For the women at the heart of the storm, they have only one weapon; and when it's no longer enough to be the mistress, Mary must groom her younger sister in the ways of the king. What happens next is common knowledge. But here it is told in a way we've never heard it before, with all of Philippa Gregory's characteristic perceptiveness, backed by meticulous research and superb storytelling skills.
©2001 Philippa Gregory; (P)2007 HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, London UK
"[A] fresh, wonderfully vivid retelling of the story of Anne Boleyn." (Publishers Weekly)
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"Brilliant! shame about the narrator"
A brilliant listen. Don't know where the time went - it certainly made pounding the treadmil a lot easier and couldn't believe I'd got to the end. My only gripe was the particularly uninspired choice of Emilia Fox as the narrator. I found her voice annoyingly irritating when she was trying to be anybody but Mary Boleyn. She should leave male voices well alone! That aside the story itself was wonderfully written by Phillipa Gregory thereby offering an easy transfer as an audio book. I can't wait to see Eric Bana as King Henry in the movie now and for once I will know the entire story before the movie credits roll!
"Compelling but awkward"
I thoroughly enjoyed Emilia Fox's narration. She has a lovely story-telling voice, but I can't decide whether I liked the novel or not. The plot is certainly compelling, but the quality of writing, when compared to other historical novels I have recently read (e.g. Imperial Woman, Alias Grace, Silence, The Last Empress, etc.) is mediocre.
The plot was good, the Three Boleyns intriguing. Ann was believable as an ambitious young woman reaching for the sun, but playing with fire. Mary, however, the main character, was somewhat irritating. The author didn't seem able to decide whether she was a pure-hearted victim of her ruthlessly ambitious family, which is how she sometimes came across, or as manipulative and cold as the rest of them. The line giving her reaction when she watched her sister killed, something along the lines of 'my rival was dead' was ice cold, yet the author seemed to also want to portray her as a simple, country-loving maiden who finally found true love and had been no more than her family's victim.
The overall story, however, is compelling, though the author missed the opportunity to address many serious questions, among the most obvious are:
Mary Boleyn was only 12 when she married, a fact that would be condemned as child abuse nowadays.
This was ignored. A modern audience will surely be questioning the impact this would have had on the young girl.
Ann Boleyn and others were beheaded for adultery, while Mary's husband had been forced to sacrifice his own marriage so that the king could bed his wife. This was ignored. Surely Mary would have had some reaction to this hypocrisy?
Henry VIII's illegitimate daughter, Catherine, was present in his court, but there is no indication as to his reaction to this, if any, and how the court politics would have worked in this instance. Was there any reaction from the king towards his daughter? If not, why not?
I may yet read the sequel, because the plot itself was extremely interesting.
I listened to this book and the whole story fascinates me!
After I purchased the bbc film and it was such a let down! The story was changed and it just wasn't the same!
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