The Other Boleyn Girl

I am sleepy and just finished the movie after having read 400 pages of Phillipa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl” over the last two days and the other 250 pages within the last week. In other words, will this review be as coherent as I’d like? Probably most definitely not.

Anyway, I hardly need to say that the book far outdid the movie and that the movie picked and chose points from the book and excluded many others while also rearranging them as it pleased the movie making people. That’s always irritating. On the other hand, the acting was superb and that’s a surprise because I did not expect Scarlett Johannson to make a better Mary Stafford than Natalie Portman, who made a significantly better Anne than I anticipated. (Also, now having seen “The Other Boleyn Girl” with her borderline psychotic acting, I’m beginning to think Portman is as psychotic in actuality as she is in “Black Swan”). George Boleyn was superb. And although William Stafford, barely in the movie at all, was positively adorable, I attributed a much higher level of smoldering masculinity to him in the book than the freckled skinny guy showed in the movie (edit on 4/10/12: that freckled skinny guy was Benedict Cumberbatch, one of the most smoldering bachelors on the movie scene right now…HAHAHA. But still…different kind of sex appeal.).

All right, now that that’s out of the way — the book. I haven’t gotten this absorbed into a book in a long time. I mean, I’m sore from sitting for consecutive hours reading simply because I could not bring myself to physically stop. Gregory’s writing is florid, smooth, and warm. Mary was a wonderful narrator, balancing gentleness with realism. I wanted her to win her quiet, well-deserved life and love for the whole book. And Gregory delivered the happy ending with all the female sensibility anyone could muster. Well, at least the happy ending for Mary. She’s really the only one that won.

This was a book on the brutality of sexual politics. That’s really all. And that strikes a resonant note for me because, as I was watching ten minutes of “The Bachelor” (one of my first time watching the show), I realized we haven’t changed. As much as the cast revolved around King Henry, and pleasing his every whim, and seducing him into giving others what they want, well, that’s exactly what “The Bachelor” (aka “The King”) does today. It’s a royal courtship with the meager addition of a few shinier lights and better-cut scenes for added drama.

Now, is Gregory’s depiction of the English court altogether accurate? Well, who knows, some say it isn’t, but I don’t care. I will admit her slightly informal dialogue broke some of the magic for me, because I couldn’t imagine such colloquial language in such grandiose halls as she excellently described. I haven’t looked into any of the controversy of this book and I don’t care to.

For me, it was a delight. It was a wonderful, wonderful delight to depart so readily into a fictional world again as I haven’t since I was in my early teens. However, I’m certainly glad I hadn’t gotten my hands on this book when I was that age, because it’s pretty darn sensual. It’s rarely explicit but, boy, I mean, a book revolving around sexual politics is bound to be. Gregory handled it well but probably went overboard at times. I would have liked to read of a greater distinction between Mary’s antics with the King (a girlish, naive fantasy for her) and her love with William Stafford (true, through and through). Regardless, Gregory won me over to a lot of the less ambitious characters. Her prose was pretty and neat and her characters’ stories were well-knit. In particular, I was really impressed at how well she kept the characters in order. I often lose track of who’s who in books with a large cast, and the cast of “The Other Boleyn Girl” was monumental in size. But I said “Oh, I hate her.” and “Oh, I like him. I’ll bet he’ll come back in later and woo her. … Oh, good! I knew he’d be back. I’m so glad he got knighted.” and “Man, she’s creepin’ at their door. I know this is going to come back to haunt them, that dirty snake.” And on that note, yes, the storyline was more or less predictable. But that didn’t at all, in the least, inhibit my desire to read it through to its whopping 600-some page conclusion.

So, yay! Reading is a delight to me, I just wish I had less trouble finding gems like this! Soon I’ll be back to school (too soon) with no time for pleasure reading. I’m glad I read something so huge while I could. This’ll hold me for a while.

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