I’m currently reading the second book in a series of historical novels by Philippa Gregory, The Other Boleyn Girl. It’s about Henry VIII‘s affair with Mary Boleyn, followed by his courtship and marriage of Queen Anne Boleyn (his second wife, out of 6). I’ve never read historical fiction before, and I have to say I quite like it. I thought historical fiction was common or ‘popular’ literature, but Dr. Gregory actually has a doctorate in 18th-century literature from Edinburgh University. Thus, her books are very well researched – it’s not some soppy romantic shite story. She tells the story from her female characters’ viewpoint, and while the facts may not be 100% accurate, the way the Tudor court is described, and the available roles for upper class women within it, is fascinating.
I also like the idea that Henry VIII shagged around and had a fair few bastard children out of wedlock, with his various mistresses. That means, if you think about it, that descendents of Henry VIII are among us, probably a fair few, and they don’t know that they’re descended from him (and will never find out).
The books are bordering on the popular (compared to what I usually read) – i.e. they are easy and fast to read, and the language is not particularly poetic or challenging. In fact the narration is quite conventional. Still, the subject matter is what makes these books. It’s like watching a really good narrative film in the cinema, from a time or place that you don’t know anything about. You just get in there and shut everything else out 🙂
In fact, for some bizarre reason, it reminds me of The Return (2003).