Weekends are always hit-or-miss for me: either I read a ton and love all my books, or I can’t stay focused and I start a dozen new books. Last weekend, when it was 12:30am and I still couldn’t sleep, I grabbed the top book from the bag in my room and started to read…and by 2am, when I should have been sleeping, I was still reading. Although I’m trying to cut down on late night binge reading, every once in a while I still find myself so enchanted with a book that it will literally be hours before I notice how tired I am. Do you ever find yourself reading into the early hours of the morning knowing you shouldn’t, or do my wonderful readers have so much more self-control than I do?

The Other Boleyn Girl

I picked up The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory because it was late at night, I was tired and would not be able to focus on a heavy book, and what girl doesn’t want to read a book described as “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” (quote from the back cover of the book). This book claims to have everything: love, sex, ambition, intrigue, politics, beautiful clothes and manners, and a girl who leaves it all for an honest life.

This book follows the life of Mary Boleyn, sister to Henry VIII’s second wife Anne. Married at 12 and mistress to the king by 14 with two children by the age of 20, Mary had a life that I can’t even begin to imagine. Her entire youth was dominated by a highly ambitious and ruthless family, one that would think nothing of sending a child to the king’s bed. Despite her aversion to the politics her family thrives on, young Mary seduces the king and produces two children. Yet when her older sister Anne returns from the French court, Mary is forced aside by her family in a move to make Anne the king’s favorite. Family loyalty means Mary must coach her sister on the best way to enchant the king, despite her own love for the king and loyalty to the Queen. It is only several years later that Mary finally finds the strength to stand up for herself and marry the man she loves and leave her sister’s court.

While it was obvious with many characters if you were supposed to like them or hate them (like: Queen Katherine, Mary’s children, William Stafford. Hate: Anne, Mary’s parents and uncle, Jane), my relationship with Mary herself was hit and miss. I felt sorry for her at the beginning, because she was taken advantage of in her naive youth. But she continually says or does things to upset her sister, and then tries to play innocent when called out on it. She had to be given orders several times before finally understanding the subtle political meaning behind them, despite growing up in such a cut-throat family. And at the end of the book, when her sister and brother were on trial for adultery and witchcraft, she seemed genuinely surprised that they could be found guilty despite being told that they would be found guilty! I loved Mary, and I was pulling for her to escape from her awful family, but she was so stubbornly ignorant of everything that I often found myself throwing the book down in frustration.

Yet despite my frustrations, I loved this book. For its length (my copy is 735 pages) the book went extremely fast, and I could easily sit down and read for several hours per sitting. I’m not sure how accurate the author’s interpretation is of the events (I am currently reading a book on Henry VIII), but the book was fun. Not the best literature ever, but everyone needs something relaxing to read. I would highly recommend this book for a lazy weekend or vacation.

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