The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory I read this book in anticipation of the film back in 2008, as I worked for a video rental store at the time and the trailers played all day long for weeks. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. I have read about the Tudor and Elizabethan periods, though not extensively, so I was already interested and moderately educated in the period before picking this up.

I will give Gregory credit for trying to reform the reputation of "the great whore" Mary Boleyn, even if she made her a bit of a milksop. Her sister Anne, funnily enough, has been treated better by history than by fiction and Gregory continues the trend of casting Anne as a conniving harridan who loved her brother a bit too much for comfort.

Mary is a sympathetic character, and her position as family pawn is historically accurate, though it is hard to say how far it has been exaggerated for effect. I felt for her more than Anne, even though Anne does not receive much more affection from her family than Mary. Anne is all ambition and cold calculation in Gregory's story, while Mary is her softer, more romantic foil.

My major complaints are with the rather pathetic, love-sick portrayal of Henry, one of the most contradictory monarchs in British history, and the dull writing. Henry was a romantic figure, dashing in his youth and well-loved even after he began his bloody rampage through the ranks of his court to root out treason and through the country in the name of Reformation. Many stood against him, in favor of his first wife Katherine as well as their religion, and he showed no mercy even to his greatest friends when he felt they stood in his way. Gregory's Henry is more of a threat looming in the background, rather than the dynamic presence he really should have been. Perhaps this is really just the fact that Gregory's writing was a combination of overwrought and achingly mediocre. I am not a huge fan of first-person narration in the best of circumstances, so it certainly did this book no favors in my eyes.

However, despite the weaknesses I have touched on here, I enjoyed the book for what it is: light, rather fluffy historical romance. I even enjoyed it enough to read the sequel, The Boleyn Inheritance, which was in some ways superior to this one.