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The Other Boleyn Girl

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The Other Boleyn Girl Cover

ISBN13: 9781416560609
ISBN10: 1416560602
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for The Other Boleyn Girl

Discussion Points

1. Why does Philippa Gregory choose Mary to narrate the story? Keeping in mind the relationship between the observer and those observed, is Mary a good, trustworthy, narrator? As Mary ages, how is her loss of innocence reflected in her telling of the story?

2. Look at the exchange between Mary and her mother at the end of the first chapter. How does the author foreshadow what is to come? How do the events of the first chapter frame the entire story?

3. Discuss the Boleyn family's scheming and jockeying for favor in the court. In light of these politics, discuss the significance of Mary's explanation that she had "a talent for loving [the king]" (page 119). Is this simply a girl's fantasy? Why does Mary call herself and George "a pair of pleasant snakes" (page 131)?

4. On page 29, Mary professes her love and admiration for Queen Katherine and feels she can't betray her. In what ways are her honorable ideals compromised as she embarks on her adulterous affair with the king? Recount the whirlwind of events preceding Anne's becoming queen. Reading page 352, do you agree that "from start to finish" Mary "had no choice" but to betray Queen Katherine by taking the queen's letter to her uncle?

5. Consider pages 38 and 82. How does the author create sexual tension? How do the narrator's thoughts and feelings communicate the attraction between her and the king? Why is this important to the story of The Other Boleyn Girl?

6. On page 85, Anne tells Mary, "I am happy for the family. I hardly ever think about you." Do you think she's telling the truth? Later, Anne says to her sister, "We'll always be nothing to our family" (page 310). Do you think she believes this, especially given her overwhelming desire to advance her own status?

7. Why does Mary say, "I felt like a parcel..." (page 60)? What happens later to make Mary think she's no longer a "pawn" of the family, but "at the very least, a castle, a player in the game" (page 173)?

8. Look at the exchange between Mary and Anne about the king on page 72. Do you agree with Anne when she tells Mary that "you can't desire [the king] like an ordinary man and forget the crown on his head." What does this statement reveal about Anne's nature? And what does it reveal about Mary's?

9. In general, what are your impressions of the sisters? Keep in mind Anne and Mary's discussion on page 104: "So who would come after me?...I could make my own way." Also look at page 123, when Anne says, "Hear this, Mary...I will kill you." Why are these statements significant, particularly given their timing?

10. Share some of the characteristics that you like about historical fiction. For you, what aspect of The Other Boleyn Girl stands out the most? How does the book change your impressions of life in King Henry VIII's court? Looking at the letter on page 275, discuss the level of corruption in the court. Does it surprise you? Were you aware of Anne's dogged and exhausting pursuit of the king? Did the way Anne became queen shock you?

11. How do you feel about the idea that a woman had to be married before she could bed the king? What do you think about the king changing the laws to suit his needs? When Anne states that "Nothing will ever be the same for any woman in this country again," examine why she could believe she would be exempt from the same treatment. In other words, why didn't she realize that "when she overthrew a queen that thereafter all queens would be unsteady" (page 519)? Do you think the family realized this but persevered anyway?

12. Discuss Mary's evolution of thinking from when she realizes that after Queen Katherine's departure, "from this time onward no wife...would be safe" with her later thought (on page 468) that "the triumph of Anne, the mistress who had become a wife, was an inspiration to every loose girl in the country." What does this say about Mary's state of mind? Is she being a reliable narrator here?

13. On page 303, George exclaims to Mary, "You cannot really want to be a nobody." Why is this such a revolutionary idea in Henry's court, and for the Boleyns in particular? What should the response have been to Mary's question to Anne (page 330) about the rewards of Anne's impending marriage to the king: "What is there for me?"

14. In King Henry's court, homosexuality was a crime. Why do you think George essentially flaunted his preference? What do you make of the intimate kiss between George and Anne that Mary witnessed? What is the impetus behind George and Anne's relationship? Discuss whether or not you believe that George slept with Anne so that she might have a son, and why.

15. Why do you think George declares that Anne is "the only Boleyn anyone will ever know or remember" (page 410)? Was that true for you before you read The Other Boleyn Girl? What about now?

16. After Anne is arrested, Mary pleads for her by saying, "We did nothing more than that was ordered. We only ever did as we were commanded. Is she to die for being an obedient daughter?" (page 650). What is your reaction to these arguments? Did Henry have no choice but to sentence her to death?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

emmejo, August 7, 2010 (view all comments by emmejo)
Mary Boleyn arrives in court as a recently married 14 year old girl, and quickly catches the eye of the king. He family sees a chance for fame and fortune, and try to set her up as his mistress. They succeed and Mary falls for her new lover more and more. But this dream-like state doesn't last. As Henry VIII looses interest in her, Mary's family decides they can't let this golden opportunity escape. They need the other Boleyn girl, Anne, to take Mary's place, and Mary must help her sister keep it.

I admit to being disappointed in this book. I didn't buy that Mary would stay such a simple, naive **coughfoolishcough** girl when she was so enmeshed in these tangled plots and the whole character felt really faked and unbelievable. This dislike of the narrator's seeming stupidity made for a difficult read. I did like Anne, although her behavior was generally outrageous at least she had a personality. Most of the other characters I struggled with, they felt very flat most of the time but had sparks where I cared enough about what was happening to convince me to grit my teeth and keep plugging away at it. There were a few supporting characters, such as William Stafford, who I really liked.

The writing was very bland, although most was not outright bad. The author frequently wrote in a very modern voice and used words that felt wrong for the time period. (The repeated use of "sexy" was driving me up a tree!) The dialogue often felt stilted, and again seemed too modern.

For die-hard fans of historical fiction about the Boleyns or Henry VIII this might be a fine read, but I think many historical fiction readers will find themselves frustrated. It might also be a good book for people who don't read historical fiction, as it has such a modern feel.
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
Dear Reader, November 26, 2008 (view all comments by Dear Reader)
Philippa Gregory has created a masterpiece.

The history is told so realistically, I felt as though I was there.

I cannot wait to read all the rest of Ms Gregory's novels and hope there will be many more.
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(5 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)
Elaine, March 16, 2008 (view all comments by Elaine)
This might be my all-time favorite book. Although it is an historical novel, which is not my favorite genre, it is so compellingly written, it is difficult to put down.

It is the story of Henry VIII's court through the eyes of Anne Boleyn's sister and provides a picture of the ambition and manipulativeness of families close to the court. It is a fascinating take on history.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781416560609
Author:
Gregory, Philippa
Publisher:
Viking Juvenile
Author:
Lippa
Author:
Longshore, Katherine
Author:
Gregory, Phi
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Romance - Historical
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
History
Subject:
Mistresses
Subject:
Historical fiction
Subject:
Biographical fiction
Subject:
Love & Romance
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20140612
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 7
Language:
English
Pages:
528
Dimensions:
8 x 5.25 in
Age Level:
from 12

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Related Subjects


Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Featured Titles

The Other Boleyn Girl Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$3.50 In Stock
Product details 528 pages Touchstone Books - English 9781416560609 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Rather than settling for a picturesque rendering of court life, Gregory conveys its claustrophobic, all-consuming nature with consummate skill." Publishers Weekly
"Review" by , "Absorbing tale of a Renaissance family determined to climb as high as they can, whatever the cost."
"Review" by , "Gregory captures not only the dalliances of court but the panorama of political and religious clashes throughout Europe. She controls a complicated narrative and dozens of characters without faltering, in a novel sure to please...fans of historical fiction."
"Review" by , "You want a real page-turner, but you don't want to tarnish your reputation for literary taste. The Other Boleyn Girl is your kind of...book."
"Synopsis" by ,
Mary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when shes married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIIIs illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor courts inner circle. Mary and “Fitz” join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of courts strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed…but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?
"Synopsis" by ,
Anne Boleyn is the odd girl out. Newly arrived to the court of King Henry VIII, everything about her seems wrong, from her clothes to her manners to her witty but sharp tongue. So when the dashing poet Thomas Wyatt offers to coach her on how to shine at court—and to convince the whole court they’re lovers—she accepts. Before long, Anne’s popularity has soared, and even the charismatic and irresistible king takes notice. More than popularity, Anne wants a voice—but she also wants love. What began as a game becomes high stakes as Anne finds herself forced to make an impossible choice between her heart's desire and the chance to make history.
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