Originally published: 2001
Author: Philippa Gregory
Published by: HarperCollins
Time to listen: 22 hrs
Reading dates: 6 August – 26 September 2018
Star Rating: 5/5
This was my first audio book and what a book it was! Told from the point of view of the forgotten Boleyn Girl, Mary, Philippa Gregory does a great job of bringing this time period to life.
Covering the period in Tudor history covering 1521 to 1536, we meet Mary, one of Queen Catherine’s Ladies in Waiting, just as her sister Anne returns to court from France. Before long Mary who is already married at the tender age of 14, catches the eye of King Henry VIII and her family, seeing a chance of furthering themselves in the royal court, instruct Mary to becomes the King’s mistress.
She bears him two children, and while “out of action” with her second, a son, Anne attracts his attention and Mary is cast aside in her favour. She doesn’t mind that much – she loves her children and wants to spend time with them at Hever Castle and to lead a more simple life than the politics of Court.
Anne plays a clever game with the King, holding him at arms length rather than giving herself to him and because of this, he wants her desperately. Anne stipulates she won’t give herself to him unless he marries her and this is what starts Henry on the path of trying to get rid of his wife of 20 years, Catherine whom he has never forgiven for not giving him a son and heir.
I won’t go into any more of the plot here as it well known history. The audio book I listened to was read by Vanessa Kirby (Queen Margaret in The Crown) and her reading totally brought the book to life. She used different voices for different characters and because she has a regal sound to her voice, it suited it perfectly. Telling the story from the point of view of Mary added many dimensions to events and although a lot of it was imagined by the author (as there are hardly any records of Mary herself), the way women of the time were treated is beyond shocking. Mary is a sweet, naïve girl, while Anne is shown to be more calculating and interested in making the very best of herself, not caring whom she steps on and hurts in the way. The descriptions of childbirth are horrific and the way their Uncle, ruled the family and just saw the Boleyn children as pawns in a game of power had me gasping with shock as I listened.
The audio book is 22 hours long and I was a bit daunted as I began to listen, wondering how I was ever going to listen to it, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to give up reading a physical book while I listened. I actually started walking to work (instead of cycling) as it gave me around an hour a day to loose myself in it.
I loved this so much and I think I enjoyed it even more because it was an audio book – I felt completely immersed in Tudor life. I’m desperate to visit Hever Castle and I look forward to listening to another book by Philippa Gregory soon!
Many thanks to Abbie Salter and HarperCollins for gifting me a copy of this book, through Kobo.
About the author:
Philippa Gregory was an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudor period and wrote the novel The Other Boleyn Girl, which was made into a TV drama and a major film.
Gregory lives with her family on a small farm in Yorkshire, where she keeps horses, hens and ducks.
A former student of Sussex University, and a PhD and Alumna of the Year 2009 of Edinburgh University, her love for history and her commitment to historical accuracy are the hallmarks of her writing. She also reviews for US and UK newspapers, and is a regular broadcaster on television, radio, and webcasts from her website.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PhilippaGregoryOfficial