Book Discussion Questions: The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

The Other Boleyn Girl book coverTitle: The Other Boleyn Girl
Author: Philippa Gregory
Page Count: 664 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Dramatic, Romantic, Suspenseful

Summary:
The daughters of a ruthlessly ambitious family, Mary and Anne Boleyn are sent to the court of Henry VIII to attract the attention of the king, who first takes Mary as his mistress, in which role she bears him an illegitimate son, and then takes Anne as his wife.

 

SPOILER WARNING:
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

1. On p. 54 Anne said to Mary, “You are all ready for the pleasures of bed and board, but the woman who manages Henry will know that her pleasures must be in managing his thoughts every minute of the day? Do you think a young girl of 14 has the capability to be so calculating, much less the sexual prowess to seduce him?

2. On p. 59. Anne talked about the family’s strategy of using Mary to catch the king’s desire. Her Uncle Howard asked why Anne didn’t try for the king herself. She said, “I thought of it, but I’m a Howard. What matters most is that one of us catches the king. It hardly matters which one.” Do you think Anne meant what she said at the time? How did she change?

3. Describe Mary’s relationship with Queen Katharine. On pg. 29 she professes her love and admiration for the Queen and feels she can’t betray her. How could Mary then have an affair with the King?

4. Did Mary truly love the king – when she first began her affair with him? What about the king attracted Mary? How did that attraction change – and when?

5. On p. 144 Did Anne ever really love Lord Henry Percy? Or was she using him to become Duchess of Northumberland?

6. Henry was first and foremost a spoiled child; when he was given a present, he loved the giver (p. 177). Do you think that is an accurate description of Henry? Was he a good king?

7. How does Anne’s rein as Queen parallel that of Katharine’s? Did you feel sorry for Anne at all?

8. How would you describe Anne and Mary’s relationship? In what ways were they the same? In what ways were they different?

9. Anne tells Mary, “You can’t desire the king like an ordinary man and forget the crown on his head.” What does this statement reveal about the difference between Anne and Mary’s nature?

10. Were you surprised that George flaunted his relationship with Sir Francis Weston, knowing that homosexuality was a crime?

11. Was George a loyal brother? How was his relationship different with Mary than Anne? What did you make of the intimate kiss between George and Anne that Mary witnessed? Did you believe that Anne’s deformed premature baby was George’s?

12. Describe Mary’s relationship with William Stafford. Did she love him like he loved her? Did their relationship change Mary and how she viewed her family and the court? Knowing the kind of man William was, how could he tolerate George and Anne? How could he not argue with Mary when she said that no matter what, they were still family?

13. After Anne is arrested, Mary pleads for her by saying, “We did nothing more than that was ordered. We only ever did as we were commanded. Is she to die for being an obedient daughter? (p. 650) What is your reaction to these arguments? Did Henry have no choice but to sentence her death?

14. How would you describe the parents of Mary, Anne and George. Were you surprised by their actions, particularly their mother’s?

15. How many of you were familiar with the history of King Henry VIII’s court? Were you familiar with the degree of corruption in the court? Did reading this novel change your view of what you already knew? Were you familiar with Mary Boleyn – or just Anne?

16.How would you rate this novel compared to other historical novels?

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Other Resources:

Lit Lovers’ discussion questions
Author website
AV Club’s comparison of the book vs. the film
About Philippa Gregory
Video interview with Gregory

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