My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have had a second-hand copy of this novel sitting on my book shelf for over a year. For some reason, I thought this was going to be a hard one to get through. The film adaptation of this novel – along with all the other movies about Henry VIII, the Boleyns, Thomas More, etc. – had me thinking that I was in for debauchery and a lot of names I probably wouldn’t remember, but I find The Tudor court so interesting that I had to at least try.
While Gregory’s novel does have debauchery and many many characters, I couldn’t put it down. I think when I was about half way through this book, I told someone about it, and I came to the conclusion that this narrative is simply about women. Even though it’s Mary Boleyn’s story, Gregory manages to intertwine so many different characters that are well-rounded and real. From Mary to Anne to their sister-in-law, to Henry’s first wife Queen Katherine, the lives are so honest. I did not expect to see such an array of interesting and complicated women.
I was fascinated as Mary’s character developed. Gregory is pretty clear about where she is taking her story line, as she would, since we all know the basics of Mary’s life, historically. I often found myself wondering if Mary would have truly felt the things that Gregory wrote to her. Was “modern reasoning” being written into her, or did her actions lend themselves enough to assume that she felt the way the novel claims?
I’m tempted to read another of Gregory’s novels about this court. Very. Tempted. I’ve already recommended this one about 3 times. However, I do warn that it is quite dramatic. It runs in the same vein as The Tudors, Reign, and some of the other popular TV dramas, but that says a lot about the lives the courtiers had in England during that time. The drama is a bit ridiculous and completely unnecessary, but it consumed these characters. They masqueraded before one another pretending to have the world in their hands. Even though their lives were interesting and exotic, I could never live like that. Mary realized that in the end. I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much. I got to read along as she matured and moved on.