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Innocent Traitor - Alison Weir

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Author: Alison Weir / Genre: Fiction

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      20.02.2013 13:27
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      Brillant book that's worth 5 stars.

      Alison Weir takes big risks in this book as she is a very established historian in the Tudor period and has written books about Henry VIII, his six wifes and children. Alison Weir's books are a very popular and respected source and have been used by many novelists who write historical novels such as Phillipa Gregory. But unlike her other historical books, this is a novel and a work of fiction. As she is a popular historian, I feel that I can have faith that a lot of this is accurate and anything that might contradict history will be explained by Weir in her author's notes.

      The Innocent Traitor was first published by Hutchinson in 2006 and is available on audio, hardback, paper back and electronically. The prices vary depending on weather you want it new or second-hand, but it's worth looking for at charity shops as you might be able to get it at a good price like I did. The recommended retail price for the hardback is £12.99 but I paid £1.99 at Oxfam. But wherever you get the book from, you should expect to read about the life of Lady Jane Grey as you've never seen her before.

      There's been many adaptions about Henry VIII's life and how his kingdom shaped the world, but there is little about Lady Jane Grey who ruled England for only 9 days. First of all, I really like how we are introduced by a simple family tree. The Royal House Of Tudor family tree would be complicated, but Weir makes it look simple and easy to understand. At the back there is also a map of England which highlights areas that were important to Jane.

      The story begins with a prologue with a memoir from Jane dating back from 14th November 1553 just after Jane's trial finished. The prologue is a spine-thrilling as the young Jane explains that her trial is over and that Queen Mary really wanted to spare her. Then after the prologue it goes back to 1937 with Jane's mother, Frances Brandon.

      From the first chapter we can see that there is a lot of pressure for noble women to bare sons and this frustrates Frances throughout the story and it really effects the way she treats Lady Jane Grey. The book makes Frances sound like a really unpleasant person. Then to my surprise each chapter changes narrator. Of course Lady Jane Grey has a most of the spotlight, but some of narrators include Jane Seymour, Mary I and Catherine Parr.

      I really like this style because it feels very real with the mixture of point of views and I think it helps make the story more 3-dimensional. Some people might look at it as having a lack of focus, but I really love this style and I think Weir does a very good job of it. The book is rich with detail as well, so it can be both educational and brilliant. I really like Weir's version of Lady Jane Grey because she was so brave and intelligent.

      If there's anything I think the book could improve upon, even though I liked the style of the book, I think it would have been more effective if all of the book was written in Jane's point of view. But other than that, the book doesn't have a lot wrong with it. It's brilliantly written with great detail, characters and emotions. I would recommend the book and if you're a fan of The Tudor Dynasty, then I think you will love this.

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        02.05.2010 21:07
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        A must read for anyone interested in the Tudor era

        I'm a big fan of history and historical fiction, especially the Tudor period, but the 9 day rule of Lady Jane Grey is something I knew very little about. I knew some of the basics from various things I had read, such as that she was married against her will and had no desire to rule, but that was about as far as my knowledge went .

        Written by historian Alison Weir, this is the authors first historical fiction novel, although she has written many good historical biographies. I was very interested to read this, as with the author being a dedicated historian I was confident that the book would be well researched and as accurate as possible . While a certain amount of artistic licence is always used in historical fiction, its always good to be sure of how much is truth, how much is contemporary rumour, and how much is a convenient but not necessarily accurate addition. Satisfyingly, at the end of the book is a short note from the author explaining where she has used artistic judgement in adding a little detail to the known facts .

        Lady Jane Grey was born into an incredibly dangerous era in time, a time when the succession was a hot topic, especially as religion was a very important issue at the time. Henry the VIII had drastically reformed the church for his own convenience during his rule, and with only one sickly male heir and two daughters he'd declared bastards, the future safety and religious policy of England was in doubt. Whilst Henry's heir Edward was a child of the religious reformation, his tutors had educated him in secret in the protestant religion. His sisters , due to follow after him in the result of his dying childless were Mary, first in line and a strict Catholic (despite catholic practice being illegal) and Elizabeth, a girl with no strong religious beliefs content to take the path that is easiest.

        With the future religion of the country in danger, many high-placed members of the nobility sought for some way to keep the religion of the country protestant, with the easiest way of doing this being after Edwards death, to bypass Mary and Elizabeth altogether on the grounds of their bastardy, and instead choose and heir from the line descending from Henry VIII's sister Mary's line - with the obvious choice being the young and hopefully biddable Lady Jane Grey .

        The book follows her life from her early childhood, growing up at the often violent hands of an uncaring mother, her developing awareness of the events at the court of her great uncle Henry, including the wedding and beheading of wives. The young Jane begins to question not only the judgement of her elders, but also religion, in particular questioning the logic of bread and wine literally becoming the body and blood of Jesus . She realises that this is simply too odd to accept, and sets out secretly learning of the protestant religion, aided in secret by tutors, with the burnings of Protestants as heretics at the stake only serving to strengthen her faith .

        When Henry dies and Edward becomes king, she begins to be able to follow her faith openly - and this makes her the target of scheming by various people keen to not only increase their own influence in the kingdom, but also determined to keep the country in the protestant faith . People scheme first to have her marry the King, and then later when he becomes ill, to have the king name her as his heir .

        Throughout all this Jane is beaten and coerced into following other peoples orders - not only in how she must behave, but also on how she must dress, and the path she must follow. She finds herself married against her will to a rough and violent youth who rapes her , and finds herself suddenly thrust into the position of Queen against her desires, making it clear she had no desire to rule . However, when Mary marched on London, she found herself imprisoned in the tower, and urged to change her faith to save her life .She refused, and died a martyrs death on the block.

        The book itself is written diary style from various perspectives - not just that of Jane herself, but also from her maid Mrs Ellen, her mother, and various scheming men . This diary style writing allows for lots of knowledge of the characters and a certain degree of intimacy, as shocking events are revealed in plenty of detail . As someone with only a basic beginners knowledge it was fascinating to me to see the scheming of those in power, and the way they would use an innocent young girl (she was only 16 when she died) as a pawn in their power games without her knowledge.

        The novel is well paced, and constantly interesting with the changing viewpoints . We see how a woman's bitterness at not having male children leads her to mistreat her daughters. We see how exceptional Jane's education was at a time when women were largely expected to fill their time with ladylike pursuits such as needlework, music, and dancing, and how this education led to her becoming a strong minded individual with her own firm beliefs. I like that she wasn't portrayed as perfect , having her naughty and stubborn moments like any child, but I felt great sympathy for her being used as she was, and having other peoples actions put her life in danger.

        This is a fascinating book that filled a gap in my knowledge with a high degree of accuracy, without being a dull trudge . I enjoyed every page, and found myself feeling sad when the book ended, not just because of the sympathy I felt for Jane and a couple of other central characters whose lives were affected just as much, but also because I had to go and find something else to read.

        This book is available on amazon.co.uk for a little under £5, and I very much recommend it. The full 5 stars from me .

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          22.04.2010 22:20
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          A poignant story, so well told you can feel the tension.

          I bought this book after reading "The Lady Elizabeth" by Alison Weir and becoming totally fascinated with the Tudor period. Unlike my first read however, "Innocent Traitor" is a novel and although still very factual in parts, the author has been able to add her own ideas to the historical events.

          The story is about Lady Jane Grey and her doomed life from birth to her tragic death.

          Jane was the oldest daughter of Henry Grey - Duke of Suffolk and Lady Frances Brandon. She was also the great - niece of Henry VIII. Her parents craved a son and never forgave Jane for being born a girl. As a result of greed and ambition Henry Grey and Frances Brandon were abusive and cruel parents and bullied their daughter into her marriage and her acceptance of the crown. Lady Jane Grey was Queen for nine days before the rightful Queen Mary took the reign. At the age of sixteen Jane was sentenced to her gruesome death.

          This novel starts with Jane as a baby and as the story evolves the reader is given a clear picture of her character. From the beginning Jane was harshly treated by her parents. There was a short happy period in her life when she was sent to live with Katherine Parr, Henry's widow and her new husband, but sadly Katherine died in child birth and Jane's life returned to the sadness of the past. She was an intelligent girl and soon learned that her only solace was through her studies. She had a strong devotion to the Protestant faith which gave her courage when she needed it the most.

          After failing to make a marriage between Jane and Edward, Henry Grey and his wife joined with the Duke of Northumberland and his plans to keep Henry VIII's daughters from the throne. Against her wishes Jane was married to Guilford Dudley (son of the Duke of Northumberland). There is no love story here, the reader can feel only sympathy for Jane as yet another cruel and ambitious character enters her life. Guilford was executed for high treason only hours before Jane in 1554.

          This book is written in diary style entries both by Jane and by those that shaped her life. I really liked the way this worked as it helped to understand not only events as they took place but also how everyone was feeling and what thoughts were going through their heads. As well as having sympathy for Jane the reader is given an insight into the minds of her ambitious parents, the corrupt Duke of Northumberland, Mrs Ellen the nurse maid who looked after Jane and loved her as her own and Queen Mary who never wanted the story to end the way it did despite giving the order for execution.

          At the end of the book there is a "Historical note" which tells the reader what was historically accurate and what had been changed for the sake of a good story. This was a nice touch if like me you were unsure as to how informative a novel would be .

          THE AUTHOR

          Alison Weir was born in London, although trained as a teacher with history as the main subject she became a Civil servant then a housewife and mother. Her first published work as an author came in 1989. All I can say is that she would have made very many students love their history if she made it even a tenth as interesting as she conveys in her books.

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            12.11.2009 16:12
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            The tragic tale of Lady Jane Grey

            I have always been very fond of reading historical novels as I love history and these types of books bring historical figures to life. Many writers of historical novels try to keep as close to fact as possible and luckily Alison Weir is one of these writers.

            The story follows the short, tragic life of Lady Jane Grey, great-niece of Henry VIII. Jane had a loveless childhood with harsh, critical parents. Nevertheless she received a very good education as her parents hoped to marry her off to her cousin King Edward. After King Edward's untimely death Lady Jane was made Queen of England for 9 days, due to the plotting and scheming of her parents and the Lord Protector (who also happened to be her father-in-law) at the time, before Queen Mary seized her rightful throne. After a period of imprisonment in the Tower of London, Jane at the tender age of 16, was beheaded for treason.

            This beautifully written story (which moved me to tears) is written as seen through the eyes of various characters in the novel: Jane; her mother, Frances Brandon; Mrs Ellen, her nurse; Lady/Queen Mary; Queen Katherine Parr; John Dudley, her father-in-law; Henry Fritzalan.

            I can highly recommend this novel as a wonderfully sensitive read that transports you to the English Court, where daughters are seen as commodities to be bartered with; and where everything revolves around position at court and the desire for power.

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              16.09.2009 22:43
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              Brings Tudor England to life

              Written by historian Alison Weir this is a historical fictional novel. The subject of this is Lady Jane Grey, possibly one of history's most innocent and tragic heroine. It can be purchased from all good bokshops, costing approximately £5 - £7.

              Lady Jane Grey was born into tudor era, a dangerous period in time. She was the child of a ruthless schemeing ambitious parents. Her mother was Lady Frances who was the daughter of Princess Mary, the younger sister of Henry VIII. As such Jane had a distant claim to the throne of England, next to Henry's own children Mary and Elizabeth.

              When Edward signs the order of sucession he is forced by Protestant schemers to name Jane as the next in line over Mary and Elizabeth.

              This novel shows how Jane was forced by her parents into taking the crown that she knew was not rightfully hers. She was a pawn in their ambitions for power. She ruled for merely 9 days before she was usurped by Mary, supported by followers protecting her true claim to the throne.

              Jane was imprisoned in the tower of London in which she stayed until her death warrant was signed and she was beheaded on Tower Green within the walls of the Tower of London.

              She was a staunch Protestant and her faith never waivered. She could have saved herself if she conformed to Catholicism but she could not overcomeher true belief, her faith. She died a martyr's death.

              I am a big fan of tudor history, of historical novels in particular. This is by far my favourite novel. I cried at the end and think it is beautifully written. It brings 16th century Tudor England dangerously to life. It is well paced and compelling to read, I couldn't put it down.

              Lady Jane is one of the most overlooked women in history and it is so refreshing to have a book devoted to remembering her to ensure her tragic life does not go forgotten.

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                03.05.2009 19:14
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                Lady Jane Grey and her short 9 day reign as Queen of England never featured in any of my history lessons at school. After reading this book I am still puzzled as to why that was. There's nothing I'd of been more interested in than a 16 year old girl being beheaded. Morbid little child as I was.

                The Innocent Traitor follows the life of Jane Grey, from birth to her premature death. We get to see from her point of view as to how she felt she was unloved by her parents. Especially by her Mother Frances Brandon, neice of Henry VIII, who beat or whipped her eldest daughter for things which were not at all worth punishing her for. You can tell that right from the start that both Mother and Father are disappointed that they have been unable to conceive a boy, especially as the next two children born are girls.

                Frances and her husband Henry Grey are deeply ambitious and long for their daughter to be Queen. Henry VIII is dead, as is his 6th wife Katherine Parr during childbirth, leaving Edward VI to become the next in line. If the Greys cannot produce an heir to the throne the next best thing would be to have a child married to said crown.

                Jane has learnt the hardway that tantrums and fighting back is never going to get her anything aside from severe punishment so bends under the will of her family. Unable to feel loved by them she turns to that of her governess Mrs Ellen, who tries her best to give Jane a sense of security.

                Plots are unleashed when it is discovered that the young king will not live for much longer, setting upon him to create a new will to say that Jane will be successor for the King cannot allow England to be reformed to the catholic faith, as what would happen should the Lady Mary come to the throne. It would also be inappropriate for both of his sisters to become Queen when they have been recognised as being bastards.

                After the unwanted coronation and marriage of Guilford Dudley, Jane is in despair. She doesn't want the attention that has been thrust upon her and most certainly does not want to be Queen. Even when it was first announced she instantly states that the crown is rightfully the Lady Marys and not hers.

                When Mary returns to court after hearing about the death of her younger brother she is defiant in showing mercy to the girl, insisting that anything which has happened has occurred because of the wicked people around her. However, somethings, no matter how wrong they are have to happen and what with Jane refusing to accept the catholic religion as the true faith, their is only one outcome.

                This book is split between different peoples stories of what is going on around them. Frances Brando, Jane, Katherine Parr, Mrs Ellen and even The Executioner get their say making it an interesting twist into what might of been going through their minds at the time. It brings an ammount of information that I was unaware of. The fact that Katherine Parr had a child in the first place was news to me and I'll admit I was saddened that she died because Weir had made her come across as a nice lady.

                It produces a mixed amount of emotions throughout, making me hate Thomas Seymour, Katherines husband after Henry, when it appeared he was having an affair with Elizabeth, then feel sympathy with the way he 'reacted' to her passing but then hatred again later on.

                Frances Brandon was another I felt inclined to dislike throughout until the very end where she becomes remorseful about the doom alying her dauther.

                Overall I really enjoyed this book. I learnt a lot about Lady Jane Grey which I had never known before and the story which is surrounded her end. This is a good book for people who like reading about history but not in a fact upon fact way. It's also a great read for those who don't know a lot about the lady herself.

                You can get this for about £5.50 from Amazon or £13 from all good book stores!

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                  22.02.2009 21:38
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                  Great historical novel

                  "Innocent Traitor" is about the life of Lady Jane Grey, the nine days' Queen. It cost me £6.99, though it is currently £4.89 on Amazon (new) or £0.84 (used) on Amazon marketplace. It is written as a series of letters, or diary entries, from the main characters in Jane's short life, from the moment of her birth up to her bloody death, which makes the novel utterly compelling. This is the first novel by Alison Weir - not that you'd realise. The characters have great depth, and the intricate details of court life are brought stunningly to life in all their glory and backstabbing and intrigue!

                  It's a fascinating and very sad tale of how daughters especially were merely pawns in a very dangerous game, married off to whoever would increase the family's social standing the most, but sons also were used by their parents to grasp power and position; the differences with today's society are amazing. But there are also great similarities with today which struck me: the religious fervour driving some to kill those of another faith, the scheming and politics, the scandals. Thankfully, not the beheadings - the death of the 17 year old Katherine Howard didn't need a graphic description for it to be moving, and deeply disturbing.

                  Jane, the tragic heroine of the tale, is a feisty but obedient girl, with the intelligence to see how her life is being manipulated in line with her parents various schemes to marry her off in exchange for the power behind the throne. Cruelly treated by her ambitious mother, resented for not being the hoped for son and heir, she devotes herself to learning and her Protestant religion; unwittingly making herself the ideal candidate for succession. We all know what happens next, and I find myself inwardly groaning as the pieces fall into place for her succession.

                  The book is beautifully written, and as Weir hopes in the Author's Notes, it is enthralling and appalling in equal measure. The ending is, as expected, desperately sad; I cried solidly for the last hour as I read. Knowing that this is, though a novel, as historically correct as possible makes it even worse - these terrible things really happened, to a mere child, just 450 years ago. This book has made me consider really how little times have changed, and how recent this really was. It has also inspired me to devour page after Wikipedia page of information on the Tudors, Henry VIII, Lady Jane, Katherine Parr, Wyatt's rebellion, so I can honestly say it has opened and improved my mind!

                  I will definitely be buying Weir's second novel "Lady Elizabeth", and highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good read.

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                    10.11.2008 13:12
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                    The most tragic of tales told by the most talented of historians. Superb.

                    The story of Lady Jane Grey is perhaps the most tragic in all of English history, and who better to do justice to it in novel form than celebrated Tudor historian, Alison Weir?

                    This was Weir's first attempt at fiction. I am an amateur Tudor historian and have read and enjoyed many of her non-fiction books about the period. When I heard she was having a crack at fiction, I was utterly delighted, and purchased 'Innocent Traitor' as soon as I could.

                    The book is structured like a biography of Lady Jane, beginning with her birth and ending with her death. Throughout her life, different people come in to play and make their impression on her, and most often these characters are given a voice of their own as the book is told from many different points of view. These include, as well as Jane herself, her Nanny and companion Mrs. Ellen, Jane's parents the Duchess of Suffolk, Jane's father-in-law-to-be John Dudley, Queen Mary I and, ulimately, Jane's executioner.

                    Lady Jane Grey was the first child born to Frances Brandon and her husband Henry Grey. Frances was the niece of Henry VIII and next in line to throne after Henry's own children, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth. And herein lies the problem.

                    Frances Brandon is written, quite accurately, as a devil-woman obsessed with ambition, royalty, the crown and - perversely - a rich and easy life. Her husband shares this infatuation with all things monarchy. Jane is born into this hotbed of ambition and suffers from her first breath to her last.

                    The book quickly progresses into a story of misery and child abuse. Jane suffers horrifically at the hands of her strict and obsessive mother who is so obsessed with Jane being a "good" daughter and eventual-courtier, she fails to love the girl at all. She sees fault in Jane where there is none, perhaps venting her own personal frustration at being unable to produce a male heir, and completely fails to see how intelligent, demure and proper Jane is.

                    Jane suffers these slights in a mostly obedient manner after learning, the hard way, that answering back and defending herself is not an option. She grows up unloved by her parents - her only solace being her nanny and governess, Mrs Ellen, who loves Jane like a daughter - and, perhaps unsurprisingly, becomes deeply religious. She is also phenomenally intelligent, well-read and educated for a girl of her times, though her parents appreciate this not at all. Throughout her young years, we learn of Jane's quiet, pious character and her ultimate desire in life is just to be "left alone with [her] books".

                    But Jane was born into the wrong family for that.

                    After initially deciding Jane would make an excellent bride for the young King Edward - her cousin - Jane's parents set their sights on a much higher office: that of Queen in herself. Jane is of royal blood, a fervent Protestant like the King himself and has a wonderful reputation as a learned and demure woman. And, crucially, the young King is deathly ill.

                    Enter John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and all wrong scoundrel. Head of the infamous Dudley family (who would, by the end of the Tudor period, have three generations of men executed for treason), he is ruling England in the sickly King's place and wants to keep the power when Edward inevitably dies. So, like any good courtier, he hatches a plot - to marry his youngest son, the spoiled and feeble Guilford, to Lady Jane and put them on the throne as puppet monarchs and he can rule through them. But there's a catch. According to his father's Will, Edward's legal heir is his sisterMary Tudor, Henry's daughter with Katherine of Aragon. If Mary were to die without heirs, the crown would pass to Elizabeth, Edward's other sister, daughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn.

                    Dudley is not deterred. Technically, due to the foibles of Henry VIII and his many wives, Mary and Elizabeth are base-born (that is, bastards) and cannot inherit anything. Henry VIII knew this and was perhaps intending to lift their bastard status but died before he could do so. On the basis that Mary and Elizabeth are base-born and could not inherit, the crown would pass to Frances Brandon, Henry's niece and Jane's horror-show of a mother. Dudley, however, believes Frances would not be interested in the tedium of Queenship and will step aside in favour of her eldest daughter - Jane.

                    Dudley's right. He puts the plan to the Suffolks, who instantly see the attraction and agree on the spot. The wedding between Dudley's son Guilford and Jane is arranged. All Dudley needs to do is persuade King Edward to change his Will so that Jane is his heir - with Mary being a fervent Catholic, Edward as a committed Protestant needs little persuasion and agrees to make Lady Jane, also a Protestant, his heir. To do this, Dudley subjects the young King to horrors keeping him alive in time for the Act of Parliament to pass and for Mary and Elizabeth to be captured, in case they were to rise a rebellion to fight for their right to the throne. Edward lives just long enough to sign his Will and name Lady Jane Grey the next Queen of England.

                    But no one told Jane.

                    She is, to put it mildly, distressed to the point of illness. Unlike her passionately obsessive family, she has no desire to be Queen. But, as they have her entire life, her parents ignore her wishes and bully her into the marriage with Guilford Dudley. Beaten into submission, she marries Guilford and allows herself to be proclaimed Queen, even though she doesn't want the title and believes Mary to be the true heir.

                    The marriage to Guilford is as violent and horrific as Jane's previous life. Trapped in a marriage she loathes in a position of state she doesn't want, she tries to be a good Queen, only to learn she is to be nothing more than a figurehead. The saddest thing is, Jane showed true potential as a Queen in the nine days she sat on the throne.

                    So Lady Jane Grey becomes Queen Jane Dudley and moves to London to await her coronation. But the country is unhappy and rebellion springs forth, headed by Mary and Elizabeth, who John Dudley failed to capture. After nine days, Jane is informed she is no longer Queen and Mary Tudor is now Mary I, Queen of England. Although now facing a sentence of treason, Jane is nothing but relieved. She is imprisoned in the Tower of London.

                    Here, Jane finds the first freedom of her tragically short life, and the irony being that she does it while in jail. Free from the tyranny of her parents and the influence of her rapist husband, she finally is able to spend her days learning and devoting time to her religion. Assured that Mary intends to be merciful, herself aware that Jane had no desire to be Queen, Jane blossoms.

                    Events transpire, however, that lead to Mary being force to first send Jane to trial for treason, where she is inevitably convicted. Outside pressures then force Mary to order Jane's execution, following a final horrific betrayal from her father and pressure from the Spanish. Jane is condemned to die, which she does, on Tower Green, aged 16.

                    Lady Jane Grey is a tragic figure betrayed by those who should have cared for her most. Weir manages to write Jane as a sad and demure character, but one with an inner resolve and fire that makes you, despite knowing the history, want Jane to survive. Weir has evoked a character of mental steel and utter conviction, someone so failed by others and having only herself to rely on.

                    This novel tells an extremely powerful story. Woven into the historical facts are details which Weir had made educated guesses on, but that do nothing but aid the story and it's potency. Written in clear, simplistic language, the book manages to convey Jane's emotions brilliantly and, through the sections narrated by her mother and Mary Tudor, also tries to explain the outside motivations for the way Jane was treated.

                    My only fault with this book is that, in being so historically accurate, it loses a little of the drama. A little more emotion, a little more storytelling, would not have gone amiss. Sometimes the dialogue can feel a little like reading a history textbook - Weir lacks some of the flair of a natural writer. There is also little descriptive text, such as Jane's surroundings, with the focus more on exposition. It is almost impossible to find the right line between historical accuracy and historical drama, and while Weir has come closer than most, I feel I would have surmised she was a historian even if I hadn't already known.

                    This, however, does not stop this book from being a compelling and poignantly sad read. You keep reading, unable to put it down, and when it reaches it's conclusion you cannot help but wish that things had been different for Lady Jane Grey. Weir takes you step-by-step through the tragic heroine's life, draws you into Jane's world and doesn't let you go until the final page. An inspiring, thought-provoking novel that I will read again and again.

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                      24.09.2008 11:02
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                      A superbly rich account of Tudor power play.

                      I have never written a serious book review before and I hope I can do justice to this enthralling novel.

                      The book is a fictionalised account of the birth, short life and harrowing death, of Lady Jane Grey.

                      Some of the events, although historically accurate, seem incredible. It is a real eye opener of a book. I regretted finishing it so quickly, (I couldn't put it down) I am now casting around for something to read that is equally accomplished.

                      Each chapter in turn is narrated by Lady Jane or a principal contributor to her life and times. We hear from her mother, her Nanny Mrs Ellen, her various political advisers, Queen Mary and ultimately her executioner. Many others illuminate (or darken) the tale with their side of the story. This changing from character to character is clearly indicated in the chapter headings and is not confusing, I found it added to the depth of my absorption.

                      The Author, Alison Weir is a respected historian and has written 10 other historical accounts. Many of them are about the Tudor era and two of which I have read and thoroughly enjoyed.

                      This is her first fictionalised book, in the brief Author's note at the end of the book she describes the sense of freedom it gave her to use her knowlege of the times and events, to develop and make educated guesses at the psychology and motives of the main players.

                      The result of this is a truly gripping account. It lays before the reader a very clear explanation of how and why this young woman was used and ultimately doomed. Lady Jane's reluctance to be Queen is well documented and Alison Weir has woven the facts into the narrative seamlessly.

                      I already knew from history lessons at school what had happened to Lady Jane Grey. This book made me understand at a visceral level, the complexities and machinations of the leading Tudor families of the time.

                      Towards the end of the book, Lady Jane's Mother, the Marchioness of Dorset, speaks of how she has seriously used and abused her daughter and how she is beginning to repent. I found myself thinking "Too little too late, you bitch!" It is unusual for me to be so carried away that I find myself feeling abusive towards someone. This really brought home to me how absorbed I had become by Alison Weirs extremely skilful development and portayal of the principal characters.

                      Lady Jane Grey comes out of this account as a devout, highly intelligent and educated, naive victim of her family and birth. She is used by powerful family members and other courtiers to further their own political ends and greed for power. Her strength of character and humanity is evident throughout.

                      She was a great niece to King Henry VIII and cousin to the sickly and short lived King Edward VI.

                      King Edward is manipulated on his deathbed, into overturning his father's will, which named Mary and Elizabeth heirs to the throne of England. He wishes to secure the safety and continuance of the Protestant faith in the realm. Jane is a devout Protestant and fits the bill nicely.

                      Eventually Jane is made Queen. She is horrified and tries to refuse, she knows that what she is being forced into is wrong and treasonable. Her reign lasts only nine days.

                      Inevitably Mary takes her rightful place as on the throne. Queen Mary knows that Lady Jane has been an innocent pawn in the power games and wishes to spare her life. She in turn is manipulated into signing Jane's death warrant.

                      The final chapter is given over to a moving account from the executioners point of view.

                      The cruelty of the times is very graphically told. Alison Weir doesn't pull her punches and doesn't over sentimentalise. All of the characters are given space to tell their story and you are left to judge for yourself their morality or depravity.

                      The everyday details that build up the picture and background are very cleverly included throughout the narratives and I found myself learning more and more about how that period of history 'worked'. It was effortlessly educational.

                      The story spans the court of King Henry from 1537 to Jane's death in 1554 at the age of 16.
                      At roughly the same time that Lady Jane is born, Queen Jane Seymour gives birth to the future Edward VI and their lives are entwined from birth.

                      Even if this is not your preferred literary genre, I recommend that you read it, you will not be disappointed.

                      The book is 406 pages long. (Twice as long would not be too much!)

                      Publishers. Hutchinson London. 2006

                      ISBN 0 09 179662 8 Hardback.
                      0 09 179667 9 Paperback.

                      Price £10.99

                      New and used copies are available on Amazon and Ebay at a cheaper price.
                      The only criticism I could make of this book is that the size of it means you can't carry it easily in a handbag or pocket.

                      Thank you for reading.
                      How did I do? Please let me know anything I may add (or omit!) that might be useful.

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                        30.04.2008 16:41
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                        Historically accurate fiction about the life of Lady Jane Grey.

                        *** Author ***

                        Alison Weir trained as a teacher, with history as her specialist subject. Then being disillusioned with teaching methods, she went into the Civil Service instead.

                        Now a full time writer, she is known as a "popular historian " and is reaching numbers of interested readers much larger than she would have done in a traditional classroom.


                        *** Plot ***

                        In October 1537 two Tudor cousins are born, and their mothers (The Marchioness of Dorset and Queen Jane Seymour) tell of the arrival of their offsprings into the world. Baby Jane Grey is the great niece of Henry VIII and baby Edward is his son. As her story unfolds, readers can make up their own mind whether Jane's royal connections are principally a curse or a blessing.


                        *** Writing Style ***

                        Alison Weir has previously written 10 factual history books in an entertaining style, to make them interesting to larger numbers of readers than those written in a more academic way. The Tudor period seems to be a particular passion of hers.

                        Innocent Traitor is her first published novel, which is based on the short life of Lady Jane Grey 1537-54, and the key people in it.

                        I found the way in which the story is told in turns by the relevant characters, a great way of appreciating the different viewpoints. As by the end I felt that I understood the sequence of events well, and I had strong feelings about all these personalities, the author obviously used this technique to good effect.

                        I especially admired the emotional strength and intellect of the physically small Lady Jane.

                        The kindness of her few true friends, starkly contrasts with the greed of the ruthlessly ambitious, as the detailed Tudor setting absorbed me into Jane's world.

                        While Jane and her mother tell much of the plot, Jane's father, Queen Katherine Parr, Lady Mary Tudor and the Duke of Northumberland also let us have their perspective.

                        The concise Tudor family tree and map at the beginning, plus the author's notes at the end, helped me appreciate the book even more.

                        The publisher also gives a tempting sample of the author's next novel, called the Lady Elizabeth, about Henry VIII's youngest daughter. I now look forward to reading Alison Weir's take on this other feisty Tudor Lady. It came out in hardcover on 3 April 2008.


                        *** Comparison ***

                        This book is excellent for those who like historically accurate fiction.

                        However, if you would like a happier ending, and don't mind the author using quite a lot of artistic licence, then you could try In the Shadow of Lady Jane by Edward Charles, which I have already fully reviewed. The main character is this book is a member of Lady Jane's household who still has hope for the future.

                        I enjoyed both books, but found Innocent Traitor the more compelling.


                        *** Recommendation ***

                        The author enthralled me by her techniques of telling this story, though I was appalled by both the psychological and physical suffering (mostly inflicted by close relatives) that Lady Jane had to put up with in her short life. Happily there were a few extremely loyal friends in the tale too.

                        Even though my knowledge of history meant that I knew how the story would end, I still found the details, leading to the inevitable, riveting.

                        This is an excellent work of historical fiction, which closely follows the known facts.


                        Amazon Price: £5.94
                        Paperback: 432 pages
                        Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd; New Ed edition (7 Jun 2007)
                        ISBN-10: 0099493799

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                      • Product Details

                        Alison Weir, our pre-eminent popular historian, has now fulfilled a life's ambition to write historical fiction. She has chosen as her subject the bravest, most sympathetic and wronged heroine of Tudor England, Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane Grey was born into times of extreme danger. Child of a scheming father and a ruthless mother, for whom she was merely a pawn in a dynastic power game with the highest stakes, she lived a live in thrall to political machinations and lethal religious fervour. Jane's astonishing and essentially tragic story was played out during one of the most momentous periods of English history. As a great-niece of Henry VIII, and the cousin of Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, she grew up realize that she could never throw off the chains of her destiny. Her honesty, intelligence and strength of character carry the reader through all the vicious twists of Tudor power politics, to her nine-day reign and its unbearably poignant conclusion.