I had a fun afternoon today seeing a matinee of The Other Boleyn Girl with a friend. I’ve loved Tudor & Elizabethan history every since I watched The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R on tv as a young child (closely followed by a family trip to Britain where we visited Hampton Court, the Tower of London, and so many other locations that featured in both series). I love watching different dramatizations of the era, getting different takes on familiar events, discussing (as my friend and I did over a lunch) what was historically accurate, what was changed, what’s open to interpretation.
One of the things I found most intriguing about The Other Boleyn Girl as a both a book and a movie is the complex relationships of the three Boleyn siblings, Anne, Mary, and George. Relationships between siblings offer such a rich wealth for an author to explore–love, jealousy, understanding, misunderstanding, competition, support, histories that intertwine from the cradle. Shakespeare offers Edmund and Edgar, whose rivalries and betrayals build to one of the best duels in dramatic literature. Goneril and Regan, rivals over Edmund and a country, and their very different sister Cordelia. Kate and Bianca, whose rivalry, though comic, runs every bit as deep in many ways as Edmund and Edgar’s. Separated twins, such as Viola and Sebastian and the Antipholus and Dromio brothers, who can’t really be whole until they find each other again. Opera includes a wealth of complicated sibling relationships including Il Trovatore’s separated brothers who become rivals for the same woman; Enrico Ashton who manipulates and destroys his sister Lucia; Siegmunde and Sieglinde, also separated at birth, who discover each other and sing one the most glorious love duets ever written; Dorabella and Fiordiligi, who, victims of their fiancés’ deception, find themselves falling in love with the other’s betrothed.
Jane Austen has devoted, supportive siblings such as Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, Elinor, Marianne Dashwood, and Henry and Eleanor Tilney, but also difficult siblings such as Lydia Bennet and Mary Musgrove (well, Marianne qualifies as difficult along with devoted and supportive), and dismissive and downright destructive siblings such as Elizabeth Elliott. Marguerite St. Juste is torn between her sense of honor and her loyalty to her brother. Francis Crawford of Lymond’s relationship with his brother Richard, fraught with with rivalry, protectiveness, and misunderstanding on both sides, runs through out the Lymond Chronicles (including what is probably my favorite ever duel in a novel), as does Lymond’s guilt over the death of his sister Eloise. My friend Penny Williamson often writes about siblings, particularly brothers, and has a wonderful knack for capturing the nuances of loyalty and rivalry, particularly in Heart of the West, Mortal Sins, and The Wages of Sin. One of my favorite literary sibling relationships is the wonderfully offhand, yet deeply affectionate, relationship between Venetia and her brother Aubrey in Georgette Heyer’s Venetia.
Sibling relationships play a key role in my own novels, but I realized in the months I’ve been blogging I haven’t really talked about Charles’s relationship with his brother Edgar, which is so important in Secrets of a Lady, or with his sister Gisèle, which features prominently in Beneath a Silent Moon. Charles and Edgar’s story was part of my very early planning for the book. It’s integral to who Charles is. I had worked out quite a bit of their back story before I’d quite figured out Edgar’s role in the plot. Then when I knew where the story was going, I had to work out more details of the Fraser brothers’ history. I’m not quite sure when I decided part of that history included a younger sister. But it seemed important that Charles had another sibling who had remained in Britain, who part part of the life he had turned his back on. Exploring their relationship (and Gisèle’s anger at his turning his back on home) was part of what drove me to write Beneath a Silent Moon. I was well into the first draft of Secrets of a Lady before I realized that it was important that Mélanie had had a sister and what role that sister had played in shaping the woman Mélanie became.
Have you seen The Other Boleyn Girl or read the book? Do you have favorite books about siblings? What did you think of the way Charles and Edgar’s relationship unfolded in Secrets of a Lady? If you’ve read Beneath a Silent Moon, was Gisèle what you expected in Charles’s sister? (Or if you haven’t read it, what do you expect to learn about her?).
This week’s addition the Fraser Correspondence is a letter from Earl Quentin to his younger brother Lord Valentine. Quen and Val are important characters in Beneath a Silent Moon. Speaking of which, you can see the cover for the re-release of Beneath a Silent Moon on the Avon Authors site. Let me know what you think–I’m very happy with it!
Update 5 March: I’m blogging on History Hoydens today. As a companion to this post, I use The Other Boleyn Girl to talk about history films and inspiration for writing. Do stop by and comment!