“ Author: Philippa Gregory „
I have just finished The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory. This is one of her standalone novels published in 1992. I am working my way through all of Gregory's books having really enjoyed the ones I have read in her Tudor series.
The Wise Woman is about a young girl call Alys. To escape a life of poverty in an old shack with the woman who adopted her when she was left on her doorstep, Morach, she decides to enter a nunnery. She is initially sent there by the parents of her childhood sweetheart who want to get her out of the way, and upon realising the luxurious life that would be hers in the nunnery, she swiftly moves in, breaking the heart of her sweetheart. She settles in to life in the Nunnery as the favourite of them all, being petted by Mother Hildebrande the Abbess, and not really having to do very much.
Then Henry VIII comes along! Alys awakes in the night as a group of men come to burn down the nunnery, and runs away without raising the alarm leaving all the other Nuns to the mercy of the men.
Alys returns to Morach where she carries on her work as a wise woman, knowing more than ever about herbs and their healing properties from her time in the Nunnery. Then she comes to the attention of Lord Hugh, the local feudal Lord who is ill so she is taken to the castle to nurse him. There she meets and falls in love with his son Hugo, married to the Lady Catherine, and the man responsible for burning down the Nunnery. She is then kept on as scribe to the elderly Lord Hugh when he makes a recovery, as is impressed with her writing skills.
Alys is a selfish and scheming, and determined to look after no one but herself. Parts of the book are totally unbelievable and a bit ridiculous (wax dolls coming to life) and there seems to be a lot of sex as Alys uses her womanly skills and witchcraft to get what she wants! She learns how to manipulate or just terrify everyone in the castle to get what she wants.
Without giving too much away, Alys betrays the two women who have treated her like a daughter as she gets more and more caught up in the web of witchcraft which she seems to be weaving. The ending was certainly not something I had expected though!
I didn't particularly like the character of Alys; she starts off pious and god fearing, and seems to turn into a manipulative siren, desired by all and caring about no one, especially God after 'loaning' her soul to the devil.
I am giving the book three starts, as I did enjoy parts - it is well written and quite absorbing - and I did finish it, but if you do pick this up to read, don't be fooled in to thinking it will be anything like Gregory's other books. I hope the next one I read will be a little more normal!
Also published on Ciao as MrsW2011.
I am a big fan of Philippa Gregory, having discovered her work earlier this year. I started with 'The Other Boleyn Girl' which I loved. I then moved on through 'The Queen's Fool', 'The Virgin's Lover, 'The Constant Princess' and the 'Boleyn Inheritance'. I am looking forward to reading her latest when it comes out in paper back. I also just finished 'A Respectable Trade', which is a branch away from the Tudor period books for which she is best known.
Of all the books of hers I've read so far, my favourite has to be 'The Other Boleyn Girl'. It is streets ahead of the others in terms of plot and most importantly, character development. I found in some of her other books that the characters were a bit wooden and lacking in reality, but this was not the case with 'TOBG'. It is obvious why that one has been made into a film first, as it is definitely the strongest book to date.
I did enjoy all the other books I have read of hers, but perhaps the weakest so far was 'The Boleyn Inheritance'. I found the character of Katherine quite annoying and unlikeable.
I must say that I also wasn't desperately thrilled by 'A Respectable Trade'. There was a bit of a sense in the middle that Gregory somewhat lost her direction and completely changed her mind what she wanted to do! For instance, it seemed that within the space of a chapter, the 2 main characters hated each other and then ended up in bed together! Rather implausible!
To conclude, I would recommend this author to people who enjoy historical fiction and like an epic tale.
Philippa Gregory has a phd in 18th century literature from the University of Edinburgh, and is best known for her historial novels.
I first got into reading Philippa Gregory's books when The Other Boleyn Girl came out at the cinema. I hadn't seen the film, but every time I went into a bookshop it would be on display near the door. One day I grabbed it, started reading, and have been hooked ever since.
Gregory is best known for her historical novels, particularly those featuring female Tudor royals, including The Other Boleyn Girl (Mary and Anne), The Constant Princess (Katherine of Aragon) and The Virgin's Lover (Elizabeth I). It's quite frankly amazing how much of her novels are based on historical truths, but this is balanced by her own decisions on uncertainties and controversies where she isn't afraid to take a specific direction for the sake of fiction.
Gregory also has less famous novels which have a more modern grounding, as well as a trilogy of books. I can't comment on these as I have not yet read them, but I'm looking forward to doing so in the future.
Her style is simple yet very addictive, though due to the content of some of the books I would suggest a late teenage or adult audience. This is especially true of her novel A Respectable Trade (which I am currently reading and will review in good time!), which takes an in-depth look at the slave trade from the perspective of both the slaves and slave drivers. Quite frankly this novel has made me feel sick with its descriptions and events and it has brought history to life in a far more horrific way than learning about this period in school ever did. It is compelling stuff though.
I would like to see Gregory turn her hand to war novels, not necessarily the second world war, but perhaps less publicised ones, and not necessarily restricted to the UK/Europe either. She's my favourite author at the moment and I'm dreading the day when I catch up to her writing and will have read all her books.
If you're looking to buy them in paperback, they are generally £7.99, but Amazon are selling most of them at £2.99 or so new, which is a fantastic deal and shouldn't be missed!