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The Other Boleyn Girl

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Thu January 29th, 2009, 5:36 pm

Interesting thread going on over at the Amazon HF boards that touches on the issue of alternative history if anyone's interested.

tsjmom
Reader

Postby tsjmom » Sun March 8th, 2009, 10:58 pm

I loved this book so much! I didn't really know the story before reading this. After this, I read 3 of her others but I was greatly disappointed. They all seemed alike and pedantic, except for TOBG. 5/5!

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zsigandr
Avid Reader
Location: Ontario, Canada

Postby zsigandr » Sat April 4th, 2009, 12:06 am

TOBG was one of the first historical fiction novels that I read and truth be told, the genre had me hooked! I had read quite a bit about the Tudor era prior to reading these books and knew that it was not known whether Mary was the elder or the younger of the Boleyn girls. I also knew that both Anne & George were executed for incest and treason.

I agree that the use of incest was unnecessary and fed the idea that she truly did commit the heinous acts she was accused of, however, I would like to think that it was a fabrication and Anne was only a victim of the times. Henry needed an easy way to get rid of her with the least amount of guilt on his conscience so to accuse of her of things such as incest was an easy way to make her into the evil woman who seduced him.

I did enjoy learning about Mary whom I did not really know anything about prior to the novel.

I also like the character of Jane Parker (later Boleyn) and how she was involved not only in these beheadings but later in her own and Catherine Howards! For those who have not read PGs the Boleyn Inheritance, this picks up on Jane Boleyn and Catherine Howard's stories.

I did enjoy most of PGs books, but was really disappointed in The Other Queen which I had been dying to get my hands on!

Chatterbox
Bibliophile
Location: New York

Postby Chatterbox » Wed May 6th, 2009, 5:10 pm

I have been reading about Henry VIII and the wives since I was a child, so I came to the book reasonably familiar with the history and found myself enjoying several parts of this book, especially because PG crafted a very compelling atmosphere around the court. Firstly, starting with the scene of an executed nobleman & Mary's response to that set the stage for the atmosphere of the court that was interesting (although it was over the top in terms of foreshadowing as a literary device). I liked the emphasis on the life of a courtier and what that meant. And the character of Anne was just plausible enough -- we all know people who have been damaged in one way or another who could respond in the ways she did, and she was the single most divisive character at the court for decades, not just for her actions but for who she was. The Spanish ambassador described her attractions in v. unflattering terms (and while that was politically motivated, others did the same); at the same time, she was considered fascinating, compelling, magnetic. She was in many ways an anomaly for her time and place (which of course doesn't mean she was a modern woman dropped down in Tudor times!)

The age issue didn't bother me quite as much as it did other readers. The debate over Anne's age has been going on for centuries, I think. 1501? 1507? Who was the elder/younger? Personally, I believe Mary was probably the elder (which was why she was married first), but I don't think being a teenager would have stopped Henry for an instant. At any event, there is enough uncertainty that that didn't impede my general enjoyment of the book.

Witchcraft: I think this was a literary device/literary license. I found the suggestions silly, but possibly motivated by an awareness of how witchcraft was viewed at the time. Which is why I think when Henry tried to explain to himself how he had fallen for her and remained enraptured for so long after he had fallen out of 'love' with her, he grasped at what for his time & place was the only rational explanation -- witchcraft. (Today's shrinks could come up with some great alternatives, I suspect.)

Incest: I found this a silly suggestion. As above, it was a pretext. As Anne herself pointed out at the time, nearly all the accusations of adultery were technically impossible. This is where I part ways with PG, because I felt it was thrown in there for the purpose of titillation alone. (Ditto some of the stuff about John Tradescant senior in PG's book about him, where she believed he was having a homosexual fling with James I's favorite.)

Children: I think Lettice, Catherine's daughter, was supposed to look very much like a Tudor & a more beautiful Elizabeth -- believe I read that in a book that dealt with Elizabeth & Robert Dudley (NF). I somewhat doubt Henry was the king's son -- after all, he had acknowledged Fitzroy, and at that stage, any son would have been claimed, I think, as proof that he could father sons outside his marriage but not in it.

Still, to me, TOBG sticks close enough to the historical facts as I came to know them and while PG may go further out on a limb in imagining the workings of the Tudor court & mind than others, that doesn't bother me. I remember thinking that the book felt v. fresh after reading the same story retold in essentially the same way elsewhere for years. It wasn't esp. well written (the point re "gleaming" is just one of many egregious OTT flourishes), but far less annoying than a lot of other HF I have read. (Kate Emerson's "The Pleasure Palace" hit the wall about halfway through....)

Still the Queen's Fool was a disappointing follow up. I don't know enough about Judaism to comment on that dimension, but it seemed as if she was straining to stretch the known facts to cover what she wanted them to be -- if you follow that!

Her later books -- Constant Princess, the Other Queen -- have been v. disappointing.

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Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Wed May 6th, 2009, 5:40 pm

Thanks for an excellent analysis of The Other Boleyn Girl, Chatterbox. I liked it for the same reason you did - it was a very fresh take on the story. Even though I don't think some of the scenarios Gregory presents are what really happened, I nevertheless find her version of the Anne Boleyn story more plausible in many ways than some other versions which present Anne as a complete innocent. We'll never know as a historical certainty what these people were really like and how they really behaved, except in the broadest general outline that we can deduce from what is necessarily a patchy historical record. I like reading a variety of fictional interpretations that let me imagine some different versions.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings and over 650 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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wealcere
Reader
Location: Wales, UK

Postby wealcere » Wed May 6th, 2009, 7:05 pm

I haven’t read the book but saw the film the other night on Sky.
Fast paced and enjoyable, it seemed to all end very quickly and it seemed like I was google-ing for ages afterwards searching for more information about this relationship and period, as like Zsigandr, I knew nothing about Mary.
I’m sure the book is better than the film, either way I’ve learnt a loads of new facts.
Honesta Quam Magna
How great are honorable deeds

Chatterbox
Bibliophile
Location: New York

Postby Chatterbox » Thu May 7th, 2009, 6:08 am

Wealcere, the book is exponentially better than either film. I thought the BBC version with Jodhi May was marginally less horrible, but in the US version, Mary's husband just... vanishes! Suddenly, she's running off with Stafford, and nary a mention that her first husband has vanished. Not to mention compressed time lines, egregious historical errors... (don't get me going...)
It did have glamorous costumes.
In other words -- do, please, try the book when you get a chance!

Margaret, tks for summarizing in a few words what I tried to say in too long a fashion! It is just plausible enough for me to be willing to suspend my disbelief and relax and just read for pleasure. Of course, based on the thread I started a week or so ago, it seems different things trigger wallbanging by difft folks, so no guarantees that others won't hit on something that makes them hiss with outrage. A salutary reminder that reviewing is inherently extremely subjective. Another good reason to never do it professionally!

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Body in the Ice by A J Mackenzie & A Death in the Dales by Julia Chapman
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Thu May 7th, 2009, 10:47 am

I agree about the film, Chatterbox, about the bit where Mary's husband just vanishes (I think this has been discussed on the movie thread) and the film is very compressed, but they do have to fit in an awful lot of history into less than 2 hours. I wasn't too keen on the Beeb's version either, I didn't like the "diary-room" style sequences (how modern was that!) and noticed that, presumably to appease viewers' sensibilities, they made the sisters quite a few years older than they were in the book, although I think the Beeb's version was better quality than the recent film, which did, of course, look fabulous!

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I know it has its detractors on here but I read an interview with PG herself where she does point out that the book is first and foremost a novel, and that she herself knew very little about Mary B and there's not much info available about her. And it's impossible to know from 500 years distant exactly how people would have talked etc.

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Thu May 7th, 2009, 5:47 pm

And it's impossible to know from 500 years distant exactly how people would have talked etc.


It's probably safe to assume they would have talked in a way different enough from modern English to make readers wall-bang a truly "accurate" book within a few pages!

Thanks for the kind words, Chatterbox! It's very true that reviewing is inherently subjective. When I review for my website, I try very hard to be as objective as possible and simply sketch out what the book is like, so both readers who will probably like it and readers who will probably dislike it will find the review useful and either read or avoid the book, according to their taste. But when I really love a book, I go to bat for it. And every now and then, I find a book disgusting and reprehensible, and will say why I feel that way about it. In both cases, there are readers out there who disagree with me.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings and over 650 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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wealcere
Reader
Location: Wales, UK

Postby wealcere » Thu May 7th, 2009, 8:37 pm

It was the beebs version I saw chatterbox but it looks like I'll have to add to my book pile, probably slip it in under Falls the Shadow.
Honesta Quam Magna
How great are honorable deeds


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