The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory: I’d heard of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII and the primary reason for his schism with the Catholic Church. However, I’d never heard of her sister, Mary, who was also the king’s mistress and possibly the mother of two of his children. This book is told from Mary’s point of view, beginning when Anne returns to the English court after spending her childhood in France, and ending at the conclusion of her reign as queen. While Anne is the focal point for much of the book, Mary’s transition from content courtier to distressed mother longing to live in the country with her children was the more compelling story. I was especially moved by her struggle between loyalty and disdain for her family. However, while the plot and description were lovely, the writing was somewhat amateurish. The adverbs in particular got a little tiresome. Almost every single line of dialogue ended with “said somethingly.” She said sweetly, he said irritably. It was distracting. All the same, I got sucked into the political and sexual intrigue of a time obsessed with social standing and royal heirs, every thought laced with ambition and superstition. Even knowing how it must end, I was still held in suspense during those final few chapters. Were the events described completely factual? I have no idea, and it really doesn’t matter. I read historical fiction to get a feel for the time period and the people. If I want names and dates, I’ll read a history book. This was a fun little trip to the past.

Aside: when did “piss” and “shit” become swear words? They show up quite a bit in medieval and Tudor novels. When did “poop” become the more family-friendly term? (I’d Google it but I’m honestly a little afraid what I’d find, totally unrelated to linguistics.)

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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