The first time I read The Other Boleyn Girl was back in 2008. I was in college at the time and was going through a rough patch in a relationship. I felt as if the pace of the plot mirrored my feelings about my relationship: the ups and downs; the intensity in certain scenes; and the pressure the girls, Mary and Anne, felt to keep the king’s interest. It was a strain. It was a good read. I enjoyed it.
Two sisters competing for the greatest prize: the love of a king.
A rich and compelling novel 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 heart.
When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled, 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. (Goodreads)
Last month, I returned to The Other Boleyn Girl because I wanted something to listen to as I worked on data entry at work. The Other Boleyn Girl was perfect. Much time had passed since last I read it; so though I was familiar with the story, I’d forgotten much of it. I felt as if I was reading it again for the first time.
This also worked well for the format I used to engage with the story. For me, physical books are best when I encounter a story for the first time, but I can use audio books for rereads. I don’t need to worry about paying attention to every detail when rereading a book, so it’s okay for my mind to wander, as it usually does, when reading an audio book.
But I paid attention this time. I was immediately swept up in the story and the plotting of the Boleyn family to place one of their daughters in the king’s bed. I felt sorry for Catherine of Aragon and liked how she conducted herself with composure as the king and the Boleyns attempted and succeeded in removing her as queen. I liked how Mary Boleyn developed throughout the story becoming more independent and choosing who she wants to love. I didn’t realize that this was a story about a woman fighting for the right to direct her own life when I first read it. I also felt sorry for George, Mary’s brother, and Anne, though I didn’t like her. Again, I was intrigued by Anne Boleyn and, just as when I first read the book, I went on Google to find more facts about her.
I also looked up Mary Boleyn because I wondered if she was a real person. Turns out that she was. I didn’t pay much attention to the title of the book when I first read it, but now I realize how fitting it is. Anne Boleyn created such a stir in British politics back then by usurping the true queen that history hasn’t bothered to mention Mary Boleyn. So, by focusing on Mary, the story is indeed about the other Boleyn girl — the forgotten one.
I enjoyed the story. The historical period and people it focus on are all fascinating to me, so the story immediately captured my attention, just as it did when I first read it. I also liked how the romance develops between Mary and the man she chose to love — William Carey.
Ruthie Henshall did a great job narrating the story. Her accent is one of the reasons why I enjoyed listening to the audio book. However, I did not like that the audio book is abridged. It made me wonder what I missed but couldn’t remember from my first read.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I don’t think you need to Buy the audiobook, but if this sounds like a story you might enjoy, whether because of the historical period it’s set in or because it’s about Henry VIII of England and his first and second wives, then I recommend Buying the novel and/or Borrowing the audiobook.