Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Book Reviews #15

The White Queen - Philippa Gregory

My knowledge of history is, as I've mentioned before, shite.

I dropped geography (dull) and history (it seemed to be all about dates) as soon as I was able in favour of the more fun (to me) subjects of physics (lots of experiments and making things go bang) chemistry (lots of experiments and even more of an opportunity to make things go bang) and biology (where I became quite adept with a scalpel and learnt to dissect worms, dogfish, rats, frogs and even whelks).

Whilst my knowledge of geography has improved (slightly) through living in and travelling around the country, my history is still shite, I can tell you the ways in which Henry VIII relieved himself of each of his wives (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived) but that's only because the rhyme kind of sticks...

Consequently I do enjoy a book that will give me my reading fix whilst at the same time going some way to plugging a gap in my historical knowledge. Philippa Gregory is the perfect author for this, weaving a web of fiction around verified facts and spinning tales out of the grey areas, I have read several of her books and am never disappointed.

The White Queen covers the period of Edward IV, 1464 through to Richard III in 1486, the War of the Roses, and details the rise and fall of Elizabeth Woodville and her family as she catches the King and they (the family) hang on to his coat tails, trying to wring as much profit from the union as possible.

Edward and Elizabeth were married for some 19 years which gives a lot of ground to cover in 400 pages and while it all needed mentioning I did feel that the story barely held together in some places and for me there was little feeling of the passage of time, other than the near constant state of pregnancy of the Queen. It wasn't until towards the end of the book, after Edward's death and Elizabeth's flight to santuary in Westminster Abbey that I really felt gripped by the tale.

I enjoyed learning about the the 'Princes in the Tower' - the two young sons of Edward and Elizabeth who were next in line to the throne and for whom Richard (King Edward's brother) was supposed to act as Protector. That the two boys were imprisoned in the Tower of London is fact, but what happened to them subsequently is still a mystery, no bodies have ever been confirmed as theirs and Richard was able to declare himself righful monarch by the overturning of Edward and Elizabeth's marriage, with that pronounced unlawful any offspring became illegitimate and so forfeighted their right to the crown.

A good read, and I love a book that creates a thirst for knowledge - I've googled most of the characters from that period of history this week, and was fascinated to discover that through her granddaughter, Queen Margaret of Scotland, Elizabeth became the ancestress of the Stuart, Hanover and Windsor dynasties, the descendents of whom still rule over the United Kingdom, not bad for a commoner!

As I said, a good read, but not her best.

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