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Buzz Book Club: The Other Boleyn Girl, Section One

Welcome back, members of the Buzz Book Club! Last week I announced the title of our very first book club book: Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl.

As I mentioned before, every week I'll suggest chapters to complete by the next post (which, in this case, will go up every Friday in February). In these weekly Book Club posts, I'll posit a few questions to prompt discussion in the comments section.

The first assignment was to read from Spring 1521 to the end of Spring 1524. Of course, you are welcome to read beyond the weekly chapters, but please don't spoil anything in the comments! After the jump you'll find some questions that struck me as I read this first section.

The next assignment: Read from Summer 1524 to the end of Spring 1529.

Ready to discuss the first section of The Other Boleyn Girl? Just


  1. At this point in the book, who is your favorite character? Who is your least favorite character? Why?
  2. Why do you think Mary is the narrator of this story, rather than Anne?
  3. Which do you think is more important for Mary: love or social advancement? What about for Anne?
  4. In the Boleyns’ situation — Mary being used to advance the Boleyn and Howard families — love and sex are treated as part of the game, as clinical tactics for getting what the family wants. Can you imagine viewing sex and/or love in this way? And do you think there’s an empowering aspect to the way the Boleyn girls use their sexuality for advancement? Or is it just repressive and depressing?
  5. On the one hand, the men in this book seem to have ultimate control, choosing whom their daughters will marry and plotting their families' rise through the kingdom. At one point, Mary even tells a poor farmer that he's better off than she is just because he's a man. On the other hand, so much — bearing children, wooing the right people — is up to the women. George, for example, can't do nearly as much as Anne or Mary can to secure his family's rise. What do you make of the men's roles up to this point?
Join The Conversation
cravinsugar cravinsugar 9 years
Lemonice: continue reading the series and let me know if you character assessment changes! :-)
lemonice lemonice 9 years
I am loving this book so far!! I have to say that my favorite character is Mary. She is so innocent and pure hearted. She is full of love and compassion. My least favorite character is the uncle! He is so cruel!!
Wicked Wicked 9 years
I loved this book. I read it last year and of course most people know what happens in the end but I wanted to know about all the juicy stuff in between :)
cravinsugar cravinsugar 9 years
May I just say Buzz, I think you chose a great book! I read this book about 7 years ago or so, and since have read every book written by Phillipa Gregory that has to do with King Henry the 8th. There are 4 or 5. One starts begins the story of Queen Katherine, then the other boleyn girl, then is a sotry about Kitty howard and the second Queen Katherine, etc. Each one is exquisite and I hope everyone gets as much enjoyment from them as I did! I certainly began my love affair with that period in history, period!
MLipchick MLipchick 9 years
So far, this book is pretty good. I am a week behind, but I trudge along...hoping to catch up soon. I am definitely enjoying learning about this time period and the differences with modern times. One thing I find so particularly interesting (which has also been mentioned many times so far) is how the Boleyn family is in on Mary as being Henry's mistress for the gain of the family. This just blows my mind. I don't find it hard to believe; it's just very different. I can't imagine having a discussion about my sex life, that frankly, with my entire family, let alone my father and uncle who have a very primitive way of thinking. Even the mother is in on it too. I enjoyed the point that Mary made about how with the ascension of her status, she has reaped many benefits, but she has also gained new enemies. I thought this was a very interesting point. Another thing I cannot believe is how openly the court discusses the matter of the queen being with child so openly. Barren at 40? WOW. How sorry I feel for her. What strength she has and I find myself admiring her just like Mary does. What a terrible position Katharine is in. We shall see what happens next! Thanks buzz!
Brooke01 Brooke01 9 years
Best Book ever!
elle-j elle-j 9 years
my favorite character is mary. knowing that the movie is coming out, i keep picturing natalie portman as anne, and i think she will be perfect! Would love to learn a bit more about the queen. I think mary is the narrator because she tells the story much more truthfully than anne would. However, it would be interesting to hear it from anne's perspective.
MissMeow MissMeow 9 years
I've read this book a billion times. Its one of my favorites. In fact, its the book that got me interested in reading historical fiction about women. Now I have a whole shelf on my bookcase dedicated to books like this.
shugahxnxspice shugahxnxspice 9 years
I've re-read this book so many it.
snapsh0t snapsh0t 9 years
1) I probably have to say my favorite character, at this point, is Anne. She's much more resourceful, creative, and witty, and won't allow others to make decisions for her (except for the very last occurence, obviously). She's much more interesting to read about than the others, IMO. 3) Mary's obviously in it for love, while Anne's main priority is social advancement. She may love Percy, but that wasn't her main goal in marrying him.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
*Make that "most powerful woman in the country" not "world".
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
So far, I think the character I'm most intrigued with is the queen. She remains so stoic and outwardly strong, even though she's constantly humiliated by the fact that she hasn't had a son and even though her husband is flagrantly bedding other women. Even though she was the most powerful woman in the world, there was nothing she could really do or say to defend herself or her interest.... nevertheless, it seemed like she never let it defeat her nor break her. The characters I like the least are Mary's parents. The way they pimp their own children out so that they might someday ride their children's coattails is disgusting. Much like Hollywood parents, no? I think Mary is narrator because her story is almost never told. History seems to write her off as being like some ambitious little whore and that's it. I think Philippa must've thought to herself that there's got to be more to the story than that. Mary was right in the mix of things and there must have been something special about her to capture the attention of the king, even though she was newly married to one of his favored men of the court. I think it'll be interesting to see the story play out from her point of view.
DCStar DCStar 9 years
I think Mary is the narrator because so little is actually known about her, historically, that she is easy to fictionalize and turn into whatever type of character Philippa Gregory wanted her to be. She's close to the drama, Anne, but she's able to step back and give us a different perspective than we're used to reading.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 9 years
I, too, am loving the book. Philippa Gregory's ability to almost seamlessly blend fact and fiction provides insight not only into the history and the politics of the Tudor era but also into the social and economic climate of the time. As I'm reading, I have a real sense that she has captured the past and I'm believing her as a writer. Thus, far, Mary is my favorite; Anne and their father are my least favorites, though I'm not a big fan of their mother either. When she asks Mary, "How could you?" and turned away from Mary "as if she could hardly bear to look at [her]," she became an unsympathetic character for me. Mary is the perfect narrator because she is fresh, naive, young at the start; she has much room to develop and grow whereas other characters do not. Right now, she's on the fringes and is able to take a wider view; I suspect that we'll see changes in her as we move through time. Right now, love is more important to her; even though she knows she is expected to play the game, she seems to be growing to dislike her role. Anne, on the other hand, is a manipulator. She uses her sexuality for advancement; it's hard to love her and yet she is masterful. The men do have power, but what about George? His life seems planned out for him as well. He's not one of my favorites, either, yet I'm anxious to learn more about him. Buzz, thank you for choosing this as the first book club book. I've been wanting to read this for awhile and now I have the real motivation to do so.
Entertainment Entertainment 9 years
PeachyKeen — You're not too late! I just started this up a week ago, and we'll be reading The Other Boleyn Girl all month. Then the movie comes out, conveniently, on the last day of the month, which is also the last Friday we'll be discussing the novel! It's all very neat and tidy. :)
PeachyKeen19 PeachyKeen19 9 years
Am I late to the game or what? Sorry, I don't meant to interrupt the flow of everyone's post but I didn't know that Buzz had a monthly book club...I've never gotten around to reading this book. Now I think I will.
JCP0240 JCP0240 9 years
good point Liza, George absolutely has a strange relationship with the girls, is he gay? there are some rumors mentioned in the book...and i wanted to clarify this
PJ-PJ-PJ PJ-PJ-PJ 9 years
I got this book for Christmas. I don't know how I missed the book club thing. I'll have to start reading it tonight & catch up.
liza0183 liza0183 9 years
-I really like the Queen often feel bad for her. The least favorite is George I find him a bit creepy both in advancing his family and just in general. lol -I think Mary is the narrator just because we have heard already Anne's pretty much thru history. So Mary is perfect because she is often the sister that is put to the side till now. -Mary it is clearly love of some kind our of the situation, Anne is totally for the advancement socially. Anne seems as if she will do anything to get what she wants. Kinda of scary. -Like mention in a comment above, back then it wasn't something unheard of. I think it would depressing that I was only viewed as a object for my family to get ahead. But then again back then it wasn't unheard of. -The men roles seem to be all the focus on the family and secure the faimly. It's kinda of funny how all this in riding on a women who romances the king and the men are just plotting it, seems very unmanly. I think i said that right lol
JJMarie JJMarie 9 years
I don't really think that there is an empowering aspect to the way the Boleyn girls use their sexuality for advancement because they do it only because the male elders in their lives basically force them to. They don't really hold any power, they're just a pawn in the game. I find it quite depressing and appalling that a father would ask his married young teenage daughter to sleep with a married man. But it has been a great insight into the way things were back then and an excellently written book so far.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
Is everybody "picturing" Scarlett as Mary and Eric as Henry and natalie as Anne?
aembry396 aembry396 9 years
***I also found it funny that in the beginning of the book, I kept thinking "oh is Mary going to attract the King, but wait Anne is the one that is beheaded, right? Oh I don't want Mary to get I shouldn't root for the Mary to get the king." so conflicted.
aembry396 aembry396 9 years
I also think that Mary is a better narrator than Anne for 2 reasons: 1.) she can tell about the fall out and aftermath of Anne's death 2.) Mary is naturally more introspective and analytical. Anne is more cunning and selfish. Mary is also driven by two things that is easily relatable: duty and love. She (and George and sometimes Anne) loves her family but understands her duty to the family. And it is a constant battle which to follow love or duty. I think this also makes her a better narrator. A lot of Phillipa Gregory books are about the power of women vs. power of men. I think it is interesting that many modern woman still utilize that power of sex, seduction, and sublte manipulation because it seems one of the natural tools at a woman's disposal. It is not PC, but it is there throughout history.
JCP0240 JCP0240 9 years
I am loving the book so far! Mary as everyone has said seems to be the better of the two sisters, and cares about her emotions and love. She often battles with her family, wanting to do "the right thing", but usually doing what her family insists. Anne is very different from Mary,she, like the rest of the Boleyn family, is a master manipulator. Obviously the way the women are treated in the book is horrible, but that is how it was back then. The women have power but only to a certain degree, they can't make any important decisions or choices, that is up to the men. Then again not all men have a lot of power either, Mary's husband had no choice but to let Mary pack her things to live in the castle and become Henry's lover. I am loving the book so far and can't put it down! i'm about half way through!
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