I could hear a roll of muffled drums. But I could see nothing but the lacing on the bodice of the lady standing in front of me, blocking my view of the scaffold. I had been at this court for more than a year and attended hundreds of festivities; but never before one like this.
I won a copy of The Other Boleyn Girl from Shannon at Confuzzled Books. It took me ages to finish this book, not because it was boring (far from it), but because I wanted to savour it. It's a wonderful book.
The Other Boleyn Girl is narrated in first person by Mary, Anne Boleyn's younger and less famous sister. A maid in waiting for Queen Katherine of Aragon, Mary is married at twelve to a gentleman at the court. Then she is ordered by her family to abandon her husband's bed in order to become King Henry's mistress. She obeys with all the innocence and passion of a fourteen-year-old young woman, and has two children from the king. But soon she is to be supplanted in the king's favours by her older and more ambitious sister. Following the ordered of the family, she steps aside for her best friend and rival. But as she grows older, Mary realizes how much of a pawn she is in her family's ambitious plots to gain power and knows that she must find a way to defy her family in order to take her fate into her own hands.
The novel opens with an execution: young Mary watches and learns that there is no room for mistakes at court. The event frames the whole novel, as the book also closes with an execution. Mary is a witness to all the scandals, plots, and affairs at one of the most glamorous and exciting courts of Europe. In a world where ambition is everything, and in which women are pawns to be used by their relatives, Mary and Anne stand out as women of extraordinary determination and desire. But while Mary is determined to find true love and to gain her independence, Anne is determined to become queen through her scheming and seduction of the king. Mary does find happiness; Anne doesn't. Their rivalry ends only with Anne's execution.
Before reading this book, I knew nothing about Mary's existence. I found her character to be incredibily fascinating. The psychology of her character is defined in a very believable way. If you like historical fiction, you'll love this. If you don't, you'll probably love it anyway. I'm looking forward to reading other books by Philippa Gregory set at the Tudor court.