptight history nerds with nothing better to do) like to get their undies in knots over Philippa Gregory's writing and whine about how she takes too many liberties with history. Well, guess what? She makes it

    , and since her books are classified as fiction, I think she can be allowed that. Also, I consider myself a history nerd, especially when it comes to the Tudors, and I think Gregory's books are great. The stories surrounding Henry VIII are already really good;

    Some people (read: uptight history nerds with nothing better to do) like to get their undies in knots over Philippa Gregory's writing and whine about how she takes too many liberties with history. Well, guess what? She makes it

    , and since her books are classified as fiction, I think she can be allowed that. Also, I consider myself a history nerd, especially when it comes to the Tudors, and I think Gregory's books are great. The stories surrounding Henry VIII are already really good; all Philippa Gregory did was add dialogue and sex scenes that your history teachers pretended never happened.

    I was also very grateful that she didn't attempt to garner sympathy for Anne Boleyn. I've read a couple novels about her where the author attempts to portray her as an innocent victim and it's just sad. The woman was a manipulative, conniving, intelligent, confident

    , and

    makes this very clear.

    Other books in Philippa Gregory's Tudor series that I read and enjoyed:

    ,

    ,

    , and

    .

  • Sara W
    Sep 17, 2007

    I got through 25 pages of this book and had enough! I wrote down (literally - I had a pen and paper with me after the reading the first page or two) so many historical inaccuracies that I thought my head would explode. Then I checked out reviews on Amazon and realized the book would get much, much worse. As strictly a novel, this might be a great book, and I do hope to pick it up again with the mind-set that it is strictly fiction because I might be able to enjoy it then. But as a book dealing w

    I got through 25 pages of this book and had enough! I wrote down (literally - I had a pen and paper with me after the reading the first page or two) so many historical inaccuracies that I thought my head would explode. Then I checked out reviews on Amazon and realized the book would get much, much worse. As strictly a novel, this might be a great book, and I do hope to pick it up again with the mind-set that it is strictly fiction because I might be able to enjoy it then. But as a book dealing with Mary and Anne and George Boleyn, it is awful. Why did Philippa Gregory feel the need to use historical figures if she was just going to make up the story? I might have enjoyed this book if it was two fictional sisters! What's frustrating is that people think this book is historically accurate, and it doesn't come close. I was a history major, and I've read tons of non-fiction books about Anne and Henry and the Tudors, and I hate it when people quote this book as fact (which many, many people do)! By all means, if you want to read this book, do so, because it is wildly popular (a lot of my friends love it and I'm sorry if you hate this review), but PLEASE read a reputable non-fiction book about these people as well or at least a better researched novel about them!

    **November 2010 Update - I've gotten through half this book and stand by what I wrote in 2008. I plan on finishing it, but at a later time.

  • Meaghan
    Sep 28, 2007

    The thing you must realize about this book is that it is, first and foremost, a novel. A novel based on actual historical events, yes, but still a work of fiction. So for those that criticize it for its historical inaccuracy, your criticism is misplaced. This is not a biography of Mary Boleyn or Anne Boleyn and it doesn't pretend to be.

    I myself am a bit of a Tudor junkie and love reading both fiction and nonfiction about the family and the times, and I found this book a delight. It had all the e

    The thing you must realize about this book is that it is, first and foremost, a novel. A novel based on actual historical events, yes, but still a work of fiction. So for those that criticize it for its historical inaccuracy, your criticism is misplaced. This is not a biography of Mary Boleyn or Anne Boleyn and it doesn't pretend to be.

    I myself am a bit of a Tudor junkie and love reading both fiction and nonfiction about the family and the times, and I found this book a delight. It had all the elements of a good story: sex, love, violence, suspense, complicated characters, and comic relief. My favorite character was George Boleyn, due to his wit, probably the funniest one in the story. Catherine of Aragon I think was the most true-to-life.

    My only complaints about the story (historical inaccuracy aside, as I said above that doesn't have to be an issue here) are that sometimes it sounds like a Harlequin romance novel, and also it's very slow-moving. But if you are willing to wait through the long beginning I think you will find yourself well rewarded.

    A word of advice, though: skip the movie. It was dreadful.

  • Sally
    Mar 12, 2008

    I picked this one up at work because I want to see the movie (hello, Scarlett Johansen and Natalie Portman? Yes please), and because I know I'll have thousands of people asking me about it, like with Atonement, which I never read. In short, this book sucks. It's the worst kind of historical fiction - light on the history, and not fun or well written to make up for it. The characters are one dimensional, the writing is trite and full of cliches. Complete trash, but I'm not putting it on my enjoya

    I picked this one up at work because I want to see the movie (hello, Scarlett Johansen and Natalie Portman? Yes please), and because I know I'll have thousands of people asking me about it, like with Atonement, which I never read. In short, this book sucks. It's the worst kind of historical fiction - light on the history, and not fun or well written to make up for it. The characters are one dimensional, the writing is trite and full of cliches. Complete trash, but I'm not putting it on my enjoyable trash shelf, because it's not particularly enjoyable.

    The worst thing about this book was how blatantly obvious it was that Gregory hates Anne Boleyn. Mary may have been the narrator, but Anne was without doubt the main character, and it is impossible to enjoy a book where the author goes all out to make you hate the main character. Especially a badly written main character. Anyone who has done any literary criticism, or any writing, will know that good characterisation involves showing, not telling. We're told how charming and witty Anne is to the King, but we're shown her being a bitch and arguing with Mary. Anne would have been a much more effective character if she'd been written like her brother George (the only likeable character in the whole book), who IS charming and witty, will stab you in the back if it suits him, but then admit to it with a disarming honesty. If she'd been charming but manipulative to everyone, including Mary, her seduction of the King would have been much more plausible, but as it was I just couldn't see it.

    Then there's the way Gregory manipulates historical fact in order to make Anne seem worse. Anne was clever, and well educated, all we got from that was that she spoke French and read a lot, but in reality her education and ability to discuss politics and serious issues with Henry was a significant attraction. And there was the love affair with Henry Percy. Anne admits to her sworn enemy that she has slept with her betrothed, and he says, no you didn't because it isn't politically convenient for you to marry him and later doesn't tell the king even when he's in a precarious political position because of Anne. WTF plothole??

    Next we have the incest and the witchcraft, both of which Gregory paints as true. No, seriously. As far as incest goes, well, who the hell would sleep with their own brother? Apart from the fact that it's generally acknowledged that it was just a means of getting rid of them. As for witchcraft, well she was a devout Christian, and again, it's generally thought to be a convenient pretext.

    The whole enmity between sisters thing is a creation, which would be fair enough, poetic license, dramatic tension, etc etc. Except Mary hates Anne, and yet she's always doing what she's told, helping Anne out, blah blah. She'll occasionally say that of course she loves her she's her sister, but we're told far more often and with far more vehemence how much she hates her, and all we're shown is the fights and the vindictiveness. Again, this is mostly because Gregory hates Anne. She seems to like Mary, although if the real Mary was anything like the characterisation then I can't see why. Gregory's Mary is insipid, whiny and spineless, and pretty much irritates the hell out of me. And then we get the whole "wanting to marry for love and not power as a feminist statement" thing that Gregory does with Mary, while we are told Anne, who had power and intelligence in her own right, is a spineless pawn in a man's game of politics. She couldn't possibly have been regent of England without her uncle's help, we are told. This of the woman who split the church, dethroned a queen, and was mother to Queen Elizabeth.

    In the Author's note Gregory cites Retha Warnicke's The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn as one of her main sources, which according to Wikipedia (I know, Wikipedia, but still), is generally considered to be unsubstantiated which explains some of this. She also expresses admiration for Queen Elizabeth I, which I found rather ironic considering she is Anne's daughter and Anne and Elizabeth seem to me to have been very similar in character as well as ability.

  • Cindy
    Apr 07, 2008

    I love anything that has to do with English History and really am kinda fascinated by Henry VIII. After reading so many good things on here and elsewhere about this book I was looking forward to it.

    At about 100 pages into it I thought I really was enjoying it. Too bad the book didn't end at page 200. Because I hated this book with a passion. I don't even know where to start with it.

    First you have the writing style which is written by Mary Boylen's POV. Which is fine. But every character in thi

    I love anything that has to do with English History and really am kinda fascinated by Henry VIII. After reading so many good things on here and elsewhere about this book I was looking forward to it.

    At about 100 pages into it I thought I really was enjoying it. Too bad the book didn't end at page 200. Because I hated this book with a passion. I don't even know where to start with it.

    First you have the writing style which is written by Mary Boylen's POV. Which is fine. But every character in this book is one sided. Mary hasn't a brain for herself, Henry is a lustfilled king (that may be true), the Queen is soooooo smart but doesn't know what is going on. And Anne Boleyn is this hateful person that makes the reader want to kill her before she even is sent to the axe. There was also the same use of phrases over and over again. "You're just the other Bolyn Girl, we don't like you"...."I am Queen", "You are a whore" it's almost like the author has a limited vocabulary and wanted us to know it.

    Second thing I hated was that there wasn't one ounce of family love, or loyalty about anyone. I know there is the family games going on in England, but not one guy thought about his daughter as anything more then a piece of old meat. That really really bothered me.

    Third, this book had more details about sex then porn. I really wanted to hope the movie would be good and people have complained the movie is nothing like the book, which is obvious because if it was like the book it would be in the XXX section of the video stores.

    Fourth, There were parts that focused on things that didn't matter. 5 pages about a tennis tournament that made you say "Why do I care about this". It's like the author had a goal page amount and she was going to go above and beyond it.

    Lastly, the topic of Homosexuality and incest. Yes this is a theory out there about Anne but did the WHOLE book have to focus on it. Anne's brother was this neck kissing, french kissing sister lover the whole entire book. Anne was this girl that was always hot for her brother regardless of anything. Great way to branch out there!

    Overall I hated this book.

  • Stella
    Jun 16, 2008

    OK firstly, there's no doubt that Philippa Gregory can write a good story. Her prose is engaging and the content fThe Other Boleyn girl was easy to read.

    However what put me off was the absolute ignorance of historical fact and total villification of Anne Boleyn - yes this is a fictional interpretation but now it has made it to the big screen, there are a few who will think this is what really happened.

    Ms. Gregory describes Mary Boleyn as her personal heroine and this bias is clear through the bo

    OK firstly, there's no doubt that Philippa Gregory can write a good story. Her prose is engaging and the content fThe Other Boleyn girl was easy to read.

    However what put me off was the absolute ignorance of historical fact and total villification of Anne Boleyn - yes this is a fictional interpretation but now it has made it to the big screen, there are a few who will think this is what really happened.

    Ms. Gregory describes Mary Boleyn as her personal heroine and this bias is clear through the book. A very dark picture of a woman without feeling (except fear and arrogance) or conscience is painted of Anne Boleyn. This I do not agree with.

    In fact it is widely accepted by historians that Anne was the younger sister not Mary, that in fact, Anne was a very loving Mother to Elizabeth, that she was not universally hated by the British people and even her dignity and composure in death, with her documented last words being a tribute to the King, are denied in this version of events.

    Taking the historical innaccuracies aside, as a woman, Anne is painted as the cause of Henry becoming a tyrant, as the reason women had to live in fear that they could be cast aside and so she had her just desserts when Henry cast her aside.

    Let us not forget that Henry was actually the one who was married - Anne was just a teenager when she met him and a pawn in a political game. Henry is responsible for his own behaviour, not Anne, his own greed, arrogance and increasing desperation for a son are the reason he became a tyrant, not Anne. For he himself had many other wives after he disposed of her ad his pattern of behaviour continued.

    To absolve him of this and place the blame at Anne's door is a shocking error in this book.

    In addition, yes Anne and Henry paved the way forward for divorce in this country - Anne helped changed history and who knows what would've happened otherwise. Yes there may have been wives cast aside as a result but at least they are saved a life with someone who cannot stay faithful or whatever. And look how many wives can walk away from a bad marraige, an abusive one, an unhappy one, as a result of this young woman's bravery in taking on a King and country.

    It is widely accepted that Anne also had an impact in the improved relations with France when she accompanied Henry to the Court. The trip is documented in the book however once again Anne's significant role in these relations, her exceptional intelligence and wit, her educational background in the French court and her overall contribution are completely undermined and glossed over in this book.

    It is also documented in history that the saintly, oh so pure of heart, so good Mary as portrayed by Ms. Gregory, went nowhere near Anne or her brother when they were sent to the Tower and did not see them for some time before that happening. Her support was as absent as she was - preferring to keep her distance and save her good self perhaps? Who knows.

    OK rewrite history in an entertaining fictional read - fine. But to completely and unneccesarily villify one woman at the expense of another,a nd more or less absolve the shocking behaviour of a man, a Kig no less, is really not a great message for woman in this day and age in my opinion.

    And that is what grates me about the book - what is says about women when a strong and intelligent young woman like Anne Boleyn who certainly did not deserve her unfortunate demise, is portrayed as some Machiavellian villain rather than the brave woman she was and the positive contributions she made to the development of this country for the role of women (I'm a Catholic so I'm not talking religiously, THAT is a completely different matter!.

    Shocking. Would not recommend this book as a result.

  • Jason Koivu
    Feb 28, 2012

    You've probably never heard of

    . It's not very popular. I think a movie got made out of it, but I doubt anyone watched it.

    Those are the kind of lies, mistruths and distortions that one person can perpetuate when they don't check their facts or worse, intentionally distort the facts. But more on that later.

    is the story of Mary Boleyn, the could've-been-queen courtier during King Henry VIII's tumultuous reign.

    Little is known about Mary, other than that s

    You've probably never heard of

    . It's not very popular. I think a movie got made out of it, but I doubt anyone watched it.

    Those are the kind of lies, mistruths and distortions that one person can perpetuate when they don't check their facts or worse, intentionally distort the facts. But more on that later.

    is the story of Mary Boleyn, the could've-been-queen courtier during King Henry VIII's tumultuous reign.

    Little is known about Mary, other than that she was the sister of one of the most well-known women in all of history. This is a historical fiction writer's DREAM! She is a malleable, yet important figure orbiting world-changing events. A crafty author can do a lot with just such a character.

    Philippa Gregory decided to turn her into the tool of the Boleyns. Mary is offered up by her parents and pushed ahead like a pawn by her ambitious uncle in the Boleyn/Howard campaign for power. She is assisted by her brother and sister, who later set her aside after the king's done with her, in order to put Anne on the throne. Mary's portrait as painted by Gregory is a sympathetic one indeed.

    Did Gregory charge her palette with true colors? It's said that she likes to do historical research. Me, I like historical fiction that's well researched. I don't like it when a writer does a little research, latches on to something like an archaic term or whatever, and then proceeds to use that thing in their novel like it's going out of bloody style! (If I ever hear the word stomacher again, it'll be too damn soon!) Simply adding the occasional period piece decor and nothing more does not make a good read in this genre.

    I doubt that much historical accuracy was attended to in the making of this book. There are notable inaccuracies. I'll give you one. Mary was not the baby of the family as Gregory asserts, but rather the eldest of the three siblings.

    But we've got to be honest with ourselves as readers. Factual history must sometimes be set aside, because that's not what's important in this genre.

    isn't a textbook, it's a novel. It's meant to entice and titillate. Dramatic effect and setting the mood is more important than "getting it right". Taken for what it is, this book excels. At times, it's exciting and tense. At times, it pulls at the heart. There are moments when this is drama at its best.

    However, taken as a whole, this is not Gregory's best work. The occasionally amateurish writing made me think it was her first published work, but it's not. I read something by her published ten years after this and her writing showed marked improvement, the nuggets from her historical research were inserted more smoothly and everything felt a good deal tighter. This mammoth book on the other hand feels ponderous. At one point I thought to myself, "I bet she wishes she could have a redo on this one," but that ain't gonna happen since everybody and their grandma has read it.

  • Kiki
    Aug 14, 2014

    I have no time for authors - nay, anyone, who shit-talks Anne Boleyn. Don't come up to me and run your mouth about my beloved unless you want a good smack in the chops. You have been warned.

  • Phrynne
    Oct 18, 2015

    An enjoyable read but I am afraid

    has ruined me for historical fiction set in this period. I kept waiting for Cromwell to walk in and organise everything! There has been a lot of criticism about this book being light on historical fact but since it is fiction I did not mind that. I wondered if it limited itself by telling it through the character of Mary. She was not a very politically aware or even especially intelligent person and seeing the story unfold though her eyes alone made it

    An enjoyable read but I am afraid

    has ruined me for historical fiction set in this period. I kept waiting for Cromwell to walk in and organise everything! There has been a lot of criticism about this book being light on historical fact but since it is fiction I did not mind that. I wondered if it limited itself by telling it through the character of Mary. She was not a very politically aware or even especially intelligent person and seeing the story unfold though her eyes alone made it a little less gripping than it could have been. Still a good easy read with an interesting take on the relationship between the Boleyn siblings.