Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The White Queen

The White Queen
By Philippa Gregory
ISBN: 9781847394644
Simon and Schuster
4 our of 5 STARS
Audience recommendation: Lovers of historical fiction

Thank god for family trees! In reading The White Queen by Philippa Gregory I had to keep referring back to the York, Lancaster and Tudor family tree – I was getting very confused with all the Elizabeths, Edwards, Richards and Henrys! However, once I got my head around the family, their connections and (thanks to further internet research) the wars fought between them – reading this book was like an entertaining history lesson.

I am a fan of Gregory’s “Tudor” tales (The Other Boleyn Girl etc.) and so I was eager to read this, her latest series on the women behind the ‘War of the Roses’ - the war between the House of Lancaster and York and essentially the events that lead up to the creation of the notorious Tudor family.

I appreciate how her stories focus on the women of the time and Gregory has never failed in creating extremely believable ‘faces’ for these well-known women of history. However, in the case of this story the main character is not so well know, (well not to me anyway) – and I think Gregory works her usual charm in the telling of the White Queen’s ‘tale’.

Elizabeth Woodville was the first commoner to marry a king, a heavily debated affair not only because she was a commoner but also because they married for love – imagine that! She married the King of England and became the Queen during a tumultuous period when England didn’t really know who their rightful king should be. The York family believed they should reign supreme whereas their cousins the Lancasters felt their place should be on the throne.

But this true tale also has a little “Romeo and Juliet” magic...Elizabeth was a Lancaster and the king she married was Edward IV of York!

What follows is a story that captures Elizabeth as she ‘rises to the demands of her position, fighting tenaciously for her family’s survival. Most of all she must defend her two sons, who become the central figures in a mystery that confounded historian for centuries: the missing Princes in the Tower.’

Gregory has of course blurred fact with fiction but her fiction is also based on historical accounts. She has expertly developed a lead character that many historians had dismissed yet readers will love. Gregory also gives her lead a lot of depth and again gifts the reader with more information about how Elizabeth descended from a family who claimed to be related to the goddess Melusina!

Elizabeth Woodville is a central and integral character in a history-making era. And it is her child, Elizabeth (yes, like I said it gets confusing with all these similar names) who marries Henry V11 (I know, another Henry – I did warn you) and together have Henry V111. Therefore, Elizabeth the White Queen is the great-grandmother of Elizabeth 1!

This is the perfect book for those who are keen to learn more about the women during this period of time. It is well-written, informative, descriptive and leading the way is a very impressive heroine that seems to spring from the page and immerse you easily into her world.

I am really looking forward to reading Gregory’s other book in this series that focuses on the heiress to the red rose of Lancaster – The Red Queen - because of course there are always two sides to any good story.