The Other Boleyn Girl fits into the historical fiction genre. The reader is immersed in England of the 1500s. The story focuses on people who really existed and events that actually happened.
It is based on the lives of two sisters from the Boleyn family. Mary is 12, and already married to a man named William Carey when the book starts. Her slightly older sister, Anne, is just returning from France, where she was part of the French King’s Court. Both girls, and their older brother George, are going to be part of the English King Henry’s Court.
The entire story is told from the viewpoint of Mary. She starts out very innocent, but gets drawn deeper and deeper into her family’s devious plans, despite her wishes to do what she wants and to follow her heart. The story is full of political intrigue, something that seems to be a part of all Royal Courts. These people seem to have had nothing to do other than gossip, flirt, and attempt to gain the most favor with the King.
Mary and Anne soon discover that they are nothing more than pawns for their family to use in order to gain favor and power. King Henry takes a liking to Mary, and the family pushes her to flirt with the King. They insist upon this knowing that Mary is already married. She objects, but has to do it anyway. As the story goes on, it becomes unclear exactly who King Henry favors the most – Mary, her sister Anne, or his wife Katherine.
Anyone who knows a little about history can accurately predict what happens to Anne, George, and Queen Katherine. Even with that knowledge, it is entirely possible to enjoy the story. Philippa Gregory did quite a bit of homework to write this one. The copy of the book that I read included details about the research work that she did before writing The Other Boleyn Girl.