Well, normally I take the whole week to read a book, but this week I had a few things working in my favor. Firstly, I’m still on school break (until Monday, when “The Aurthurian Legend” class begins); secondly, my husband is finally back at work – meaning I’m back into a daily routine of housework, schoolwork (with the pre-K munchkins), and downtime (from having no homework to do). Add that to a book I had a hard time putting down, and the book got finished very quickly.
This week’s reading was the first of our “New” reading of January (note: this book is “new to me”), The White Queen by Philippa Gregory.
What a great book! I have never read a book by Gregory, and I am so pleased I picked this one up – and am fully inspired to pick up another of her novels. The White Queen follows one of England’s most fascinating monarchs – Elizabeth Woodville – in one of England’s most trying times – The Cousin’s War of the late 15th Century. Elizabeth, a commoner who captures the heart of a usurper king on his ascent to power, helps shape a country in trouble, and forever changes the face of the Royal Family.
I loved this read! I had a really hard time putting it down (just as my husband, who had to suffer through the light being on in our bedroom until midnight). Gregory has a very strong voice, and tells a fascinating story through the eyes of Elizabeth, a passionate lover, powerful queen, desperate mother, and “daughter” of a legendary water goddess. Readers follow Elizabeth through her secret marriage, the ebb and flow of her rule, and her many heartaches over the 20+ years this story covers.
Gregory certainly did her historical research when preparing for this book! Her “Author’s Notes” are just as interesting as the story, and outline her research process and how she pieced her story together. She throws in a delicate balance of fact, fiction, mystery, and magic – a cocktail for a successful, intriguing, and inspiring story. While reading the book, I found myself putting it down, opening up my laptop, and researching the Cousin’s War, and Elizabeth’s family. I realized I had no idea how little I knew about the monarchs of Renaissance England. Elizabeth was grandmother to the infamous Henry VIII, great-grandmother to the “Virgin Queen,” Queen Elizabeth I, and grandmother to the scandalous “9 Day Queen,” Lady Jane Grey (her grandmother through her son, Thomas Grey, from her first marriage).
Gregory helped me pinpoint exactly what it is I love about historical fiction – the opportunity to learn the facts and legends surrounding people and times I know very little about. Historical fiction inspires me to learn more about history, and allows me to do that in a way that is more exciting and interesting than simply reading a text book. To feel a connection with the characters, and to history, is, in my opinion, the sign of a well written piece of literature.
The book started a little slowly, and seemed to be more of a glorified romance novel, following the standard structure of the genre (which you know I’m not a huge fan of)- unhappy, desperate widow meets a rising king with a reputation for enjoying the ladies… she tries to resist him, but she can’t… and he can’t resist loving her, despite her being stations below him… blah, blah, blah. I couldn’t help rolling my eyes and thinking “this is just a 408 page romance.” I’m glad I kept reading, because the story became much more interesting once Elizabeth becomes the “White Queen,” and raises herself, and her family, to power. I wish the beginning of the book didn’t seem like the stereotypical romance novel, but I can easily forgive Gregory when the rest of her novel turns out to be exceptionally interesting.
The White Queen is a great piece of historical fiction, and contains a little something for everyone – a glimpse at the monarchs of the Renaissance for the historian, a beautiful love story for the romantic, terrifying battles for the warrior, magic for the fantasy fans, and a great female lead who will open your heart to her family and her country. I can’t wait to pass this beautiful book on to a friend or loved one, who can enjoy it as much as I have.
Your turn. Did you enjoy The White Queen? Have you read any of Gregory’s books (and if you did, do you have any recommendations for me)? What did you think about Elizabeth Woodville (York), the White Queen? Was she brave in the face of adversity, or was she power hungry?!