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Friday, June 10, 2011

The Last Boleyn by Karen Harper

Title: The Last Boleyn
Author: Karen Harper
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
ISBN: 0307237907
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 592
Rating: 4 Crowns

Synopsis: She survived her own innocence, and the treachery of Europe's royal courts...

Greed, lust for power, sex, lies, secret marriages, religious posturing, adultery, beheadings, international intrigue, jealousy, treachery, love, loyalty, and betrayal. The Last Boleyn tells the story of the rise and fall of the Boleyns, one of England's most powerful families, through the eyes of the eldest daughter, Mary.

Although her sister, Anne, the queen; her brother, George, executed along-side Anne; and her father Thomas, are most remembered by history, Mary was the Boleyn who set into motion the chain of events that brought about the family's meteoric rise to power, as well as the one who managed to escape their equally remarkable fall.

Sent away to France at an extraordinarily young age, Mary is quickly plunged into the dangerous world of court politics, where everything is beautiful but deceptive, and everyone she meets is watching and quietly manipulating the events and people around them. As she grows into a woman, Mary must navigate both the dangerous waters ruled by two kings and the powerful will of her own family in order to find a place for herself and the love she so deeply desires.

My Review: What a lovely little tale of the Boleyn family! There are comparisons to Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, as the concept behind the two books is the same - the Boleyn story from Mary's side. I liked this one infinitely more than the Gregory story, and I'm so glad I took the time to read it.

The book starts out when Mary is about 12, not long before she is sent to live in the French court to serve Mary Tudor as the Queen of France while she is married to King Louis. We get to see Mary as she grows from a naive youngster into a beautiful young woman who is soon catching the eye of many members of the court. In the background, we get to see Anne's story as well, starting out with her somewhat worship of her older sister and through her exciting, and ultimately tragic life.

I really enjoyed this portrayal of the Boleyn family, I enjoy any story that doesn't show Anne as a horrible selfish woman, and a book like this makes me more curious and sympathetic to Mary. She's a character history often forgets, although she's rather important in the scheme of things. I mean, who knows what would have happened to the Boleyn family if Mary hadn't been noticed first.

I would say the only thing that bothered me was the consistent spelling of Boleyn as Bullen. I think we all know how to pronounce the name, so I just hate this written version designed to help you say it right. This is totally a personal pet peeve, so you shouldn't let it affect your willingness to read the book. On the whole, I think this is a much better version than Gregory's and I'll recommend it to any fan of historical fiction!

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Samita (Book Purring) said...

It's such a beautiful cover too. Bullen makes me think of Bullets! Thanks for the recc'

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

It is a very pretty cover, I agree. I hope you enjoy it when you get the chance to read it :)

Holly said...

I've had this one on my shelf awhile. Think I might give it a try soon.

Christina T said...

I am not a fan of the Philippa Gregory book but I will be adding this to my TBR list. I am glad to hear that Anne gets fair treatment as well as Mary-and that Mary is the older sister (which I believe makes sense historically) unlike in the Gregory version. I think Bullen was a common version of their last name back then. I've seen it in some of the Tudor nonfiction I've read. I do prefer the Boleyn spelling though. Nice review!

Crystal - Princess of Pop Culture said...

Holly - It was really good, I hope you get the chance to read it soon!

Christina - I'm not a huge fan of the Philippa Gregory book either. I don't hate it, but I don't love it either. It was a relief to see Anne get good treatment, and have Mary as the older sister. I like that much better!