I did not expect to like the book as much as I have but admittedly, The Other Boleyn Girl has enchanted me. While reading I would suddenly find myself in front of the computer searching for information about the reign of King Henry and the Boleyn's. I was sucked into Mary, Anne and George's adventure and mishaps with Henry VIII.
The story starts with Mary, a young naive beauty who will do her families bidding without question. Though a newly wed of only one year, Mary catches the King's eye. She must set aside her marriage and new husband to become the King's mistress. She is torn for she is fond of Queen Catherine whom she is a lady in waiting for and has no desire to disrespect her. Unfortunately she could not refuse her family nor the King. They began to flirt and progress to a more intimate relationship.
The Boleyn and Howard family are pleased that Mary is favored by the King and they aim to continue to earn his good graces. Though they are power hungry, Mary is not. She is simply a young girl who is enjoying the King's affection and possibly falling in love. To Henry's delight, Mary does not ask him for favors. In turn, he showers her with lavish gowns, living quarters and gifts! It is known by ALL that she is the King's mistress. Mary isn't 100% innocent. Her sister Anne is to come from France and Mary can't wait to flaunt her new position. Her star is rising, Oh how jealous Anne will be.
Anne was seething mad that Mary held a better position. To add fuel to the fire, Mary becomes pregnant, first with a girl whom she named Katherine. She found herself with child again. In order to keep the King in the Boleyn's grasp, they send Anne to hold the Kings attention while Mary is lying in. Anne does more than that, she enchants the King! Mary gives Henry a son however it's too late. It's clear, Mary must step down for she does not hold his favor any longer. Of course she feels used and betrayed but what can she do? At this point Anne' star is on the rise.
She woo's the King with her charm, intelligence and wit. Anne refuses to sleep with him while Catherine is still in the picture, in her eyes she would be no better than Mary (whom she regularly calls a whore).Poor Queen Catherine gets the worst of it all; all the while keeping her head high and maintains her dignity. Henry seeks a way to dissolve his marriage to Catherine. She has only given him one child, a girl and has now stopped having her courses; there is no hope for a son. Anne is relentless in her quest for power and titles and will stop at nothing to become the next queen. She has already started to practice abuse of her future power by demanding Mary and George around.
Eventually Anne does give in towards the end of Henry's marriage and beds him. She finds herself with child on her "wedding day" and hoping for a boy. No such luck for a son but she does deliver one of England's most famous rulers, Elizabeth I. No worries, she will keep trying until she delivers a son. After two failed pregnancies, Anne is more determined to deliver Henry a son for her life depends on it. She has always stepped up to the challenge, can she prevail this time?
There is so much going on within the same story. The author does an excellent job of connecting the various stories/events together. We learn of George, the beloved Boleyn brother who struggles with his ahem desires. He is also very close to his sisters, too close for his wife Jane Parker, the courts gossiper. Mary also has a nice spark of happiness enter her world.
I am aware of the inaccuracies of this story hence the reason it is historical fiction. I was shocked and appalled by The Boleyn's and Howard's used their daughters/niece in a pawn to better the family. I honestly felt sorry for all of the children save Anne. I changed my tune towards Anne at the end. I didn't feel like it was her fault she turned out to be so power hungry and demanding, I lay the blame on her family.
Perhaps it's me but it appears that after being with Anne, Henry changes. He was devious and impulsive vs. pre-Anne Henry who loved to dance and laugh. I truly believe that Anne aided him in becoming a tyrant. She encouraged him to break the rules so that they could wed and it eventually backfired on her. I also harbor angry feelings towards him for his ill treatment of Catherine and Mary (later Anne as well!).
His quest to produce a son was so great that he had no remorse in destroying or even taking lives. When he wanted something he got it. When he was tired of something, he found a way to get rid of it. Simply said, Henry behaved like a child throwing a temper tantrum. All of his drama was in vain for both his daughters ruled England, Elizabeth being one of the greatest rulers of all time.
A great read for anyone who enjoys historicals. Although this story is not entirely accurate, it gives us some facts/truths about this era. Personally, I liked Mary much more than Anne or George. George was an OK character but I despised Anne. I did start to feel bad for her later in the story. Though she was not a saint, if anything the total opposite, she was wronged along with five others. She was killed for something that was most likely not her fault. Two separate women, at least eight (I didn't count) pregnancies and all but two make it. Hmmm, in today's society, one would easily conclude that something was indeed wrong with the King and not his wives.