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Epitaph for Three Women - Jean Plaidy

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Genre: Fiction Book / Author: Jean Plaidy

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      04.11.2011 11:30
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      "Girl Power" in medieval times - Joan of Arc, Katherine de Valois and Eleanor of Gloucester.

      == The Three Main Characters ==

      This book contains the stories of the most important events in the lives of 3 women who, unlike the majority of their sex at this time, had a major impact on the history of England and France. One seems to have little regard for anything but her own good, while the other two, by Medieval standards, were virtuous.

      The reader is first introduced to the French Princess Katherine de Valois, whose marriage to the English King Henry V was designed to bring peace between their 2 countries. However, it was her second marriage, to a Welsh Squire well beneath her rank, which had the most important consequences for England. (This tale could feature in a Who Do You Think You Are? ancestry programme about Tudor Monarchs.)

      The middle part of the novel is devoted to Joan of Arc, who the French believed was sent by God to save their country from the English. Her impact depended, at least partly, on the proportion of the English military who also believed that she was supported by the Almighty.

      The last section reveals Eleanor of Gloucester who, before her marriage to the Duke, was a lady in waiting to his disowned first wife. She is not even satisfied with being a Duchess. Her ambition to be Queen will seemingly stop at nothing.

      For the best overview of the time I think that the whole book should be read. However, if the reader is only interested in one of the characters, maybe for secondary school project work for instance, each part will make sense if read separately. The separate stories are of similar length, between 102 to 132 pages long.


      == Style ==

      The author brings out the characters well. This strength is consistent throughout her works.

      Another good aspect is the contrast between the battlefield scenes with the lifestyle at royal residences.

      However, the storylines seemed to me to be too dependent on a succession of historic facts joined together with imagined dialogue, so not up to her usual more engrossing standard.

      Therefore, while I found this a more entertaining way of getting to know history than just learning the bare facts, I feel that this is one of this prolific author's weaker novels.

      I feel that it was probably a mistake to condense these 3 women's lives into one book. To do each of them justice, I believe that they deserved a novel each, which would have enabled their stories to have been developed up to this author's best standard.


      == Who Would Most Appreciate This Novel? ==

      I imagine that those who would appreciate this book most would be readers who have limited time or concentration, who could regard each section of this novel as a self-contained tale, requiring limited retention of information between sections to appreciate the 3 separate parts of 102 to 132 pages each.

      The author's relatively simple writing style, compared to some books aimed at adults, should also help readers to quickly absorb the information.

      Useful Family Trees at the front of the book show the Plantagenets from Henry II to Henry VI and the House of Lancaster from Henry III to Owen Tudor's children.

      As in all Jean Plaidy's works, the lack of detailed sex, violence and bad language means that parents of secondary school pupils who are interested in learning historical facts through novels, should have no qualms about them having access to this author.

      During the times that most of her work was first published, the majority of her adult readers did not want too much "unnecessary" information.


      == The Author ==

      Eleanor Alice Burford Hibbert wrote over a hundred books under various pseudonyms. Her most famous were Jean Plaidy (historical fiction based on royalty) and Victoria Holt (romantic period novels, which some describe as Gothic). Other names that she used were Elbur Ford, Kathleen Kellow, Ellalice Tate, Anna Percival, and Philippa Carr.

      I believe the author, writing as Jean Plaidy, at her best is discovered through reading her series of novels about Queen Victoria's times.

      Although this author died in 1993, many of her books continue to be reissued, proving that her historical fiction stands the test of time, as good writing based on facts should.


      == Recommendation ==

      Epitaph for Three Women is a reasonably good, but not great, volume about 3 women that time has proved had the ability to change the course of history.

      Despite this not being one of Jean Plaidy's best works, I still recommend it as an easily accessible way to gain knowledge of the impact of these 3 women. I think if could be a useful resource for a secondary school project on the French Joan of Arc and Princess Katherine de Valois, and/or an English contemporary, the ambitious Eleanor of Gloucester, as each story is self-contained. All three show the relevance of "Girl Power" in medieval times.

      However, fans should be prepared for a less entertaining read than average, by this author's standards. I found the author's next book in her Plantagenet series The Red Rose of Anjou, a lot more absorbing.



      RRP: £8.99
      Amazon Price: £7.19
      Paperback: 448 pages
      Publisher: Arrow (1 Oct 2009)

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