Book Review: The Other Boleyn Girl

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Other Boleyn Girl is one of those books that I have wanted to read for some time now. I’m a big fan of historical fiction, especially those stories that revolve around the Tudors. For years I’ve been telling myself to read this book and just never got around to it. Then I made the mistake of watching the movie first, about four years ago, and my desire to read this book went right out the window. The movie was so bad, not just story wise but the character bothers me something fierce (I was in the middle of watching The Tudors on TV when I watched this and of course the actors were all wrong in this movie in my opinion). So I put off reading this book, fearing it would be as bad as the movie, but knowing it would be better since more movie adaptations of books ruin the stories. Fast forward four years since watching the movie and I finally got around to reading this book. It certainly helped that it was picked for the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout on GoodReads.

I admit I was initially surprised to see that the book was written in first person from Mary Boleyn’s perspective, though when I thought about it that certainly made sense, but I was partially expecting it to be in third person or from Anne’s point of view. However, once I got used to seeing things from Mary’s point of view I began to enjoy this book quite a lot. Now having watched the movie, The Tudors, and after reading a few historical fiction novels involving these characters I had a pretty good knowledge of many of the events that would take place within this book. I wondered if this previous knowledge would ruin this story for me, but I didn’t have that issue, instead I kept feeling as though I was reading a fresh story. It wasn’t completely new to me, but felt unique enough that I wasn’t bothered by that.

The characters in this story aren’t entirely what I expected them to be. Mary and Anne were much younger and at first I didn’t agree with this. But as time went on I accepted this change, along with the other changes that the author made, and simply enjoyed the story. Some people may argue that making these changes then makes the book historically inaccurate, and perhaps that is true, however I always tend to approach history with the knowledge that not everything may be accurate. How do we know for certain that what the histories wrote down all those years ago is the absolute truth? We don’t. And so I apply that same thinking to historical fiction, many follow the events of history closely, while others take liberties to make changes, some small, others larger, to make a story more appealing to the reader base. And so is the case with The Other Boleyn Girl, many events and characters are historically accurate and some have been changed.

The other characters in this story, much like Mary and Anne, are well known to those who read historical fiction. I enjoyed the varied mix of character, from the King to the servants. Everyone is important to the story and events, even though who only appear once or twice, have something to add to the story and without their presence or input on a certain event then this may very well have been different.

Of course the major appeal of this book is Anne Boleyn. Not necessarily her character, but her rise and subsequent fall. That is the real reason I read this book. Everything else that occurs within the pages, though it is in some way connected to Anne’s story, only adds to the overall appeal. The Boleyn family is both brilliant and stupid in their quest for power, reaching high, and perhaps too high, using their other families to their advantage, not caring how the others may feel. As bad as it may sound, I really enjoyed watching that family rip themselves apart in their bid for power.

One thing I didn’t enjoy, and this isn’t really to do with this book but affects many historical fiction novels, is the repetitive names of that time. There are too many male characters with the name Henry or William. Then when you look at the women there are tons of Elizabeth’s, Katherine’s/Catherine’s, Mary’s. I do understand that these names were commonly used in many families, especially those of higher standings, back then, however it can be sometimes hard to know exactly which Mary or which Henry is being referred to.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. It had everything that I love about historical fiction but most of all it had the story of Anne Boleyn and her fall from grace. The writing style was very appealing in this book and the flow was also good. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of historical fiction, however I would also caution them against watching the movie (at least until after they have read the book). I will be reading the rest of this series in the future and look forward to see others stories come to life.

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