Recommend: Yes, with restrictions
Genres: Fiction, historical fiction
I came across this book as a suggestion from Goodreads right after I read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (see a theme?) and my sister-in-law gave me as a gift (thank you!). After reading a Tudor-themed book, it is mandatory to spend the next minutes/hours lost in Wikipedia articles about every character.
The Other Boleyn Girl tells the story of Mary Boleyn, a girl of fourteen who catches the eye of Henry VIII when she comes to court and soon becomes his lover. The king however starts then to desire her sister and Mary must help her family by assisting her sister Anne in seducing the king into marriage.
The Other Boleyn girl isn’t a book about the historical facts on Mary Boleyn’s life, but rather a work of fiction loosely based on both facts and theories. So be warned: you’ll cringe a lot if you prefer your historical novels to be as historically accurate as possible.
My only other complaint about this book is that I wish Mary’s character had been written less innocent. For someone brought up in the court, she is too often surprised by people’s meanness and schemes and acts positively naïve most of the time. She has her moments, but are few and almost feel out of character. I did like her, though, and did feel sorry for the way she got treated by her family and the king. But I liked better the scenes that Anne Boleyn was in and a lot of times wished the story was from her point of view.
Despite being another book on the Henry-VIII-and-his-wives theme, which is interesting anyways and full of material for novels, the author made it her own and the merits of the book are way more to her credit than the popular storyline’s: the characters being unlikable in that particular way that keeps you reading and still cheering for them and a writing style that makes you go through the 530-pages-long book very quickly. I will definitely read other books from Gregory.
Verdict: This book is fast-paced, so don’t be deterred by its length. You will like it if you are interested in historical fiction novels, especially the Tudor ones, and are not too picky about historical accuracy. I would refrain from recommending it to young audiences due to its highly sexual themes.