I have many opinions on The Other Boleyn Girl. I want to begin by discussing the sister dynamic that pervades the entire novel and is the central relationship throughout the book. As the older sister of two young women, I found the relationship between Ann Boleyn and her younger sister, Mary, equal parts unrealistic and true. In some passages, Mary describes how much she detests her older sister and can see her for what she really is, a power-hungry, selfish individual. In other parts of the novel, Mary describes how Ann will always be her sister and how Mary’s fate is completely twisted up into Ann’s quickly changing fate. Clearly, there are numerous reasons why I shouldn’t have been comparing my relationship with my sisters to Ann Boleyn’s relationship with her sister, but I couldn’t help myself.
Moving on to the plot of The Other Boleyn Girl, I loved the pacing of this novel. It started up immediately with the action. Before page 100, King Henry VIII has taken Mary Boleyn as his mistress, and the Boleyn family is thrust into the spotlight. There is no slow build towards action, which I appreciated from a rather large tome (661 pages). As usual with me and historical fiction, I found myself getting too caught up in what historically happened, leaving me slightly less time to focus on the storyline and how it unfolded.
For those unfamiliar with the historical Boleyn family (spoiler alert), Ann Boleyn was the second wife of King Henry VIII. Good ole Henry is famous for having six wives, and nothing else, so that should tell you what a great ruler for England he was. It is rumored that two of King Henry’s illegitimate children were the children of Mary Boleyn, Ann’s younger sister. This is the only factual information included in The Other Boleyn Girl. Not including the ending.
I kept reminding myself not to get upset by the ending, because I knew how it would end, but I still got upset. What really surprised be about this book was the harshly negative light shed on Ann Boleyn and her character. I think Philippa Gregory was trying to show her readers that all decisions made in this time period were male centric, but when Ann becomes queen and stops listening to the head of her family, this design is shattered.
I would completely recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. It actually reminded me a lot of Outlander.