Thursday, 19 August 2010

Book Review: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Title: The White Queen
Author: Philippa Gregory
Pages: 464
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
ISBN: 1847394647
Source: Received for review from Simon & Schuster UK

For more information visit Philippa Gregory's website

Grade: 4stars

Novellus superbus!
Goodreads appetizer: Philippa Gregory, "the queen of royal fiction" (USA Today) presents the first of a new series set amid the deadly feuds of England known as the Wars of the Roses.

Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.

The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, 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.

From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores this most famous unsolved mystery of English history, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills.

My thoughts: I discovered Philippa Gregory a few years ago when I spotted the eye gripping and truly gorgeous cover of The Other Boleyn Girl at my local library, and which I had to read right away of course. Though I knew it wasn't historically accurate in many places, I found Philippa Gregory's storytelling enchanting: the way the Tudor court took shape before my eyes and how she wrote about every day details like what kind of food people ate, what dresses they wore, how they spent their daya all made that ancient period of history more human and easier to imagine. Once I discovered Philippa Gregory's writing I wanted to read more. However, unfortunately I found both The Boleyn Inheritence and The Constant Princess  disappointing. So it was with trepidation that I started reading The White Queen, not knowing if it would be like the gripping historical tale that The Other Boleyn Girl was or repetitive, dull and not too interesting like the other two novels. I have to say The White Queen didn't disappoint, Philippa Gregory is definitely back with an even more excitiong story to tell!

The White Queen is the first book in Philippa Gregory's new series about the Wars of the Roses. It tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, wife to Edward of York, mother of the Princes in the Tower and of Elizabeth of York, who later became the wife to Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII.

I have to admit that I was not familiar with the details of this time period and didn't know much about the details of the wars and tugs for power. And especially because of this it was very refreshing to read a novel and not knowing how it would end (not like with The Other Boleyn Girl, where one could never ignore the fact that Anne would be executed).

The White Queen is a love story at its core, the sweet and romantic love story between Elizabeth and Edward weaves through the historical events and wars, and we have to reckon that their love is not something Philippa Gregory created to suit her novel, since they had ten children together!

The novel is narrated by Elizabeth Woodville, a young widow and mother of two at the beginning of the novel, telling the reader how she met and fell in love with the king of England. Elizabeth Woodville is a sympathetic character (most of the time), she is charming, stunningly beautiful and had a very eventful and interesting life. Philippa Gregory used part of the legend about Elizabeth Woodville's heritage which claimed that her family was the descendants of Melusina the water goddess, and Ms. Gregory wove this part of historical legend together with mystical elements of witchcraft to make the story more interesting.

My only problem with the novel was the repetitive writing style of Philippa Gregory which appeared at certain times. I understand that this tool can be used to emphasize some aspects and may even make the novel sound more archaical and historical, but it irritated me to read the same few sentences for the seventh time (the locket scene for example). My other critique is that sometimes I felt Philippa Gregory made Elizabeth too similar to Anne Boleyn in certain aspects (using witchcraft to revenge her loved ones with the locket, and how the sweet natured woman would sometimes turn quite vicious and cruel), which I felt was quite out of character for the Elizabeth she created all along the novel.

Verdict: Philippa Gregory is back again with a very enjoyable and exciting story. Thankfully the heroine/narrator is an interesting and sympathetic character and the times and events Ms. Gregory chose to write about are definitely exciting. I'm sure that those who love historical fiction or period dramas will enjoy The White Queen very much!

Plot: 8/10
Characters: 7/10
Ending: 8/10
Writing: 6/10
Cover: 9/10

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