Friday I told y'all that I'm attempting to re-read seven of my most favorite novels in order to make the time between now and November 26th pass faster. Well, book one was a partly-historically-accurate-and-partly-malarky novel about the Boleyn sisters Mary and Anne, and their affairs with England's King Henry VIII.
I love this novel because despite some of the inaccuracies, you feel like you're really getting a glimpse into what life was like for a 15th century courtier and life among royals. Growing up American, we have no real appreciation or understanding of the history of pride in a royal family, or living under the rule of a king or queen. The whole concept of a royal heirarchy and birthrights and all of that is just an alien idea, and that's mostly why, I think, I enjoyed this one so much.
Author Philippa Gregory introduces us to young Mary Boleyn at the young age of 13, having just been married off and starting out in the service of Queen Katherine of Aragon, aka Henry VIII's first wife. Mary belongs to the Howard family on her mother's side, and the Boleyn family on her father's side. The Howards have great ambitions in regards to title, wealth and station. Her uncle, a Howard, is the most ambitious of them all, and the head of the family. When Mary catches the eye of the young, attractive king, her uncle orders Mary away from her husband to seduce and bed the king in order to advance the Howard family.
Mary's older sister, Anne, returns to the court from France soon after she's caught the king's eye, and as Anne is witty, beautiful and smart, it becomes Anne's job to keep the king interested in Mary and away from all other girls vying for his attention. Anne is resentful of her orders because she considers herself to be much better than Mary, and the two are bitter rivals.
Mary is young, unsure and afraid, but she does as she is told, and thus becomes a favorite of Henry and soon finds herself in love with the king of England. After much effort on the part of Mary, Anne, their brother George and the rest of the Howard family, Mary ends up mother to two of the king's children. Despite Mary's good nature and obvious fertility, the king begins to lose interest in Mary, thanks to Anne.
Mary soon learns that Anne has her own agenda, and it is to take Queen Katherine's place as Queen of England. It is clear that Anne is determined, will stop at nothing and will do anything and everything she must in order to take the throne.
As the lies, risks and gambles of the Howard family become more and more outrageous, Mary tires of life in the court and wishes for nothing more than to be left to her children and love.
This book is a delicious read, not only for the saga of Mary and Anne Boleyn and their fight for the throne, but also because it's packed with good humor, some wonderful romance and, of course, an actual love story thrown in as well. Mary's eventual true love interest is a good, honest man and you find yourself rooting so hard for Mary that you really want Anne to lose(which, as we all know, she does).
I don't know if the real Anne Boleyn was anything like she is in this novel, but if so, I don't blame Henry for having her beheaded. The woman was a snake. Awful.
I told the hubs it's a good thing I wasn't living during that time, because I'd have been one of those stubborn women who refused to do as she was told. The hubs laughed and agreed with me. Yes, indeedy.
Next up: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg