Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"The White Queen" by Philippa Gregory

When I first started reading this book, it didn't take me very long to decide that it was a romance novel thinly disguised as historical fiction. I hope I am not talking about you, but I scorn romance novels and their readers. But since I'd started it, I had to finish it. Plus, even with all the lustful heavy breathing and yearning, it was apparent that this book is actually steeped in history, judging by what it says on the back cover and the relatively long list of sources at the end. I just wished the story could have been written by an author who wasn't so prone to bodice-ripping.

Now that I'm finished reading, I take back all the mean things I said and thought about this book. I really enjoyed reading it! It was not one of the more thought-provoking novels, but it was suspenseful and exciting. As I read I wished I knew more about the history of the kings of England. On the other hand, if I did, I might not have found this story as suspenseful and exciting, since I would know what was coming. Even if I knew what was going to happen, though, I still might not have known the route taken to arrive at that result.

Even back when I viewed this as a romance novel, I found that at least the book had some humor in it, which I appreciated. The main character, Lady Elizabeth Grey, manages to marry Edward, Duke of York and King of England by battle, and herself becomes the queen. When she first sees her father and brothers after her marriage has been announced, she is horrified when her father bows to her; however, when her brother Anthony, who had doubted her marriage and called her names, genuflects to her, Elizabeth says, "You can stay down there." Another part that made me laugh, although only because it is just so silly, is when Elizabeth tells her husband Edward, "I cannot think how to sate my desire for you. I think I will have to keep you prisoner here and eat you up in little cutlets, day after day." Gag!

As I read, I dreaded finding out what was going to happen to Elizabeth's two young sons by her first marriage. She had fears of leaving her boys with strangers because she had a sort of premonition that this would be dangerous for them. This was compounded during the first night that Elizabeth spent in the Tower of London (as a guest, not a prisoner). The back of the book gives a kind of spoiler about this, saying, "her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown." But this turns out to be her two younger sons who she has by King Edward, not her sons from her first marriage.

This book ended far before I expected it to. England was gearing up for battle again and all of a sudden, pop, story's over. I don't even know who won. However, in the Author's Note at the end I see that this is to be the first in a series, so I guess I need to start looking for the sequel now.

This author also penned The Other Boleyn Girl, which I've seen in movie form but have not read. I enjoyed the movie; when I first saw on the cover of The White Queen that Gregory also authored The Other Boleyn Girl, I was very interested in reading that book. Then, as I read and discovered that I thought this book was a romance novel, I was less interested in reading other books by this author, though I was hoping The Other Boleyn Girl might be a little more realistic and less silly. Now that I have finished this book, I'm back to where I started--eager to read the other.

1 comment:

aph08 said...

Hmm, I read:
The Constant Princess
The Other Boleyn Girl
and The Boleyn Inheritence
and I liked them all. They are fast reads and although they are not non-fiction she does base the stories in fact and adds her speculation where needed to fill in the gaps. I would read more of her books. I also really enjoy The Tudors on Showtime, for the show they are less true to the real history but very entertaining.