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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not a book to be taken literally.
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...
Published on 30 July 2007 by Alexandra Coke

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely inaccurate
I just hate this book. Gregory is so biased in favour of Mary Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon and it's so inaccurate that I struggled to finish the book:

- Let's start with Mary Boleyn: in this book Mary never went to France, when all historians agree that she spent part of her life at the court of Francis I. Gregory doesn't mention that she was Francis I's...
Published 22 months ago by alexandra


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52 of 62 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Butchered characterisations, 16 Oct. 2010
By 
Iset (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Other Boleyn Girl (Paperback)
The book is in outward appearances the same length as "The Constant Princess" and "The Boleyn Inheritance", but is actually a longer work, as is revealed when one realises that the font size is considerably smaller than the two aforementioned novels. The up side of this is that at least "The Other Boleyn Girl" has more of a story than the wafer thin plot of the other two. This is not however enough to make it into a good book. The writing itself is of low quality, many scenes are redundant, drag with little or no purpose, and the descriptions and dialogue are lacking sophistication. The book butchers the historical fact, an issue which I'll examine shortly, but in many areas it also fails logically too, for example the idea that if Anne wanted to risk conceiving from another man then her brother George would be the obvious choice, or that Mary Boleyn would have actually done the work of a peasant farmer's wife. The so called plot revolves around the sensationalist scandals surrounding Mary and Anne Boleyn, in what Philippa Gregory laughably claims is a completely historically accurate portrayal, reducing the international political and ethical complexities of the period to the contents of a modern celebrity gossip magazine. She also inexcusably allows anachronisms to permeate the novel, turning the well-spoken Anne Boleyn into a foul-mouthed harpy. The novel, like her others, unfortunately succumbs to "tell" rather than "show" on far too many occasions.

To be brutally honest, I found it difficult to get through the book because it was so awful, and one of the biggest problems was with the main character, Mary Boleyn. The issues with her character overlap with the problems of historical accuracy in the book, since Gregory ignores certain historical facts and cherry picks from controversial discredited theories to create the Mary Boleyn character. It should thus be noted that the Mary Boleyn I am about to describe from the book bears no resemblance to the real life person. She is completely innocent, in stark contrast to every other character (including Jane Seymour who acts holier-than-thou but since Mary dislikes her, we know she's only putting it on), except perhaps Queen Katherine. She is portrayed as passive, naive, slow-witted, submissive to the authority figures in her life even when they are morally wrong, and all that is pure and virtuous in the world. She is always ethically and morally right, despite having some quite ugly opinions of other people and undertaking questionable actions. She cuckolds her husband and has a sexual affair with the king - but it's alright because Mary is truly in love with him. She betrays her mistress, the queen, by engaging in aforementioned affair and furthermore reporting the queen's secret correspondence to her relatives and betraying her - but it's alright because Mary constantly talks about how virtuous Katherine is and how she admires her. Mary is never reviled by the other characters, and is only once or twice called offensive insults, but only by stereotypical bad characters. In contrast, when Anne is with the king, she is single and has no husband to betray, and yet she is in the wrong because her love for Henry is not the innocent pure love of Mary. When Mary teaches Anne the techniques to keep Henry happy, Anne is spat at and insulted by everyone despite having learned them from Mary.

In short, this Mary Boleyn is bland, boring and one-dimensional. I hated her because she was a drip and a doormat, and a dictionary definition of a Purity Sue. Worst of all, Mary is held up as something to be admired. It's obvious that since Mary is supposed to be the character the readers identify with (Gregory thinks that making her unfailingly innocent and plopping her down in an unrealistic world of caricature villains will achieve this) and can do no wrong, her fate is supposed to be something to aspire to. We too, the readers are told, should try to be placid and obedient and prefer the life of an impoverished country idyll married to the stereotypical poor but honest man. Gregory hit upon a good idea of writing a book about the forgotten sister of Anne Boleyn, but in throwing all known historical fact out of the window, she might as well have written a novel about a completely fictional king and two sisters competing for his love.

As obvious as it is that Philippa Gregory adores Mary Boleyn, it is equally plain that she loathes Anne Boleyn. Anne, the devout, clever and generous woman of history is nowhere in evidence here. Instead she's been replaced by a character of the same name who is instead petty, vain, cruel, possessive, and whose wit and intelligence is painted as a negative character trait for a woman to possess. Her story in this novel revolves around sensationalist twaddle such as incest with her brother, deformed babies resulting from aforementioned sinful union, attempted poisonings of Princess Mary and Bishop Fisher, and using witchcraft to have an abortion. The other characters are equally implausible and one-dimensional, from the saintly Katherine of Aragon to the irredeemable greed and ambition of Thomas Boleyn, his wife Elizabeth and her brother the Duke of Norfolk, and as for Henry VIII he was simply a mixture of stupid and petulant. None of these characters have any depth or believability.

Finally, a particular word must be made in the historical accuracy stakes about Mary Boleyn's fate. Philippa Gregory has her riding off to find Stafford and marry him, and she lives in a small farmhouse cottage with him with some farmland. When Stafford is at court, we are told, he employs local tenants to keep this house and farm the lands, but when he is present he apparently sends his tenants away and takes up the plough himself. We are even treated to preposterous scenes where Mary describes how, following her marriage to Stafford, she learns how to cook, smoke ham, light a fire, churn butter, make cheese, bake bread and pluck birds. She even declares how much she is looking forwards to being a farmer's wife. This is all patently ridiculous. Either Gregory has a completely erroneous idea of just what class and standard of living gentry had, or she has a completely erroneous idea of farm life, imagining it to be a country idyll like Marie Antoinette's mock shepherdess residence at La Petite Trianon with no conception of the constant hard work involved. The real Mary Boleyn, judging from her stream of letters to her family and the king, was desperate to return to court and escape even the life of the country gentlewoman. She certainly wouldn't have contemplated undertaking manual labour.

These, and many more patently deliberately chosen inaccuracies in the book and about the characters had me shaking my head, and it was a strain not to throw the book down in anger at the disservice done to the historical people here, including Mary Boleyn herself who clearly had a much more interesting personality and life than the simpering drip of this novel. The only reason I curbed that urge was to avoid accusations that this review could not possibly be an accurate reflection of the novel if I had not read it all the way to the end. I appreciate that authors have a right to literary license, to fill in the gaps in history in their historical fiction, and maybe even to alter or reinterpret a few facts here and there, but the polite thing to do when an author does that is to admit to the alterations in the author's note, explaining where and why you did it and what actually happened. That way it openly acknowledges where the story has diverged from fact and helpfully informs the reader which bits in particular have been changed by the author and are not in fact accurate. The vast majority of people reading it won't be knowledgeable about the period, or historians, and could come away from this novel with a very skewed and in many places wrong idea about who these people were and what really happened. As a result, most people's idea of Anne Boleyn for the next generation or two is now going to be of a cruel, scheming harpy.

In historical fiction, based closely of real life events and people in the past, I believe that authors have a responsibility to be as accurate and as true to life as possible, or else freely admit their alterations, to do justice to the men and women who lived through it, otherwise it is ultimately doing those men and women a grave disservice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting!, 27 July 2004
This review is from: Other Boleyn Girl, the (Paperback)
well first off i just want to say that im only 16 and not many people i know of my age actually read....so i hope that this review might inspire others to read! however i dont think words can explain how much i enjoyed this book....it made you feel as if you were really there and i just couldn't put it down!I was like that the first time of reading it,the second and the third! i have read quite a few of phillipa gregorys books and this still remains my favorite even though the others are also excellant! i could recomend this book to anyone!phillipa gregory is my favorite author...hope she becomes yours too!i advise you to READ IT!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting!, 27 July 2004
This review is from: Other Boleyn Girl, the (Paperback)
well first off i just want to say that im only 16 and not many people i know of my age actually read....so i hope that this review might inspire others to read! however i dont think words can explain how much i enjoyed this book....it made you feel as if you were really there and i just couldn't put it down!I was like that the first time of reading it,the second and the third! i have read quite a few of phillipa gregorys books and this still remains my favorite even though the others are also excellant! i uld recomend this book to anyone!phillipa gregory i smy favorite author...hope she becomes yours too!i advise you to READ IT!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful book!, 5 Nov. 2009
By 
C. Hedges - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Other Boleyn Girl (Paperback)
Firstly, be warned! This book is long. The writing is small and its over 500pages long. I can usually read a book in 3days, this took a week.

But it was fantastic and very informative. Who cares if it was not 100% factually correct, I am not sure any historical books can when the world revolved around rumours. But it was very insightful. Gregory really knows how to bring the characters to life, how many time whilst reading this I felt myself attempting to talk in the humourous way her characters did, brilliant! 5 stars for me and I cant wait to read a book about the next generation of kings and queens (Edward and QE1).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars TheOther Boleyn Girl, 7 April 2008
By 
Mrs. B. M. Finch "amdramlady" (Warwickshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Other Boleyn Girl (Paperback)
Entertaining read as a novel, but, and it's a very large BUT! The author says she has 'researched' other writings - but there are far too many wrong facts and other well known facts that are not mentioned. A very biased novel, leading to a biased movie.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It was just okay..., 14 May 2013
This review is from: The Other Boleyn Girl (Paperback)
Ive been re-reading my Phillipa Gregory catalogue and think I might have overdone her a bit. This was okay - your bog standard escape for a few hours but not a patch on Sarah Dunant 'Birth of Venus' or similar historical fiction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read, 27 Aug. 2009
By 
Emma L. Knott (Devon, U.K) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Other Boleyn Girl (Paperback)
I have never had an eye for this genre, and suprised myself when it caught my eye whilst browsing a book store a couple years ago.

I was pleasantly suprised, and instantly captivated. I felt as though I was there watching everything happen, feeling their happiness and pain.

I highly reccomend this book to everybody who has a slight interest in English History. A fascinating perspective on a remarkable piece of history.

Much better than the film, which I had the unfortunate pleasure of watching on a recent long haul flight. I'm blaming Jet Lag for putting myself through that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book in years!, 6 July 2014
This book by phillipa gregory may not be the most historically accurate book you will ever find, but her choice to do it from the point of view of mary boleyn gives the read an entirely different perspective that hasnt been given before. The book is very dramatic and intriqueing- you never know what any character will do next, especially anne boleyn, who appears to be a different women when she returns to the novel after a short absence due to mis-conduct( spoiler!) Basically, if you love drama or history this novel is for, as it action-packed and full to the brim with emotion.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Do not let `The Other Boleyn Girl' be the only thing you read about Anne, 22 Sept. 2007
This review is from: The Other Boleyn Girl (Paperback)
Although Anne Boleyn was well aware of the fact that her enemies were more than willing to spread lies about her, to accuse her of adultery, incest, witchcraft and anything else they could think of, I'm sure that she never imagined that more than four and a half centuries after her death, at a time when no reputable historian believes her to have been guilty of the crimes she was framed for to facilitate her murder, those same slanders would be dredged up again.

Was it not enough that these lies robbed an innocent woman of her life? Now her name is being defiled yet again to sell books. I hope that Philippa Gregory is proud of herself.

If we are to believe Ms Gregory - and I sincerely hope that nobody makes the mistake of doing so - Anne was a ruthless, manipulative schemer, utterly consumed by ambition even as a teenager, willing to do whatever it took to gain her the power she sought, regardless of who she hurt in the process. It is strongly implied that she was guilty of adultery and incest and her own sister suspects her of murder. (Ironically enough, in a later novel, `The Boleyn Inheritance', one of the narrators recants her accusations and confirms that Anne and George were innocent - are we therefore to believe that Mary was lying in `The Other Boleyn Girl' accusing her brother and sister of a capital crime? It would certainly make the character more interesting if that was the case) Anne's devout faith, and her enormous influence over religious affairs and foreign policy, are not mentioned. Anne was discreet about her charitable work but gave enormous sums to the less fortunate.

In contrast, her sister Mary is portrayed as a petal-fresh innocent, refreshingly naïve and loving despite the corruption of the world around her, a mere child when the scheming of her family tears her away from her husband, forcing her to betray Queen Katherine, to whom she is devoted and unlike her selfish, ambitious sister, she truly loves the King. And the Queen. Even though she's breaking her heart by having an affair with her husband.

Of course, the real Mary Boleyn was somewhat different. For starters, Mary was almost certainly the elder sister, likely the eldest of the Boleyn children. She was not born in 1508 - unless, of course, she managed to be dismissed from the French court after a brief love affair with King Francois, then subsequent affairs with several of his courtiers that earned her the less than charming nickname of `the King's English mare', or the description `a very great whore, the most infamous of all', by the tender age of eleven. Far from supporting or encouraging these affairs, Mary's parents and younger sister were said to have been mortified by them.

Henry recognized neither Catherine nor Henry Carey as his children and whether or not he was truly their father is a question that may never be answered.

Anne did not steal her sister's son from her in the dual hopes of making herself more appealing to the King and robbing Mary of her great claim to his attention, rather it was Henry himself who granted Anne the wardship of her nephew, as Mary's husband had left her in great debt and unable to properly provide for him. Anne provided young Henry Carey with an excellent education, an act of kindness rather than one of malice as is depicted in this book. She also secured her sister a pension of £100 a year.

In this novel, Ms Gregory makes the fatal mistake for any historical novelist and plays favourites. Some degree of bias is inevitable but Ms Gregory takes it much further. The characters she herself seems to like are shown in the best possible light, while those she seems to dislike appear to have virtually no redeeming characteristics whatsoever, including poor Anne who seems like she should be starring in `The Omen' as Damien's twin sister. Rather than taking the existing facts about the life and actions of her narrator and explaining the reasons behind them, showing us what brought Mary to the path she ended up following, she chooses instead to cherry-pick, retaining the facts that support her rose-coloured view of Mary Boleyn and discarding those that would tarnish this image.

Katherine of Aragon is another character that Ms Gregory seems to favour; steadfastly standing up for her principles when Henry attempts to annul their marriage on the grounds that her prior marriage to his brother was consummated, refusing to accept the annulment, defending against it - and lying through her teeth in the process, according to another novel of Gregory's, `The Constant Princess'. What a paragon Katherine was! So loving to her faithless husband, so forgiving even to the erring Mary, so determined not to allow her daughter to be branded illegitimate... of course, what Ms Gregory chose not to tell us was that two of the options offered to Katherine; an annulment on the grounds that she and Henry had made an honest mistake by marrying when their union was forbidden, or retirement to a convent, would have enabled the marriage to be dissolved while allowing Princess Mary to remain legitimate and to retain her place in the line of succession. I would have to question whether it was truly their daughter that Katherine was thinking of when she refused to release Henry from their marriage, or if it was her own pride and ambition that dictated her actions.

Of course, one could take a different interpretation and assume that, as Mary Boleyn is narrating, she is deliberately distorting the facts in her own favour and in favour of those she likes and admires, and vilifying those she does not.

Frankly, I think that it is a shame that Ms Gregory chose to center her novel, not around Mary Boleyn but around a creation of her own, a new character inserted into the story in place of Mary Boleyn and a character who is, to put it bluntly, boring and one-dimensional, much like Hannah Green and Amy Dudley in later books. An account of the life of the real Mary Boleyn could have been fascinating, and given that she is a good writer, I do not doubt that she would have been able to make it a compelling read.

Enjoy this book as the piece of fiction it is by all means but please do not assume that it is in any way representative of Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn or any of the other characters. It's not.

For those interested in the period, I would recommend the novels of Jean Plaidy and Margaret Irwin, and particularly Wendy J. Dunn's lovely book, "Dear Heart, How Like You This". Although, like all historical novelists, they take a few liberties, they treat the figures in their stories far more fairly than Ms Gregory is apparently able to.

Please, whatever you do, don't let `The Other Boleyn Girl' be the only thing you read about Anne.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Like many lovers of historical dramas, 19 Mar. 2015
Like many lovers of historical dramas, I have always had a (completely healthy) fascination with the Tudors, particularly that old romantic we know as Henry VIII. Drawn to scandal and mystery, Phillipa Gregory’s collection has naturally been on my wishlist for a while and I couldn’t be happier that I finally got round to reading this. ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ is most certainly a work of fiction (do not read if you are seriously irked by historical inaccuracies), but captures the essence of the 16th century so convincingly that the reader is likely to forget this.

Written solely from the perspective of Mary Boleyn, the sister of Henry VIII’s second wife Anne Boleyn, we are catapulted straight into the Tudor court of the early 1500’s. Gregory’s grasp of the politics, lust and ambition of the court is utterly compelling, and I confess I was so absorbed I found it hard to put down. I loved her portrayal of all the characters, in particular her interpretation of Catherine of Aragon – one of my favourite historical characters from this time period. There is so much to say about this book, and I couldn’t recommend it more so if you are on the fence about it - get reading!

I really think if you have a passion for the Tudors, this is the book for you. The story ends on a poignant and resounding note which will stay with you long after you have turned the last page - Gregory’s ability to bring to life a story 400 years dead is almost magical, and I look forward eagerly to making my way through the rest of her books. Next stop; ‘The Boleyn Inheritance.’
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Other Boleyn Girl, the
Other Boleyn Girl, the by Philippa Gregory (Paperback - 17 Jun. 2002)
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