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A famous novel, adapted for TV and made into a movie. Today its author Philippa Gregory received a grilling from readers in the BBC Radio 4 bookclub …

The show is mostly good humoured and quite British – at one point the presenter says, “Steady on!” And one inquisitor in blue stockings whispers the erotic phrase, “liminal women”.

Gregory describes how she chose her subject and how she wrote about it, and makes some interesting points about women, history and fiction …

“If you put women under this sort of pressure and give them no power whatsoever they are going to be sexual conspirators. And that’s the consequence of keeping them blocked from any sense of real power.”

“Trade secrets? … How to skip past the boring bits, which is one of the most important things to know, particularly as a historical novelist … It’s filmic in a way. It’s like a jump cut.”

Plenty more where that came from. Gregory also covers the controversy over which was the older sister, and this is where a couple of the readers get a bit testy.

Good stuff, although I wonder if the author’s final description of herself as a feminist and republican (small ‘r’) is a bit limiting.

I would have asked her about the pronunciation of Boleyn – Gregory goes with bowlin’, emphasis on the first syllable.

The show lasts half an hour. Webpage here. Podcast here. You may have to noodle around the archive if you’re arriving late to class.

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