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The Other Boleyn Girl
(Philippa Gregory)

Anyone who has ever sat through a literature course or history course is well accquainted with the world of 16th century England during its most turbulent period; that of the reign of King Henry VIII. King Henry VIII was one of England's most famous kings; his six marriages, and be-headings of two of his wives is well known worldwide and has inspired countless movies and books.

Equally famous is King Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn. For her, Henry turned an entire country upside down, ripped out the guts of its religious heart, and basically declared himself the Head of the Church of England thus causing a tremendous schism in the very fabric of religious thought, belief, and worship between Catholics and Protestants. All this Henry did because he wanted to divorce his Catholic Queen, Katherine of Aragon, in order to marry Anne Boleyn. It is a well known fact that King Henry VIII did marry Anne, they had one child, Elizabeth I, a formidable Queen in her own right, and that because Anne failed to give Henry his heir, a son, he had her beheaded. However, a lesser known story exists and that is the focus of Philippa Gregory's brilliant novel, The Other Boleyn Girl.

The novel tells the story of Mary Boleyn, a young innocent girl born into an ambitious family that was determined to put one of its daughters on the throne of England as Queen. Mary was Anne's older sister. They were both introduced at court and required to be ladies-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. Yet rather than tell us stuffy historical details of the inner workings of the English court, Philippa Gregory weaves a richly detailed narrative story told from Mary's point of view. Her descriptions of Tudor English rule, the countryside, and the turmoil of the fight between Catholics and Henry is well researched. However, the true gem of this novel lies in Philippa Gregory's story telling which spans the 15 years between 1521 and 1536 and takes the reader through the many seasons of court depending on where the court happened to be traveling to.

Through the machinations of her family, Mary is thrust upon Henry as his concubine though he was still married to Katherine and she was married to William Carey. Mary gives birth to two of Henry's illegitimate children, including a boy that Henry could not claim as a legitimate heir. For her part Mary maintains her dignity and recognizes the plots all around her and the possibility of execution which was quite common during Henry's reign. Eventually she must step aside as Henry's attention diverts to her sister, Anne, a fiery, tempermental young woman whose ambition was every bit as fierce as her family's. It was ambition that Mary lacked, but made up for in the qualities of motherhood and wife to her second husband, William Stafford. Mary remained loyal to her family but never-the-less stood steadfast in her resolution to give up all of the royal court of England in order to live out her life in the country with her children and husband.

The novel then sweeps us through the utter chaos of Anne's crowning, her attempts to give Henry his much sought after son and heir, and the final days leading up to her execution. The reader is given a much clearer understanding of just how things were done at court. You begin to feel some compassion for both Mary and Anne and realize that they were simply pawns in their family's attempts to gain the throne of England for themselves. The roles of women at court are regulated to being something pretty for Henry to look at, to take to his bed, and to turn into a Queen if she fulfilled her role succesfully. The families are portrayed as opportunists who forced their sons into becoming court officials and their daughters into royal consorts. After Anne's execution the Seymour family wasted no time in getting their daughter Jane installed as the next Queen. It is said that Henry is buried next to her and that she was the only wife he ever loved because she was the only one who gson, Edward.

This novel is a great bed-time read, a long over-seas flight read, or a great transcontinental train read. It's a fascinating book that puts a whole new spin on the myriad and often complicated relationships of King Henry VIII. It is also an awe-inspiring tale of how one woman managed to keep her head on her shoulders (no pun intended) and lived to tell the tale.

Laura Pena 8/11/05

Resumos Relacionados

- The Other Boleyn Girl

- The Other Boleyn Girl

- Anne Boleyn

- The Wives Of Henry Viii

- The Six Wives Of Henry Viii

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