Genre: Historical Fiction
After watching the film, which was a colossal let-down in my opinion, I decided to read the book seeing as usually in my experience the original source material tends to be much better. Sadly, in this case, this did not turn out to be true. And there was no shirtless Eric Bana to make things more bearable either.
This book has to be without a doubt one of the worst I've ever read in recent years, and I am surprised to see that so many love it so much. The prose and dialogue were very poor and the tone was just a cut above a Harlequin/bodice ripping Mills & Boon. I had enjoyed the first 100 pages quite a lot, but after that it just all fell apart for me. Sentences like "Anne's sexy gurgle of laughter" and "He/She/I was hot for him/her" made me almost put the book down in despair and embarrasment. Also, one can only read about King Henry's "brilliant blue eyes" and "kissable rosebud mouth" before wanting to roll one's eyes and reach for a bucket.
The characters were also terribly drawn, and it seemed as though Philippa Gregory had this tremendous bias towards Mary Boleyn, the first person narrator of the story, and an unnerving hatred towards the infamous Anne Boleyn. It seemed as though she wanted to try and turn these historical characters into people that she wanted them to be - Mary was a sweet, innocent, English flower who was pure and always tried to do right, and Anna was a vile, evil and selfish woman who was unmotherly and ruined the lives of everyone around her. Not only is this a terrible and two-dimensional portrayal that has dogged female characters for many years now (I got a strong Madonna/Whore complex off Anne's and Mary's 'rivlary'), it's historically innaccurate, along with the portryal of George Boleyn and many other incidents that occurred. Mary Boleyn is a boring and sickly-sweet Mary Sue whom Gregory puzzlingly tries to turn into a sort of feminist heroine by using phrases as "wanting to become a woman in her own right" and "not wanting to be bought and sold like a horse". It's an admirable sentiment to be sure, but the sad fact is that it's highly unlikely women during that period in time actually had thoughts like these; girls back then were taught from birth that they had to be submissive to their husbands and fathers and thus Mary's thought process simply wasn't realistic and came off as very contrived.
I've never read any Philippa Gregory before and I must say I'm not inclined to explore her work any further. Would definitely NOT recommed this at all. It doesn't even make for light, easy reading; I found the pacing very slow and dull and it was definitely a struggle to finish.