Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory

I couldn't put this book down, although it felt a bit cyclical at points. This is the story of Mary Boleyn, a mistress to Henry VIII and sister to Henry's second wife Anne Boleyn.

Many have lamented that Gregory took many liberties in telling this story, but I think those people are forgetting that this is a book of fiction, albeit based on real events. Gregory did not set out to write a history book, but rather to imagine what might have gone in the bedchambers and court of Henry VIII. She tells an intriguing story of betrayal, love and greed and gives us the thoughts of a character in history about which not much is known.

One of the themes I found most interesting was the exploration of how a woman in these times had no property, land or money of her own, and all her interests were tied to that of her husband or family's success. It almost seems that to be a poor farmers wife held more power than being a rich courtier. As a farmer, you were a partner in a family run business; as a courtier, you were whatever the men in power told you to be. Ultimately Mary successfully breaks free of this, and although Anne tries to exert her power, ultimately men decide her fate for her.

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