The Other Boleyn Girl

The Other Boleyn Girl (The Tudor Court, #2)The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time Period: 1521-1536
Setting: The various courts of Henry VIII, Hever Castle, Rochford
Main Characters: Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn, Henry VIII

Opening lines: “I could hear a roll of muffled drums. But I could see nothing but the lacing on the bodice of the lady standing in front of me, blocking my view of the scaffold. I had been at this court for more than a year and attended hundreds of festivities; but never before one like this.”

3 stars for me. Not so much because of her treatment of history – it isn’t as bad as the fabrications of the TV series “The Tudors” – and there is admittedly not a lot known about Mary Boleyn, including when she was born and whether either of her first two children were actually Henry’s or not. And who can fault an author for incorporating all of the more sensational claims of witchcraft, homosexuality, incest, etc.? It makes a whopping good tale! BUT, I find her characters too starkly black and white. Mary the good, innocent sister. Anne the scheming and vicious shrew. The Boleyn family ambitious at all costs. She practically beats you over the head with what you are supposed to think and how you are supposed to feel about these characters. Her style becomes too repetitive telling you the same things over and over again. But she portrays a court where all of these things certainly could have happened. You certainly get a feel for how long Anne had to keep Henry interested before they were finally married, and how exhausting it must have been. And I liked the story of the romance between Mary and William Stafford. She did marry against her family’s wishes and there is extant a very passionate letter by her defending her choice. This novel ends with Anne’s execution, but Mary went on to live quite happily and inherited all of the Boleyn holdings after her parents died, so she and William ended up quite wealthy landowners.

Book Description: When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of the handsome and charming Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family’s ambitious plots as the king’s interest begins to wane, and soon she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. With her own destiny suddenly unknown, Mary realizes that she must defy her family and take fate into her own hands.

Comments on the films:
The 2008 version starring Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman, and Eric Bana:
2 stars. Where do I even start? Fans of the book will be sorely disappointed. The time frame has been shortened considerable. Mary’s first husband just disappears with no mention of his death. There is no romance between Mary and William Stafford. Just a note at the end of the movie that they got married and lived happily. Mary has a son but no daughter, and there is nothing of her and her children which was one of the good parts of the book. It is all about Anne Boleyn, and with the time frame so shortened, it all comes off as ridiculous and unbelievable. Eric Bana is suitably regal as Henry VIII, but dark-haired and much too young here. The sets and costumes are gorgeous.

The 2003 version starring Natascha McElhone, Jodhi May, and Jared Harris:
3 stars despite the low budget sets and costumes. This is a little more intimate in format, and I kind of liked the confessional asides by the two sisters. I thought Jared Harris was too small to be Henry VIII and had none of the authority and hints of the tyrant he would become that Eric Bana portrayed. But all in all, it follows the book a little more closely and does not leave out key events like the death of William Carey. I still would have liked the romance between Mary and William Stafford developed a bit more.

The Boleyn King

The Boleyn King (The Boleyn Trilogy, #1)The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Setting: England, Hampton Court,
Time: 1553-1554

Main characters: Anne Boleyn, her daughter Elizabeth, her son Henry IX (known as William), Dominic Courtenay (son of a traitor, mother “a Boleyn”, ward of George Boleyn, Lord Rochford), Genevieve Wyatt (known as Minuette)

First paragraph, Chapter One: “I am seventeen today and have decided that, although I shall never be a scholar like Elizabeth, I can at least keep a diary. My history is quickly told – daughter of a French mother and an English gentleman, no siblings, and no parents since I was eight….”

Favorite line: “Whistling softly, William stepped into the privy chamber and surveyed the pieces of what looked to have been a matched set of pottery vases scattered around the fireplace. His mother stopped in midpace, skirts swirling around her, and he said, ‘Whose head shall I have off this time, Mother?’ ”

I enjoyed this alternate view of history. The son of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn is about to come into his majority. England is divided over the succession, with the dispossessed Mary the center of Catholic conspiracies. At the heart of this novel is a document that purports to testify that William was NOT the son of Henry VIII. A woman is murdered and Minuette, Dominic, Elizabeth, and William attempt to solve the mystery, and become swept up in the court intrigue. William is not immune to the temptations of privilege and power. Dominic is determined to prove himself different from his traitorous father. Elizabeth, as the sister of a king, is a political pawn to be given in marriage wherever it will be to the best advantage. And Minuette writes in her diary and agonizes over whether she loves William or Dominic. Without giving any spoilers, let’s just say that there are plenty of loose threads still at the end of the book, to be continued in the next installment, The Boleyn Deceit.

Description: The Boleyn King is the first book in an enthralling trilogy that dares to imagine: What if Anne Boleyn had actually given Henry VIII a son who grew up to be king?

Just seventeen years old, Henry IX, known as William, is a king bound by the restraints of the regency yet anxious to prove himself. With the French threatening battle and the Catholics sowing the seeds of rebellion at home, William trusts only three people: his older sister Elizabeth; his best friend and loyal counselor, Dominic; and Minuette, a young orphan raised as a royal ward by William’s mother, Anne Boleyn. Against a tide of secrets, betrayal, and murder, William finds himself fighting for the very soul of his kingdom. Then, when he and Dominic both fall in love with Minuette, romantic obsession looms over a new generation of Tudors. One among them will pay the price for a king’s desire, as a shocking twist of fate changes England’s fortunes forever.

About the author: Laura Andersen has one husband, four children, and a college degree in English that she puts to non-profitable use by reading everything she can lay her hands on. Books, shoes, and travel are her fiscal downfalls, which she justifies because all three ‘take you places.’ She loves the ocean (but not sand), forests (but not camping), good food (but not cooking), and shopping (there is no downside.) Historical fiction offers her all the pleasure of visiting the past without the inconvenience of no electricity or indoor plumbing. After more than thirty years spent west of the Rocky Mountains, she now lives in Massachusetts with her family.