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Other Boleyn Girl (Gregory)

The Other Boleyn Girl 
Philippa Gregory, 2002
Simon & Schuster
672 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781416560609


Summary
When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen.

However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family's ambitious plots as the king's interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king, and take her fate into her own hands.

A rich and compelling tale of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue, The Other Boleyn Girl introduces a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most exciting and glamorous court in Europe and survived by following her own heart. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—January 9, 1954
Where—Nairobi, Kenya
Raised—Bristol, England, UK
Education—B.A., Sussex University; Ph.D., Edinburgh University
Currently—lives in the North York Moors, Yorkshire, England


Philippa Gregory is a British historical novelist, writing since 1987. The best known of her works is The Other Boleyn Girl (2001), which in 2002 won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award from the Romantic Novelists' Association.

Early life and academic career
Philippa Gregory was in Nairobi, Kenya, the second daughter of Elaine (Wedd) and Arthur Percy Gregory, a radio operator and navigator for East African Airways. When she was two years old, her family moved to Bristol, England.

She was a "rebel" at Colston's Girls' School where she obtained a B grade in English and two E grades in History and Geography at A-level. She then went to journalism college in Cardiff and spent a year as an apprentice with the Portsmouth News before she managed to gain a place on an English literature degree course at the University of Sussex, where she switched to a history course.

She worked in BBC radio for two years before attending the University of Edinburgh, where she earned her doctorate in 18th-century literature. Gregory has taught at the University of Durham, University of Teesside, and the Open University, and was made a Fellow of Kingston University in 1994.

Private life
Gregory wrote her first novel Wideacre while completing a PhD in 18th-century literature and living in a cottage on the Pennine Way with first husband Peter Chislett, editor of the Hartlepool Mail, and their baby daughter, Victoria. They divorced before the book was published.

Following the success of Wideacre and the publication of The Favoured Child, she moved south to near Midhurst, West Sussex, where the Wideacre trilogy was set. Here she married her second husband Paul Carter, with whom she has a son. She divorced for a second time and married Anthony Mason, whom she had first met during her time in Hartlepool.

Gregory now lives on a 100-acre (0.40 km2) farm in the North York Moors national park, with her husband, children and stepchildren (six in all). Her interests include riding, walking, skiing, and gardening.

Writing
She has written novels set in several different historical periods, though primarily the Tudor period and the 16th century. Reading a number of novels set in the 17th century led her to write the bestselling Lacey trilogy — Wideacre, which is a story about the love of land and incest, The Favoured Child and Meridon. This was followed by The Wise Woman. A Respectable Trade, a novel of the slave trade in England, set in 18th-century Bristol, was adapted by Gregory for a four-part drama series for BBC television. Gregory's script was nominated for a BAFTA, won an award from the Committee for Racial Equality, and the film was shown worldwide.

Two novels about a gardening family are set during the English Civil War: Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth. She has also written contemporary fiction—Perfectly Correct; Mrs Hartley And The Growth Centre; The Little House; and Zelda's Cut. She has also written for children.

Some of her novels have won awards and have been adapted into television dramas. The most successful of her novels has been The Other Boleyn Girl, published in 2002 and adapted for BBC television in 2003 with Natascha McElhone, Jodhi May and Jared Harris. In the year of its publication, The Other Boleyn Girl also won the Romantic Novel of the Year and has subsequently spawned sequels—The Queen's Fool, The Virgin's Lover, The Constant Princess, The Boleyn Inheritance, and The Other Queen. Miramax bought the film rights to The Other Boleyn Girl and produced a film of the same name starring Scarlett Johansson as Mary Boleyn and co-starring Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn, Eric Bana as Henry Tudor, Juno Temple as Jane Parker, and Kristin Scott Thomas as Elizabeth Boleyn. It was filmed in England and generally released in 2008.

Gregory has also published a series of books about the Plantagenets, the ruling houses that preceded the Tudors, and the Wars of the Roses. Her first book The White Queen (2009), centres on the life of Elizabeth Woodville the wife of Edward IV. The Red Queen (2010) is about Margaret Beaufort the mother of Henry VII and grandmother to Henry VIII. The Lady of the Rivers (2011) is the life of Jacquetta of Luxembourg, mother of Elizabeth Woodville, first married to John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford, younger brother of Henry the Fifth. The Kingmaker's Daughter (2012) is the story of Anne Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick, the wife of Richard III. The next book, The White Princess (2013), centres on the life of Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII and the mother of Henry VIII.

Controversy
In her novel The Other Boleyn Girl, her portrayal of Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn drew criticism. The novel depicts Anne as cold and ruthless, as well as heavily implying that the accusations that she committed adultery and incest with her brother were true, despite it being widely accepted that she was innocent of the charges. Novelist Robin Maxwell refused on principle to write a blurb for this book, describing its characterisation of Anne as "vicious, unsupportable." Historian David Starkey, appearing alongside Gregory in a documentary about Anne Boleyn, described her work as "good Mills and Boon" (a publisher of romance novels), adding that: "We really should stop taking historical novelists seriously as historians. The idea that they have authority is ludicrous." Susan Bordo criticized Gregory's claims to historical accuracy as "self-deceptive and self-promoting chutzpah", and notes that it is not so much the many inaccuracies in her work as "Gregory’s insistence on her meticulous adherence to history that most aggravates the scholars."

Media
Gregory is a frequent contributor to magazines and newspapers, with short stories, features and reviews. She is also a frequent broadcaster and a regular contestant on Round Britain Quiz for BBC Radio 4 and the Tudor expert for Channel 4's Time Team. She won the 29 December 2008 edition of Celebrity Mastermind on BBC1, taking Elizabeth Woodville as her specialist subject.

Charity work
Gregory also runs a small charity building wells in school gardens in The Gambia. Gardens for The Gambia was established in 1993 when Gregory was in The Gambia, researching for her book A Respectable Trade.

Since then the charity has dug almost 200 low technology, low budget and therefore easily maintained wells, which are on-stream and providing water to irrigate school and community gardens to provide meals for the poorest children and harvest a cash crop to buy school equipment, seeds and tools.

In addition to wells, the charity has piloted a successful bee-keeping scheme, funded feeding programmes and educational workshops in batik and pottery and is working with larger donors to install mechanical boreholes in some remote areas of the country where the water table is not accessible by digging alone. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 9/22/2013.)



Book Reviews
Sisterly rivalry is the basis of this fresh, wonderfully vivid retelling of the story of Anne Boleyn. Anne, her sister Mary and their brother George are all brought to the king's court at a young age, as players in their uncle's plans to advance the family's fortunes. Mary, the sweet, blond sister, wins King Henry VIII's favor when she is barely 14 and already married to one of his courtiers. Their affair lasts several years, and she gives Henry a daughter and a son. But her dark, clever, scheming sister, Anne, insinuates herself into Henry's graces, styling herself as his adviser and confidant. Soon she displaces Mary as his lover and begins her machinations to rid him of his wife, Katherine of Aragon. This is only the beginning of the intrigue that Gregory so handily chronicles, capturing beautifully the mingled hate and nearly incestuous love Anne, Mary and George ("kin and enemies all at once") feel for each other and the toll their family's ambition takes on them. Mary, the story's narrator, is the most sympathetic of the siblings, but even she is twisted by the demands of power and status; charming George, an able plotter, finally brings disaster on his own head by falling in love with a male courtier. Anne, most tormented of all, is ruthless in her drive to become queen, and then to give Henry a male heir. Rather than settling for a picturesque rendering of court life, Gregory conveys its claustrophobic, all-consuming nature with consummate skill. In the end, Anne's famous, tragic end is offset by Mary's happier fate, but the self-defeating folly of the quest for power lingers longest in the reader's mind.
Publishers Weekly


Before Henry VIII ever considered making Anne Boleyn his wife, her older sister, Mary, was his mistress. Historical novelist Gregory (Virgin Earth) uses the perspective of this "other Boleyn girl" to reveal the rivalries and intrigues swirling through England. The sisters and their brother George were raised with one goal: to advance the Howard family's interests, especially against the Seymours. So when Mary catches the king's fancy, her family orders her to abandon the husband they had chosen. She bears Henry two children, including a son, but Anne's desire to be queen drives her with ruthless intensity, alienating family and foes. As Henry grows more desperate for a legitimate son and Anne strives to replace Catherine as queen, the social fabric weakens. Mary abandons court life to live with a new husband and her children in the countryside, but love and duty bring her back to Anne time and again. We share Mary's helplessness as Anne loses favor, and everyone abandons her amid accusations of adultery, incest, and witchcraft. Even the Boleyn parents won't intervene for their children. Gregory captures not only the dalliances of court but the panorama of political and religious clashes throughout Europe. She controls a complicated narrative and dozens of characters without faltering, in a novel sure to please public library fans of historical fiction. —Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ.
Library Journal


Historically based, page-turning story of Mary Boleyn, sister of the infamous Anne, decapitated by Henry VIII: here, as much a tale of love and lust as it is a saga about an ambitious family who used their kin as negotiable assets. Rich with period detail, the story is told by Mary, the younger sister, who is married off at 13 to William Carey, a courtier at Henry's court. Mary serves Queen Katherine, mother of the future Queen Mary, and begins her tale when her sister Anne, stylish and beautiful, returns from France to join Mary at court. The sisters' ambitious parents and their uncle, the future Duke of Norfolk, are determined to acquire power and influence, as well as titles and estates, from the king, even if it means that Mary must become his mistress. Their son George is made to work on his sisters' behalf and to live a life not of his choosing (he's homosexual and loves a fellow courtier). Mary bears the king a son, but Anne soon after uses all her wiles to make Henry divorce the Queen and marry her. The Boleyns, more ruthlessly functional than dysfunctional, continue to plot and push to achieve their ends. Mary recounts the king's wish for a male heir; his break with the Pope; Anne's skillful if criminal plotting that leads to the divorce and her marriage to Henry; the birth of the future Queen Elizabeth; and Anne's desperate attempts to bear a son. Meanwhile, she herself, widowed after her first husband dies from the plague, finds love with Sir William Stafford—the only strand of the story with possibilities for future happiness. Absorbing tale of a Renaissance family determined to climb as high as they can, whatever the cost.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. Why does Philippa Gregory choose Mary to narrate the story? Keeping in mind the relationship between the observer and those observed, is Mary a good, trustworthy, narrator? As Mary ages, how is her loss of innocence reflected in her telling of the story?

2. Look at the exchange between Mary and her mother at the end of the first chapter. How does the author foreshadow what is to come? How do the events of the first chapter frame the entire story?

3. Discuss the Boleyn family's scheming and jockeying for favor in the court. In light of these politics, discuss the significance of Mary's explanation that she had "a talent for loving [the king]" (page 119). Is this simply a girl's fantasy? Why does Mary call herself and George "a pair of pleasant snakes" (page 131)?

4. On page 29, Mary professes her love and admiration for Queen Katherine and feels she can't betray her. In what ways are her honorable ideals compromised as she embarks on her adulterous affair with the king? Recount the whirlwind of events preceding Anne's becoming queen. Reading page 352, do you agree that "from start to finish" Mary "had no choice" but to betray Queen Katherine by taking the queen's letter to her uncle?

5. Consider pages 38 and 82. How does the author create sexual tension? How do the narrator's thoughts and feelings communicate the attraction between her and the king? Why is this important to the story of The Other Boleyn Girl?

6. On page 85, Anne tells Mary, "I am happy for the family. I hardly ever think about you." Do you think she's telling the truth? Later, Anne says to her sister, "We'll always be nothing to our family" (page 310). Do you think she believes this, especiallygiven her overwhelming desire to advance her own status?

7. Why does Mary say, "I felt like a parcel..." (page 60)? What happens later to make Mary think she's no longer a "pawn" of the family, but "at the very least, a castle, a player in the game" (page 173)?

8. Look at the exchange between Mary and Anne about the king on page 72. Do you agree with Anne when she tells Mary that "you can't desire [the king] like an ordinary man and forget the crown on his head." What does this statement reveal about Anne's nature? And what does it reveal about Mary's?

9. In general, what are your impressions of the sisters? Keep in mind Anne and Mary's discussion on page 104: "So who would come after me?...I could make my own way." Also look at page 123, when Anne says, "Hear this, Mary...I will kill you." Why are these statements significant, particularly given their timing?

10. Share some of the characteristics that you like about historical fiction. For you, what aspect of The Other Boleyn Girl stands out the most? How does the book change your impressions of life in King Henry VIII's court? Looking at the letter on page 275, discuss the level of corruption in the court. Does it surprise you? Were you aware of Anne's dogged and exhausting pursuit of the king? Did the way Anne became queen shock you?

11. How do you feel about the idea that a woman had to be married before she could bed the king? What do you think about the king changing the laws to suit his needs? When Anne states that "Nothing will ever be the same for any woman in this country again," examine why she could believe she would be exempt from the same treatment. In other words, why didn't she realize that "when she overthrew a queen that thereafter all queens would be unsteady" (page 519)? Do you think the family realized this but persevered anyway?

12. Discuss Mary's evolution of thinking from when she realizes that after Queen Katherine's departure, "from this time onward no wife...would be safe" with her later thought (on page 468) that "the triumph of Anne, the mistress who had become a wife, was an inspiration to every loose girl in the country." What does this say about Mary's state of mind? Is she being a reliable narrator here?

13. On page 303, George exclaims to Mary, "You cannot really want to be a nobody." Why is this such a revolutionary idea in Henry's court, and for the Boleyns in particular? What should the response have been to Mary's question to Anne (page 330) about the rewards of Anne's impending marriage to the king: "What is there for me?"

14. In King Henry's court, homosexuality was a crime. Why do you think George essentially flaunted his preference? What do you make of the intimate kiss between George and Anne that Mary witnessed? What is the impetus behind George and Anne's relationship? Discuss whether or not you believe that George slept with Anne so that she might have a son, and why.

15. Why do you think George declares that Anne is "the only Boleyn anyone will ever know or remember" (page 410)? Was that true for you before you read The Other Boleyn Girl? What about now?

16. After Anne is arrested, Mary pleads for her by saying, "We did nothing more than that was ordered. We only ever did as we were commanded. Is she to die for being an obedient daughter?" (page 650). What is your reaction to these arguments? Did Henry have no choice but to sentence her to death?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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