#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.

Smoky Mountain Vacation

May 12, 2008 at 8:43 am | Posted in Barnes & Noble, Books, entertainment, Family, Historical Fiction, LibraryThing, My Life with Books, Reading | 5 Comments
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Greetings from Gatlinburg, TN, located in heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s beautiful here despite the rain and I’ve enjoyed seeing my parents (I haven’t see my mother on Mother’s Day for at least 10 years), siblings, in-laws, nieces, and nephews. The kids did a great job on the drive. Even if they hadn’t, it’s just nice being out of the Roanoke Valley.

Although we’ll be away from home for 9 days, I’m planning on getting some good reading in:

  • Taking Lisa’s advice from Books on the Brain, I rented Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan from the library.
  • I snagged the latest book by Patrick McGrath, Trauma on the way to the checkout desk I was at the library.
  • The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block, which I received through a trade with another Early Reviewer on LibraryThing.
  • I picked up The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani for under $5 at Barnes and Noble last week. I’ve been wanting to read this since I read a review by Divia on HistoricalFiction.org.
  • Finally, I’m finishing up The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir. I’d love to say that I’m loving it, but it’s just okay. No offense to Last Night at the Lobster, but I shouldn’t be looking forward to my next book. I should be savoring this one. Sigh…

Book Lust

May 1, 2008 at 12:13 pm | Posted in Barnes & Noble, Books, Historical Fiction, LIfe, Philippa Gregory, Reading, What's Up | 12 Comments
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When Tracy left a comment that she had a copy of The Lady Elizabeth, the latest novel written by Alison Weir, book lust set in to my reader’s heart fast and furious. Were I the Incredible Hulk, I would have ripped through my clothes and turned green within minutes of reading Tracy’s comment (which wouldn’t really be so bad – green is my favorite color). I read Innocent Traitor last May while I was vacationing at the beach and absolutely loved it. So, I couldn’t stop thinking about the book and how wonderful I am hoping it will be. Thankfully, a merciful 15% coupon arrived in my email from Barnes & Noble and I immediately put it to good use. My very own copy of The Lady Elizabeth will be arriving today. Although I’m about a third of the way through Mistaken Identity, I don’t think I’m going to be able to wait. I’m afraid thoughts of any other book are going to be lost the second I see that package on my door step.

Cover to The Lady Elizabeth

One of the main reason’s I’m curious about this book is to see how I feel about Elizabeth I as a result. Although I love Philippa Gregory, The Virgin’s Lover was not my favorite book in her Tudor series. I also had really been looking forward to Elizabeth: The Golden Age and was sadly disappointed by how boring it was. So much so that I was never able to muster up the motivation to write my review of the movie afterwards. Yet, I’ve enjoyed novels where Elizabeth is not the main character. I’m wondering if this is because I didn’t find Elizabeth that interesting or was it the treatment she received in the book and movie? I’m hoping it’s the later. How can Elizabeth not be an intriguing character?

#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 | 2 Comments
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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.

#26 ~ Innocent Traitor

June 5, 2007 at 9:11 pm | Posted in Amazing Narrator, Books, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction, Reading, Religion | 3 Comments
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With this book I have reached the summit!

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir

As I have made my way through the wives of Henry the 8th, this book seemed the next logical choice. This book deals with the rise and fall of Lady Jane Grey, the woman who rules England as Queen for nine short days between the reign of King Edward and Queen Mary. Alison Weir is a historian as is known for her academic accounts of the English monarchy. Innocent Traitor is Weir’s first attempt at using fiction to fully flesh out historic characters and fill in those things that can never be known. This book was a wonderful reading experience, independent of the fact that I read it while at the beach. I would heartily recommend it to anyone who has read The Other Boleyn Girl and/or The Boleyn Inheritance. You will not be disappointed.

Lady Jane Grey was born to Henry the 8th’s niece, Frances. Frances and her husband are selfish people who long only for the good life brought about by being wealthy land owners and members of the royal family. After losing two sons in infancy, Frances is bitter when she bares Jane, a healthy, strapping girl. From the moment Jane’s sex is known, Frances hardens her heart. Jane only becomes valuable to her when Queen Jane gives birth to Prince Edward, her uncle’s sole male heir. Within weeks of her birth, Jane is surrounded by people plotting to use her to their own advantage.

From the very beginning Jane experiences only harshness and displeasure from her mother. Because she is unknowingly being groomed to be a future queen of England, her mother uses a heavy hand with her. Jane, an intelligent and inquisitive child who grows into a sober and scholarly young woman, has a will of her own that her mother cannot break. She is content to spend her life reading in the pursuit of knowledge and righteousness before God. While her parent’s faith changes at the whim of the monarch, Jane grows to become a devout, outspoken, and idealistic Protestant under the tutelage of the doctors chosen specifically by Queen Katherine Parr to teach her. Like many stanch idealists, Jane lacks diplomacy and tact when speaking about faith. Believing that she knows the real truth about God, she refuses to hold her tongue, even in front of Princess Mary, an equally devout and staunch Roman Catholic.

It is the combination of the ultimately ill-fated plotting against the succession of the English monarchy and Jane’s unwavering faith in Protestantism that ultimately bring about her demise.

It was interesting reading this book just after finishing March. Both of the narrators are wholly devout to the cause of their faith. They both loved knowledge and its pursuits about all other pleasures. They both lacked tact and diplomacy, believing that they were proclaiming the will of God to the people of their time. They both were taken about as to how others could not believe the way that they do. Where Captain March was led haphazardly by his shame and fear of damnation, Jane stood defiant and confident in her own salvation without fear of death. Interestingly, it is how they differ that brought about their downfalls.

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