Saturday, July 22, 2006

When Characters Do An About-Face

I see they're making a movie of THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL by Philippa Gregory. Which I've read, in part because my agent suggested I read historical fiction, the unspoken part being "It's hot now and maybe you should give it a shot...if you want..." (My agent now knows from sad experience that if I don't choose what to write about and don't get to write it the way I want, I am not a happy writer.)

Anyway, I read the book, in another part because I remember being absolutely gobsmacked the first time I saw the movie Anne of a Thousand Days and discovered Anne Bolyn's sister had been King Henry's mistress first, and had even had a child by him. Whhhaaa??? They left that out in history class (too scandalous even then, obviously). But heck, now there's a PG obviously thought.

The book itself, however, was not my cup of tea. For one thing, I really don't like first person narrative. I want to know what other characters are thinking and experiencing, too. For me, it makes for a richer fictional tapestry.

The other thing that really bothered me was something that seemed like a 180 degree character shift part way through the book. Mary, the "other" Boleyn girl, is presented in the beginning of the novel as naive and the complete pawn of her family. Yet later, she apparently has to instruct Anne, who I thought had a pretty good handle on such things from living with the French court, in the methods of pleasing a man in bed.

What the --? When did Mary get to be such an expert? It wasn't inferred that Henry was a patient tearcher of such things, and if there was another character who taught Mary, I blinked and missed it. And of all the people to be asking her advice, I'd say her ambitious, self-confident, sexy younger sister would be the last person. OTOH, maybe it was that way. The thing is, the notion of Mary as Sex Expert just didn't ring true given the way she'd been presented up to that point, at least in my mind.

Giving this popular author another try, I also read THE QUEEN'S FOOL. Nope, just not working for me, so I've decided that even if the historical fiction market is hotter than the pavement outside my house in July, first person historical fiction isn't appealing enough for me to give it a shot. For now.

Because one thing I've learned in this business is, Never say never.

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