Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Other Boleyn Girl

Since films and series based upon the books of Philippa Gregory are defining how many people understand British history, it is interesting to revisit the historicity of one of her earlier books. Here is a review of The Other Boleyn Girl by author Helen R. Davis.
 In The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory to me seems to want to rewrite history to make Mary Boleyn more important than she actually was. I wonder what Gregory has against Anne Boleyn. She seems to sympathize way too much with Katharine and Mary. The idea of Anne as a wicked stepmother persecuting 'poor innocent Mary' is not entirely false, but it should not be held up as the clincher for Anne's morality. Anne on several terms offered Mary peace terms, which Mary refused to take. Mary was not Anne's victim, she was her opponent. Also, many Anne haters forget that Mary's treatment worsened after Anne was beheaded. Also, while Mary was no monster, she is responsible for the deaths of her own people. She is not innocent by any means. The young Mary deserves pity, the adult Mary does not.*

Anyway, Philippa Gregory takes every rumor about Anne and presents them as fact and even invents a new one, such as Anne adopting Mary's son. There is no basis in fact for this. Having read her later works, it seems to me Gregory despises Anne and her daughter Elizabeth. I understand this is fiction, but many people who are not educated in history may take this as fact. I am very concerned, especially since Anne is long dead and cannot stand up for herself. Also while I can understand disliking Anne, I am very disturbed by the anti-Elizabeth trend. Elizabeth I was one of the most important female monarchs in the history of the West.

As for the writing itself, I am not squeamish in regards to sex. But Philippa Gregory has written a porno, not a novel. I had to skip over half the book due to certain scenes. PG, please leave this to your readers' imagination. We do not need to know what Henry and Anne Boleyn did in the bedroom!

There is one thing I will say for this book: it got historical fiction going again. That is why I give this book a very generous 2 stars. But please, if you are looking for an accurate representation of this court, I recommend Alison Weir or David Starkey. If you are looking for good fiction about Anne Boleyn, I recommend The Lady in the Tower by Jean Plaidy, Brief Gaudy Hour by Margaret Campbell Barnes, The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell, (best Anne Boleyn novel out there, IMO) or even the not sympathetic but more accurate The Concubine by Norah Lofts. I also recommend The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo. It is not a biography of her but is a study of how Anne is seen in pop culture, Eric Ives's excellent The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn and if you want a good movie about her romance with Henry, I recommend Anne of the Thousand Days. To a lesser extent I recommend Doomed Queen Anne by Carolyn Meyer, which is pretty inaccurate but at least sympathetic. Please read it only after reading or watching ANY of the other recommendations.

*I personally see Princess Mary as a victim since she was mistreated by Anne, who had the authority of the Queen. However, I do not blame Anne as much as I blame Henry VIII, who participated in the persecution of his own daughter. EMV


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4 comments:

Helen Davis said...

Can you add a link to The Most Happy?

elena maria vidal said...

Of course!

Dymphna said...

The Concubine was pretty sympathetic. It presented Anne as a headstrong woman who realized too late that she was in over her head. Norah Lofts was particularly good at showing the effect she had on people.

Helen Davis said...

It was, but i didn't feel it was as sympathetic as some of the others. I like Norah Lofts. I also recommend her books on Isabella of Castile and Katharine of Aragon, Crown of Aloes and The King's Pleasure.