This has taken me quite a while to read, not because it’s too complicated or too heavy but because I just wanted to savour every last word of this novel. This is my first Philippa Gregory and was the latest book group choice; I had wanted to read it anyway before the movie comes out (as you will note I have not bought the movie cover version as you will all know I loathe them). The story is that of Mary Boleyn, no not Anne Boleyn the famous wife of Henry VIII but Mary her sister and Henry’s lover. Naturally the story also heavily features Anne who for some reason I have always been drawn to and as my favourite periods of history are Victorian and Tudor this was perfect.
We all know the fate of Anne Boleyn, what we don’t know is the story of her sister Mary which Gregory has based on as much fact as she could as she actually came upon the story after seeing the boat the Mary Boleyn in a history book and researching it thinking it was a mistake. Research is something that you can tell Gregory has done endlessly. From Tudor birth control to the ways of court not a single detail of costume or of scenery is missed and not in the over descriptive style I hate either, just very well written. The scene is set wonderfully from what it would be like as a youth in the court of Henry VIII up to being Queen and the ins and outs of Henry’s favour.
I thought that Gregory really brought to life the characters, none of them were depicted thinly they had depth even if nearly every character was selfish and out for themselves. I thought Anne was wonderfully calculating and malicious. I also thought the way Katherine of Aragon was written was very interesting, I have heard one of Gregory’s other novels concentrates on her and will probably give that a go at some point. A few moments made me laugh, the hindsight effect I called it, such as when Jane Seymour passes Anne and she says ‘I curse her I hope she dies in childbirth’ which of course she did it does add to the myth that Anne was a witch. It never mentioned her six fingers and yet dealt with incest and homosexuality interesting that.
I do wish there had been more of the end of the novel rather than so much of the beginning as suddenly it was all over and all too soon. It is a long book and does meander along here and there but never drags and when you’re reading something this good you don’t really care. Yes I am officially a fan of Philippa Gregory and unashamed.