I tried to like The Other Boleyn Girl. Truly. Friends of mine love it. Smart, intelligent, capable women without a hint of victim in them couldn't put this book down. I, on the other hand, am happy to put it down literally and figuratively.
It's not that Philippa Gregory plays fast and loose with the facts. This is fiction, she's allowed. I loved Elizabeth and that used chronology like an accordion. I love, nay, worship The Lion in Winter and that doesn't let the facts get in the way of a story or anachronisms in the way of a good line. If Philippa Gregory wants to pretend that Mary Boleyn was younger than Anne Boleyn and that George Boleyn was flaming, go right ahead. And if she wants to use dialogue that sounds like it came out of the mouths of the interns at my office, rock on.
No, this book is easy to mock for other reasons. Let's start with the fact that the premise of the book is that the Howard/Boleyn clan has decided that the way to raise the fortunes of their family is to pimp out the available females. And it's not just the them, the Seymours are at it, too. As my mother says: now, really. If it were that easy to get into the King's favor the man would never have gotten out of bed. He'd have spent his days surrounded by naked women and Windsor Castle would have been a Tudor Playboy Mansion. It just doesn't play.
Then there are the characters. Mary Boleyn has middle child syndrome. She's always whining about how she was overlooked during her childhood in favor of Anne. She's gratingly slow on the uptake. After her family has dropped her into Henry VIII's bed for the good of the family it comes as a shock to her that the family doesn't care about her feelings. She's shocked to learn that the king is a tad self-enchanted and spoiled. Wow, you mean someone who has their every whim catered to, is never told "no" and holds the fate of all around him in his hands could be selfish? The best part is, Mary realizes this long after the opening scene in which Henry has a friend and cousin executed. Most people would have taken the hint after Buckingham's head rolled in the hay without his body being attached.
Mary's sister and brother aren't any better. Anne is simply put, psycho. The highlight of this psychoness is when a half-naked Anne demands that her brother George says she's "the best" in front of their sister Mary. George thinks this is just the usual sibling rivalry hijinks. Oh the fun they have, those wacky Boleyn kids. George is useful to have around. For one thing, he invents tampons. For another, he's always happy to father a child even if the mother in question is his sister. George also invents "coming out" and he's miserably married - he's just an all around busy guy. Thankfully this doesn't keep him from participating in a boat race, I am not making this up, between the Howards and the Seymours with Anne urging on her team with "Come on, Howards." Anne is just a loyal family girl at heart.
While Anne is out whoring for the family cause, Mary is busy doing her thing. And by "doing her thing" I mean annoying the living crap out of me. Mary is married and having an affair with the equally married Henry VIII but she's put out when Anne replaces her in the King's affections. She's always going on about how she's "a Howard" and "a Boleyn" and she has "no choice." Blah blah blah. Naturally she remarries a poor man for love and then watches Anne's execution thinking that "the long rivalry between me and the other Boleyn girl was over." I was thinking that Mary was a complete cow.