The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
rating: 4 of 5 stars
I belong to a reading community called Goodreads – you may have noticed their widgets in the right sidebar announcing to the world what I’m reading and what I have read. Part of this community is having access to book reviews. I thought it might be a useful tool when trying to decide what I’m going to read in the future and for finding authors I haven’t read before. However, I find that readers are critical creatures and they throw many daggers without feeling anything remotely remorseful. Some of the comments are disturbing. Some are just plain stupid. Others are trying to outdo the rest of them. This leaves only a handful of comments that I might “listen” to. It’s almost as if it is fashionable to rubbish every book picked up by a human hand; and by “rubbish” I mean be as nasty as possible. And, because of this, I find the reviews not in the least bit helpful and have decided to ignore all of them (except those written by a select few, my friends). I will continue to use Goodreads as I like being able to have a permanent record of the books I’ve read and what I thought of them.
Anyway, I finished reading The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory yesterday. It is fiction based on the court of Henry VIII. The important word in that last sentence is “fiction”. I think a lot of people tend to forget that this is NOT a biography, it is only a story. The author has taken some well known events, such as the beheading on Anne Boleyn, and then has decided which version of events she wanted to write about and built a story around them.
Reading this book made me want to research the true events and, from my quick research, I discovered that the timeline was as accurate as it could be because no one knows exactly when the Boleyn sisters were born or if Mary’s two older children were in fact the king’s. They are not sure which sister was the eldest. There is a rumour that Mary had another son. There are conflicting stories about most of the period so the author of this book has made a decision and stuck with it. I commend her. She has made an interesting story out of muddled events. I know that she has used creative licence in many places throughout the book to fill in gaps and smooth out uncertainties. And I commend her for that too because she did a good job.
The Other Boleyn Girl is a good story. It stirred my curiosity enough to make me research the real people. There were parts that felt a bit long winded and repetitive, but there were a lot of years to get through and these sections (or scenes) were short. When I wasn’t reading, I found myself thinking about the characters and setting, and looking forward to seeing what would come next. I enjoyed the story enough to pick up The Boleyn Inheritance (the sequel) immediately after finishing the book and continued reading (which is something I never do as I prefer to have a short break, at least, between volumes).
History buffs will only enjoy this book if they remember it is fiction. If they want the facts then they should be reading non-fiction. Everyone else will have mixed reactions, because as humans we all have different tastes. I enjoyed the book and will recommend it.
And…the sequel is shaping up to be better!