Thursday, May 26, 2005

25: Tudor groupies

I don't know why I consider Philippa Gregory to be trashy reading. Maybe it's because she wins awards for romantic fiction. Maybe it's the blurb on the back. But it's probably because her books grab me in a way I've rarely felt since I started reading Stephen King all those years ago. The Other Boleyn Girl is the story of Ann's sister Mary and her affair with Henry VIII, and how she was supplanted in his affections by Ann, and once Ann was gone, if the Boleyn-Howard family could have stuck another woman of theirs under his nose, they would have.

But really it's a book about the special powers and powerlessness of women in that time, and the special freedom and servitude of courtiers, especially courtiers to someone as notoriously capricious as Henry. Gregory gets over very well the idleness, the gossipy flirtations that never went anywhere, the huge sums of money won and lost at cards and games while elsewhere people's livelihoods were being ruined for no reason. She is also great at ramping up the tension in a situation where you already know the outcome, but a part of you is hoping that maybe she'll change history, just this once.

But that's another genre altogether.

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