Most helpful positive review
49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Good, but not a book to be taken literally.
on 30 July 2007
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and re-read it often. The characters are interesting, the story is well-paced and well-told, and Phillipa Gregory invokes the sights and sounds of the Tudor court very well. In Mary Boleyn, the book's narrator, she creates a character that the reader cares about, and surrounds her with even more entertaining historical figures - if there is one drawback to this book, it is that Mary is eclipsed by her 'supporting cast'.
However, as good as this book is, it is not one to be believed. Gregory's facts are deeply in question - it is well known that Mary was the older Boleyn sister, not the younger, and her reptutation is at odds with the naive country girl that Gregory presents us with. It is highly unlikely that her children were fathered by the king (he'd never hesitated to bestow myriad titles on his other illigitemate son, after all, and yet Henry Carey, Mary Boleyn's son, went ignored), and the depiction of Anne Boleyn is unnecessarily negative. The pity we are presumably supposed to feel for Anne at the end of the book feels a little forced after Gregory has chronicled the cruelty, selfishness and incest of the character, but nevertheless Anne is fascinating to read about, and once again Gregory's gift for writing good characters is shown spectacularly.
If you read this book as a novel, a story, and ignore the historical innacuracies, then you will almost certainly enjoy it. The relationship between the three Boleyn siblings is interesting, and Gregory is very skilled at showing us the court - so much so, in fact, that the book dims a little when Mary is away from London. Katherine of Aragon is excellently portrayed, and the machinations of the Duke of Norfolk, the head of the Howard family, are intriguing. Mary's love affair with William is touching - all the more so because it is the one thing we can be sure is true.