The tent for the queen and her ladies was hung in cherry-red and white silk, the queen was wearing a cherry gown to match and she looked young and rosy in the bright colour. I was in green, the gown I had worn at the Shrove Tuesday masque when the king singled me out from all the others. The colour made my hair glow more golden and my eyes shone. I stood beside the queen’s chair and knew that any man looking from her to me would think that she was a fine woman, but old enough to be my mother, while I was a woman of only fourteen, a woman ready to fall in love, a woman ready to feel desire, a precocious woman, a flowering girl. (28)
Life at the royal court is not as easy or as glamorous as one might think. Behind the words of courtly love, exchanged between handsome noblemen and beautifully gowned ladies, are a multitude of schemes all designed with a singular purpose: to gain power.
In Tudor England, in the court of King Henry this is no different. Determined to profit from the King’s desperate desire to produce a male heir (not to mention his eye for the ladies), the prominent Boleyn family do all they can to put one of their own in the path of the King. Young Mary Boleyn, beautiful and somewhat naive to the harsher realities of court, is the one chosen. Coached and manipulated by her family and their unquenchable greed and ambition, Mary catches the eye of her king.
Until her sister Anne comes to court. Her more intelligent, more seductive – more ambitious – sister. And suddenly Mary finds herself set aside, becoming ‘the other Boleyn girl’, forced to aide her sister in procuring all she sacrificed for.
I’ll be honest right from the start: I absolutely adored The Other Boleyn Girl. The intrigue, the scheming, the oh-so-polite betrayals of the court – all of it was written so well that I simply couldn’t put the book down.
Everyone knows the tale – not to mention fate - of Anne Boleyn, second queen to King Henry VIII, but this is not her story. This is the story of Mary Boleyn, the younger sister abused and then thrown aside in the name of family duty. And this balance between Mary’s ownership of the story and Anne’s inherent capacity to dominate and control every situation is an interesting one.
Historical accuracy was, I felt, given its appropriate respect before giving way to the embellishments of fiction. It included enough history for those with no background knowledge to follow the story without turning it into an incomprehensible political piece. Having said that, I was left with the feeling of needing to know more. As I said earlier, this is Mary’s story – and once her time at court is over so too is the story.
Highly recommended to lovers of historical fiction or period romance. 5/5