Saturday, 17 May 2008

I have recently finished reading Phillipa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, a first person narrative about Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, and mistress of King Henry VIII, and mother to two children by him. Although I have known of Philipa Gregory's writing for years, this is (I think) the first one I have actually read, a bit strange on my part as I am a keen fan of historical novels. However I did enjoy it, found it a good page turner and thought the background research was sound enough for me to picture the events and scenes. Some of the Reading Group for which this was the most recent read found it a bit slight, somewhat of a bodice-ripper was one comment, although themes including the attitude to high-class women as chattels of their family, likewise the attitude to children in farming them out to be reared and educated elsewhere made the book a bit deeper than it might appear on a quick skim. I think on the whole that the reason I haven't read them in the past is that I find them a bit too light, despite the apparent research. A few of our group had seen the film, but were not overly impressed with it.

In comparison, Virginia Nicholson's Singled Out: How two million women survived without men after the First World War was excellently researched and engrossing to read, and brought home just how much a debt we women in the 21st century owe to the women of the 20's and 30's. If the single women of that period had meekly done what their male relatives had expected, we would probably still be fighting for the vote, and doing all the drudgery work demanded of running a house, unable to earn our own money.

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