I read this book back in January when I saw a preview for the movie in the theatre. Being a true geek, I decided that I wanted to read the book before watching the movie.
I've never been one to be drawn to historical novels, but the plot of the movie intrigued me, so off to the bookstore I went. I'm glad that I bought it because it was a story that was fascinating for me to read.
While Philippa Gregory states that the story is a work of fiction, it is based loosely on what happened in England in the 16th century. I was completely drawn into the story and my imagination ran wild, as I pictured such a time of turmoil so clearly in my head.
The story is that of the rise and fall of the Tudor court. The narrator is Mary Boleyn (otherwise known as The Other Boleyn Girl) and she tells a story of love, heartache, mischief, slander, crime and punishment. She and her sister, Anne, are ladies of the Tudor Court, both beloved by King Henry VIII. Mary has fallen for the King and bears two children (while being married to another man). All the while, her sister, Anne, betrays Mary and commands the king's love and devotion while Mary is carrying his first child. The Boleyn parents are very short-sighted and see their hunger for sovereignty as a good excuse to use their daughters beauty and wit to charm the king.
In a nutshell, Anne manages to win not only the King's love but the throne as Queen of England (using deceitful means - overturning Queen Catherine's rights). She betrays her sister by adopting her son and denying Mary and legal rights as his true mother (she does this so that if she cannot conceive a son with Henry, she will have her sister's son as an heir to the throne). Anne sees that her husband, the King, has a roaming eye and is afraid that he will fall for another courtesan, which would leave Anne banished from the throne, just as Catherine was. Anne is desperate to have a son (she did give birth to a girl, Elizabeth, who ended up being one of the most powerful Queen's in England) thinking that this will keep her place on the throne. She is unsuccessful as her many miscarriages would show, and has even resorted to drastic measures (incest) in order to conceive a boy (this obviously ended very badly).
In the end, Anne was arrested for the crime of incest (among others) and was executed by way of beheading. Mary, on the other hand, lives her life with her new husband peacefully within the country, turning her back on the courtesan life.
This book was well written and kept me engaged throughout. It took my about three weeks to read this book (which is a long time for me when reading a book I actually want to read), but I enjoyed it very much.