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The Other Boleyn Girl

The Other Boleyn Girl

4.5 1234
by Philippa Gregory

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The #1 New York Times bestseller from “the queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) Philippa Gregory is a rich, compelling novel of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue surrounding the Tudor court of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and the infamous Boleyn family.

When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of


The #1 New York Times bestseller from “the queen of royal fiction” (USA TODAY) Philippa Gregory is a rich, compelling novel of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue surrounding the Tudor court of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and the infamous Boleyn family.

When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of the handsome and charming Henry VIII. Dazzled by the king, 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 soon she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. With her own destiny suddenly unknown, Mary realizes that she must defy her family and take fate into her own hands.

With more than one million copies in print and adapted for the big screen, The Other Boleyn Girl is a riveting historical drama. It brings to light a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most exciting and glamorous court in Europe, and survived a treacherous political landscape by following her heart.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"You want a real page-turner, but you don't want to tarnish your reputation for literary taste. The Other Boleyn Girl is your kind of...book."

— Janice Numura, Newsday

The "other Boleyn girl" is Mary, a Boleyn certainly less well known than older sister Queen Anne. Based on three years of historical research, this tasty Tudor morsel presents the two siblings both as competitors, confederates, and romantic rivals. Apparently, old King Henry had his hands full, according to this intelligent and sexy novel from the versatile author of Zelda's Cut.
Sibling rivalry and royal intrigue are at the heart of this Philippa Gregory's historical novel. With diabolical delight, the author of The Queen's Fool etches the story of the unsisterly machinations of Anne Boleyn and her sibling Mary. Though the story of King Henry VIII and his contentious consorts has been told often, The Other Boleyn Girl sustains our interest.
Publishers Weekly
Sisterly rivalry is the basis of this fresh, wonderfully vivid retelling of the story of Anne Boleyn. Anne, her sister Mary and their brother George are all brought to the king's court at a young age, as players in their uncle's plans to advance the family's fortunes. Mary, the sweet, blond sister, wins King Henry VIII's favor when she is barely 14 and already married to one of his courtiers. Their affair lasts several years, and she gives Henry a daughter and a son. But her dark, clever, scheming sister, Anne, insinuates herself into Henry's graces, styling herself as his adviser and confidant. Soon she displaces Mary as his lover and begins her machinations to rid him of his wife, Katherine of Aragon. This is only the beginning of the intrigue that Gregory so handily chronicles, capturing beautifully the mingled hate and nearly incestuous love Anne, Mary and George ("kin and enemies all at once") feel for each other and the toll their family's ambition takes on them. Mary, the story's narrator, is the most sympathetic of the siblings, but even she is twisted by the demands of power and status; charming George, an able plotter, finally brings disaster on his own head by falling in love with a male courtier. Anne, most tormented of all, is ruthless in her drive to become queen, and then to give Henry a male heir. Rather than settling for a picturesque rendering of court life, Gregory conveys its claustrophobic, all-consuming nature with consummate skill. In the end, Anne's famous, tragic end is offset by Mary's happier fate, but the self-defeating folly of the quest for power lingers longest in the reader's mind. (June 4) Forecast: Lovers of historical romances heavy on the history will relish this new entry from Gregory and perhaps propel it onto bestseller lists this summer. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Before Henry VIII ever considered making Anne Boleyn his wife, her older sister, Mary, was his mistress. Historical novelist Gregory (Virgin Earth) uses the perspective of this "other Boleyn girl" to reveal the rivalries and intrigues swirling through England. The sisters and their brother George were raised with one goal: to advance the Howard family's interests, especially against the Seymours. So when Mary catches the king's fancy, her family orders her to abandon the husband they had chosen. She bears Henry two children, including a son, but Anne's desire to be queen drives her with ruthless intensity, alienating family and foes. As Henry grows more desperate for a legitimate son and Anne strives to replace Catherine as queen, the social fabric weakens. Mary abandons court life to live with a new husband and her children in the countryside, but love and duty bring her back to Anne time and again. We share Mary's helplessness as Anne loses favor, and everyone abandons her amid accusations of adultery, incest, and witchcraft. Even the Boleyn parents won't intervene for their children. Gregory captures not only the dalliances of court but the panorama of political and religious clashes throughout Europe. She controls a complicated narrative and dozens of characters without faltering, in a novel sure to please public library fans of historical fiction. Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ., Mankato Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Historically based, page-turning story of Mary Boleyn, sister of the infamous Anne, decapitated by Henry VIII: here, as much a tale of love and lust as it is a saga about an ambitious family who used their kin as negotiable assets. Rich with period detail, the story is told by Mary, the younger sister, who is married off at 13 to William Carey, a courtier at Henry's court. Mary serves Queen Katherine, mother of the future Queen Mary, and begins her tale when her sister Anne, stylish and beautiful, returns from France to join Mary at court. The sisters' ambitious parents and their uncle, the future Duke of Norfolk, are determined to acquire power and influence, as well as titles and estates, from the king, even if it means that Mary must become his mistress. Their son George is made to work on his sisters' behalf and to live a life not of his choosing (he's homosexual and loves a fellow courtier). Mary bears the king a son, but Anne soon after uses all her wiles to make Henry divorce the Queen and marry her. The Boleyns, more ruthlessly functional than dysfunctional, continue to plot and push to achieve their ends. Mary recounts the king's wish for a male heir; his break with the Pope; Anne's skillful if criminal plotting that leads to the divorce and her marriage to Henry; the birth of the future Queen Elizabeth; and Anne's desperate attempts to bear a son. Meanwhile, she herself, widowed after her first husband dies from the plague, finds love with Sir William Stafford—the only strand of the story with possibilities for future happiness. Absorbing tale of a Renaissance family determined to climb as high as they can, whatever the cost.

Product Details

Publication date:
Plantagenet and Tudor Novels Series , #2
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

Spring 1521

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.

By stepping to one side a little and craning my neck, I could see the condemned man, accompanied by his priest, walk slowly from the Tower toward the green where the wooden platform was waiting, the block of wood placed center stage, the executioner dressed all ready for work in his shirtsleeves with a black hood over his head. It looked more like a masque than a real event, and I watched it as if it were a court entertainment. The king, seated on his throne, looked distracted, as if he was running through his speech of forgiveness in his head. Behind him stood my husband of one year, William Carey, my brother, George, and my father, Sir Thomas Boleyn, all looking grave. I wriggled my toes inside my silk slippers and wished the king would hurry up and grant clemency so that we could all go to breakfast. I was only thirteen years old, I was always hungry.

The Duke of Buckinghamshire, far away on the scaffold, put off his thick coat. He was close enough kin for me to call him uncle. He had come to my wedding and given me a gilt bracelet. My father told me that he had offended the king a dozen ways: he had royal blood in his veins and he kept too large a retinue of armed men for the comfort of a king not yet wholly secure on his throne; worst of all he was supposed to have said that the king had no son and heir now, could get no son and heir, and that he would likely diewithout a son to succeed him to the throne.

Such a thought must not be said out loud. The king, the court, the whole country knew that a boy must be born to the queen, and born soon. To suggest otherwise was to take the first step on the path that led to the wooden steps of the scaffold which the duke, my uncle, now climbed, firmly and without fear. A good courtier never refers to any unpalatable truths. The life of a court should always be merry.

Uncle Stafford came to the front of the stage to say his final words. I was too far from him to hear, and in any case I was watching the king, waiting for his cue to step forward and offer the royal pardon. This man standing on the scaffold, in the sunlight of the early morning, had been the king's partner at tennis, his rival on the jousting field, his friend at a hundred bouts of drinking and gambling, they had been comrades since the king was a boy. The king was teaching him a lesson, a powerful public lesson, and then he would forgive him and we could all go to breakfast.

The little faraway figure turned to his confessor. He bowed his head for a blessing and kissed the rosary. He knelt before the block and clasped it in both hands. I wondered what it must

be like, to put one's cheek to the smooth waxed wood, to smell the warm wind coming off the river, to hear, overhead, the cry of seagulls. Even knowing as he did that this was a masque and not the real thing, it must be odd for Uncle to put his head down and know that the executioner was standing behind.

The executioner raised his ax. I looked toward the king. He was leaving his intervention very late. I glanced back at the stage. My uncle, head down, flung wide his arms, a sign of his consent, the signal that the ax could fall. I looked back to the king, he must rise to his feet now. But he still sat, his handsome face grim. And while I was still looking toward him there was another roll of drums, suddenly silenced, and then the thud of the ax, first once, then again and a third time: a sound as domestic as chopping wood. Disbelievingly, I saw the head of my uncle bounce into the straw and a scarlet gush of blood from the strangely stumpy neck. The black-hooded axman put the great stained ax to one side and lifted the head by the thick curly hair, so that we could all see the strange mask-like thing: black with the blindfold from forehead to nose, and the teeth bared in a last defiant grin.

The king rose slowly from his seat and I thought, childishly, "Dear God, how awfully embarrassing this is going to be. He has left it too late. It has all gone wrong. He forgot to speak in time."

But I was wrong. He did not leave it too late, he did not forget. He wanted my uncle to die before the court so that everybody might know that there was only one king, and that was Henry. There could be only one king, and that was Henry. And there would be a son born to this king -- and even to suggest otherwise meant a shameful death.

The court returned quietly to Westminster Palace in three barges, rowed up the river. The men on the riverbank pulled off their hats and kneeled as the royal barge went swiftly past with a flurry of pennants and a glimpse of rich cloth. I was in the second barge with the ladies of the court, the queen's barge. My mother was seated near me. In a rare moment of interest she glanced at me and remarked, "You're very pale, Mary, are you feeling sick?"

"I didn't think he would be executed," I said. "I thought the king would forgive him."

My mother leaned forward so that her mouth was at my ear and no one could have heard us over the creaking of the boat and the beat of the rowers' drum. "Then you are a fool," she said shortly. "And a fool to remark it. Watch and learn, Mary. There is no room for mistakes at court."

Copyright © 2001 by Philippa Gregory Ltd.

What People are Saying About This

Liz Smith
OPTION IT! OPTION IT! I do mean Philippa Gregory's amazing historical novel "The Other Boleyn Girl." What a book...I read this book in one delicious gulp. It would make a whopper of a film, with two great roles for two great, young actresses.

Meet the Author

Philippa Gregory is the author of many bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognized authority on women’s history. Her work has been adapted for the screen in The Other Boleyn Girl movie and the critically acclaimed STARZ miniseries The White Queen and The White Princess. Her most recent novel is The Last Tudor. She graduated from the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she is a Regent. She holds two honorary degrees from Teesside University and the University of Sussex. She is a fellow of the Universities of Sussex and Cardiff and was awarded the 2016 Harrogate Festival Award for Contribution to Historical Fiction. She welcomes visitors to her website, PhilippaGregory.com.

Brief Biography

Yorkshire, England
Date of Birth:
January 9, 1954
Place of Birth:
Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa
B.A. in history, Sussex University, 1982; Ph.D., 18th-century popular fiction, Edinburgh, 1984

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The Other Boleyn Girl 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1234 reviews.
moodswiings More than 1 year ago
If this era fascinates you, then you will find this book one you will not want to put down. I enjoyed the fact that it was based around Mary Boelyn, even after the king began to favor Ann. Although, a story based on Ann Boelyn's point of view would also be very intriguing. This is the first book I've read by Philippa Gregory and I'm excited to read more! I would also like to add, please don't read this book if you are trying to learn some hard facts. Don't review this book and give it one star just because it's not written like a history book. That's why it's under the fiction section! It's mean't to be entertaining and fun and actually makes your imagination wheels spin rather than just feeding facts to mindless readers. :) Happy reading.
AllOverTheBoard More than 1 year ago
If you've seen the movie - you must read the book. I saw the movie first and it struck my curiousity due to how it ended and the characters remaining - didn't realize the lineage of Elizabeth I - The Virgin Queen. So I picked out several books by Gregory and read The Constant Princess first, followed by The Other Boleyn Girl.
Gregory is a great writer and you get a manner of s history lesson without feeling like you're reading a text book. Amazing what families did and put their loved one's through to gain favor with royalty - makes you thankful to be a woman in today's society.

Consider this a GREAT read and can not wait to read more from Gregory
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms. Gregory was brilliant in choosing Mary as the narrator of this book. In doing so, the manipulative and scheming nature of Anne was able to come alive, as was the unorthodox lifestyle chosen by George Boleyn, the brother. The relationship amongst the Boleyn siblings, in and of itself, could fill a novel. The complexities of a family struggling to maintain individual identities, while working to bring the family up to the highest level of stature is intense. This book is a page turner; it is incredibly compelling, deep and fascinating. I learned a great deal about the monarchy of Henry VII as well as life in the court during that time period. At the same time, I found myself incredibly entertained and saddened when I reached the last page. I cannot wait for more from Ms. Gregory.  The sheer scope of this novel is gigantic -- there were so many things that were going on both on and off stage and the number of people that were involved in all these shenanigans! So that it was a treat to find that the novel unfolded smoothly and effortlessly, and that Gregory did not drop the ball once. She kept each chapter short and succinct, and yet still managed to give the reader an enthralling and exciting account of what was going on. I also liked the manner in which she depicted all the characters in this novel. From Queen Katherine who was portrayed not only as a loyal and loving wife, but also as an intelligent woman who saw and understood what was going on around her, even as she clung to the hope that the king would recover from his obsession with Anne; to the authour's chilling portrayal of the Boleyn family (father, mother, Anne and George). With a few well chosen words and phrases, she's paints them as wildly ambitious, ruthless and pettily cruel individuals, willing to use each other in order to achieve a particular goal. But the authour's characterization of Mary Boleyn was probably the best thing in the novel. Here we see a young and intelligent woman with a heart and a sense of morality that is constantly at war with her feeling of familial obligations. How Mary struggles with this dueling feelings and the decisions she makes -- sometimes good, sometimes bad -- is what makes this novel worth reading. All in all, I'd say "The Other Boleyn Girl" is a rich and rewarding read.  
spiwow More than 1 year ago
A taste - no, a mouthfull of everything one would want from a historical romance. Couldn't wait to get home & continue reading. Finished in 4 days. This was my first Phillipa Gregory novel but, certainly not the last!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Come on guys, it's a novel. Where does it say that it's historical facts that should be taken as such? It's a STORY, a work of fiction, and the author does a terrific job with it. If you want history, go find a textbook. This is an amazing novel, regardless of how "inaccurate" it is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's a great book. It's intresting and gets people into researching the tudor era. I feel like the people who read this novel expecting it to be a correct reflection on history also watched titantic thinking Jack and rose are real people
Guest More than 1 year ago
Two questions:Entertaining? Yes, it was. Turthful? Not in the least! I've spent next to a quarter of my life studying the Tudors, and I assure you that there are several, plot changing, dire mistakes in this book, which could only have come about by the Author's 1)sheer ignorance, or 2)inability to care. You want to read this, then I say go for it. It is an entertaining way to pass the time, but please PLEASE don't take half the things in this book for fact. It just simply is not.
Ann-Elizabeth More than 1 year ago
This is the first book that I read regarding Tudor England. When I first read it, I loved it, and I still think it was an amazing piece of fiction. It definitely got me interested in the period and the characters. But as I started my own research and reading other books on the subject, I began to feel as though I had been misled. . .She actually gets a lot of her facts wrong. And I know that this is just a pitfall of historical fiction, but she was heavily biased. Ann came out looking like a horrible person, and Katherine of Aragon and her daughter Mary saints. I feel like this is an unfair portrayal of the characters, especially since later in her life Mary came to be known as Bloody Mary!!! I liked it and I would recommend it, but only if you know going into it that you are reading more fiction than history.
rmm More than 1 year ago
People normally think that history is not very interesting and quite dull, I was once one of those people, but after I read this book I became fascinated with history. This book shows a side of history we are not normally prone to see. The lies and betrayal that come side by side to power are incredible. Henry VII, an English king was happily married to his beautiful Spanish wife Catherine of Aragon, who unfortunately, could not give Henry the thing he most yearned for and needed...an heir to the throne, a son. This is where the Boleyn family enters . The handsome and fickle king immediately had his eyes on the beautiful Mary Boleyn, awestruck that a king wanted her, Mary fell in love and became the King's mistress. Only to find out later that her family had planned this all along, she was to give birth to a Tudor son. But what about the other Boleyn girl, Anne? Tired of being under her sisiter's shadow, she decides it's her time in the spotlight. This strong-willed brunnete takes over in one of the greatest courts in all the world. This book shows us the power that women have over men, even the most greedy, self-centered ones and the astonishing things a woman will do to get to the top, even sidestep her own flesh and blood. This book immerses you in a life full of drama, betrayal, sex and lies, a courtier's life. The Other Boleyn Girl will keep you flipping the pages untiil you finish, ignoring everything else altogether. The characters will make you love them or they will make you want to throw the book at a wall, but keep on reading, it's worth it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love history, so historical fiction is a passion of mine. It just so happens that i am fascinated with king henry viii... And anne boleyn. I found this book well written, but i was disappointed on her lack of historical facts. Mary was not the younger sister... Phillipa portrays mary as this sweet, naive, girl... But history knows that she is known as the 'english mare' to king francis, and was passed along to more that one nobleman. I personally found distain in her portrayal of anne, almost as if she had a personal piff against her. Anne was as much a victim of her father's scheming as mary was. But mary came out alive after her family was excecuted. I was not too thrilled with this book... If you know the real story of the boleyn's, andlove true history... You will be disappointed
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The Other Boleyn Girl' was a engrossing novel but went overboard on literary license. Marry was not married at the age of twelve, she was Anne's older sister, and Anne was nowhere near the witch (though she was no saint) that she is portrayed as in this novel. The whole incest scandal was way overplayed. Most modern people dismiss the adultery/incest charges against Anne as entirely Henry's invention. Anne was not stupid. Even if she were crazy enough to commit adultery, don't you think she could find a slightly more suitable candidate than her own brother??? If the adultery charges were true, then she'd obviously found four other 'worthy' men. Even the author admits that the whole homosexual scandal was gotten from one author's thesis! This book seemed hell-bent on making Anne Boleyn look like the Queen of the Damned, the most selfish and vile and sinful thing ever to walk the earth!!! It scooped up all the nastiest gossip about her, presented it as fact, and included some rather nasty unrequired sex-talk scenes into the bargain. I do, however, applaud the seemingly accurate description of Katherine of Aragon. ~Pilar P.S. For the woman who watched 'Elizabeth' to get more historical information, you couldn't have picked a more historically inaccurate movie. Read Antonia Frasier or Alison Weir.
Ariesgrl More than 1 year ago
Mary Boleyn was a young girl when her family set her in the path of the King’s eye. As his interest piqued, she fell in love with the King, despite adoring his wife. As she gave birth to his children, she realizes her family is power hungry. Now forced to step aside, as her sister Anne is placed in the role of future Queen, Mary must wrestle with what her family holds dear and what her heart feels is right. This historical fiction novel is set around King Henry VIII and shows the hoity-toity of the court. This regal story opens the readers’ eyes to the cost of royalty. This isn’t just a love story, as sibling rivalry becomes a battle of survival. The narrator’s voice is consistent and clear, while giving each character their own unique accent. A gripping story, with a powerful ending, this book will make readers instant fans of Philippa Gregory. Notes: This review was written for Ariesgrl Book Reviews and My Sister's Books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very engrossing read, would definitely recommend this read for history lovers
AuroraB More than 1 year ago
Definitely my favourite from this author. There is something intriguing about this era and particularly Anne Boleyn as the most infamous of Henry VIII's wives. This story tells a different side from Mary Boleyn's view... and creates an interseting perspective of the story.
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Loved this book definitely would read again
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books of all time. I could not put it down. This book has it all...sex, love, betrayal, murder....so good. Dont watch the movie it is nothing like the book
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Informative as it is entertaining, The Other Bolyen Girl is as good as royal historical fiction gets!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not many people can make historical fiction truly captivating, but this held my attention from start to finish. You will be both enthralled and repulsed by the excesses of Henry VIII's court and wonder how such a time could have existed. At times I found myself disliking the protagonist Mary Boleyn because constantly refuses to stand up for herself and the demands of her family. However, I think it added an interesting depth to her character and it makes you consider the time period and her circumstances more fully. At times it was slow, but it actually picked up for me near the middle because I found the annulment of Katherine's marriage and the history of the shift to the Anglican church so interesting. Worth reading especially if you are interested in this time period.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago