#70 ~ The Lady Elizabeth

May 21, 2008 at 9:13 pm | Posted in Books, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction | 5 Comments
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The Cover to The Lady Elizabeth

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir

I had eagerly anticipated this book from the moment I first heard about it. When I heard that Tracy had a copy, there was virtually no stopping me from purchasing it and reading it immediately. While the writing was equally good here as it was in Innocent Traitor, the euphoric reading high I felt while reading Weir’s first novel did not carry forward into her second. The story of Elizabeth I‘s youth leading up to her rise to the English throne feels like well covered territory to me. That which was new or different in this novel wasn’t enough to have me hanging on every last word like before. Perhaps that is the danger of anticipating anything too much.

It’s not that The Lady Elizabeth wasn’t enjoyable. It was never boring. It just was never the captivating novel I was hoping it would be. There was a point fairly early in the novel where a rivalry was building between Kat, Elizabeth’s governess, and the final wife of Henry VIII, Queen Katherine Parr. My mouth almost watered with anticipation when it felt like this was ramping up to something. For me, that build up led no where. Even her encounters with Lord Seymour didn’t capture my imagination the way that they have in The Last Wife of Henry VIII or The Queen’s Fool. In fact, they felt a little flat and forced. I’m not sure if this is because I’ve already read about some of these scenes before or if it is because they were better seen through the eyes of other characters.

The most enjoyable aspect of this novel for me was Weir’s exploration of the father-daughter relationship between Henry and Elizabeth. How strange it must have been for him to fully embrace the daughter of a woman he had tried and condemned for high treason, especially if he had doubts about her guilt. How troubling it must have been for a young girl to feel such strong love for both parents while wondering where her loyalties should lie in the deadly fight that was between them long before she was old enough to know any better.

At the end of the novel, the author points out several aspects of the novel that she felt might be quite controversial. I didn’t find those things controversial at all. This is a work of fiction and, with the exception of making a three year old much wiser for her years than any three year old I have ever met, they were all quite plausible journeys into the “what ifs” of Elizabeth’s life.

I do not say these things to dissuade people from reading this novel. Alison Weir is a skilled author and this book is an good read about Elizabeth’s early life in one place. I would suggest it more to those who have yet to discover her in fiction. For others, it might feel a bit like reviewing for a test you could easily pass without studying.

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To buy this novel, click here.

#43 ~ The Virgin’s Lover

November 5, 2007 at 5:06 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Historical Fiction, Philippa Gregory, Secrets and Lies | 5 Comments
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The Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory

Your Attention, Please!

Until Gregory’s novel about Mary, Queen of Scots (entitled The Other Queen) is published next year, I can now officially say that I have read every book in her Tudor series! YES!!!! I read my first in March and, as of October 24, I read the last. If reading 52 books in one year won’t be impressive enough, including this entire series into this year is something of which I am proud. Her books aren’t skinny, you know! ;)

On to the Review:

The Virgin’s Lover tells the story of the first two years of Elizabeth I‘s reign as Queen of England. It was during those years that she had a scandalous love affair Robert Dudley, a man previously held in the Tower for treason. A man who narrowly escaped the execution faced by his father and younger brother as a result of the Dudley family’s attempt to install Lady Jane Grey on the throne permanently (they were successful for nine days…). Even after all of this time, the scene of John Dudley‘s death in Innocent Traitor sends chills up and down my spine. I got those chills quite often while reading this book. I knew that Robert Dudley wasn’t going to end up on the Tudor chopping block, but he sure worked as hard as he could at it.

During much of this book, Elizabeth could not make a single decision on her own. I found this a little disconcerting. Sure, everyone has to grown into their roles in life. Despite what Katherine of Arragon might have been lead to believe, you’re not born a monarch. You are very much tried in fire. Still, Elizabeth was never a shrinking violet. She lived much of her life in danger. I found her inability to do much more than worry without Dudley or Sir William Cecil. This Elizabeth came off as pathetic to me. This Elizabeth certainly wasn’t the Elizabeth I remember from the first movie starring Kate Blanchett. Of course, I’m showing my historical ignorance by comparing one fictionalized Elizabeth to the other. Alas, this is all that Literate Housewife has in her arsenal at this point.

I did enjoy the portion of the book dedicated to Amy Robsart, Dudley’s first wife. She is portrayed as an entirely different woman in this book than she was in The Queen’s Fool. I noticed that from the beginning, but I enjoyed her character. I cannot feel sorry for Dudley’s fate after what he put this woman through.

Of all of Gregory’s books about the Tudor dynasty, this is my least favorite after The Constant Princess. I don’t like Elizabeth as a weak minded woman who can’t be anywhere or do anything without a man. I also found it hard to believe that Dudley, going with the assumption that he was innocent of his wife’s demise, didn’t smell a rat from the very beginning. I know that he loved Elizabeth, but to not for a single moment think she could be responsible for bringing about his latest shame was a little much for me.

#28 ~ The Queen’s Fool

June 7, 2007 at 2:26 am | Posted in Books, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction, My Life with Books, Philippa Gregory, Reading, Religion, Secrets and Lies | 1 Comment
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The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory

The magnificent and deeply satisfying way in which Innocent Traitor ended made it too tempting to continue on with the saga of the Tudor monarchy. Reading Veronica only intensified that temptation. I was not disappointed. The Queen’s Fool is the story of a young Jewish girl who took flight from Spain after her mother was burned at the stake by the Inquisition. Hannah, an entirely fictional character, is no ordinary girl. She works hard and dresses as a boy to look the part of her father’s apprentice in London. She takes pride in her father’s book store and printing press. Still, the fear of being burned is never far away.

It is at her father’s shop in London where she comes in contact Lord Robert Dudley and his tutor, John Dee. When she sees a third person in their ranks, who, it was determined, must have been an angel, Dudley gets Hannah’s father’s permission to be bring her to the ailing Kind Edward as his holy fool. Thus, Hannah takes on Edward’s livery and enters court for the first time. Although he begged Hannah off on the King, Lord Robert wants her services to help him and his conspirators to best plan to take the throne from Lady Mary and keep England Protestant. When she is able to intuit the date of Edward’s death and that a woman named Jane (Lady Jane Grey) is to be queen, Robert sends her away from the King’s side and to stay with Lady Mary as his spy. Hannah is so enamored with Robert that she agrees. Perhaps it was because she has had to lead her life from one lie to another in order to keep herself alive, she found a way to keep her promise to Lord Robert while still remaining loyal to Lady Mary. She loves her the way in which a daughter loves a mother from the very first because Mary is gentle and kind to her.

And another...

And another...

It’s not until the noose tightens around all of England while Queen Mary burns as many heretics as she can find that Hannah’s love for being at court is trumped by her survival instincts. She is no longer safe now that the Queen is deeply depressed due to the state of her marriage and her kingdom. She blames her false pregnancy on God’s displeasure with England. Surely once the heretics are gone the Lord will shine down and provide an heir. It is nearly too late when she sends word to her father, who had moved to Calais with her betrothed husband, to come and take her to safety. Although young and not ready for life as a dutiful wife after living so many years in breaches and living like a lad, she does desire her husband Daniel. Although her mother and sisters-in-law highly disapprove of her, she tries her best to be a dutiful wife. Yet when the French attack Calais, she flees under the protection of Lord Dudley and finds herself once again meshed in the intrigue of the Tudor court.

I had a weird experience while reading this book. I read a paragraph and I felt deja vu wash over me. It was as if I had both read that same paragraph once before and that I had witnessed the scene with my own eyes. Spooky! If Queen Mary were alive to hear me even hint at feelings of reincarnation I’d be dry and crispy right now. You got to love those Tudors.

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