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The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey

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Author: Josephine Tey / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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    3 Reviews
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      18.02.2012 14:30
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      One of the best fictionalised novels about Richard III

      Even though Richard III's innocence with regard to the deaths of the Princes in the Tower has yet to be proved or disproved, my personal inclination is that this was a case of a name blackened by the victor of the Battle of Bosworth. Richard's motto was 'Loyalte me lie' (loyalty binds me) and by all historical accounts, it's a motto by which he lived his life. Yet following his death and succession by a man who had at best an extremely tenuous right to the throne and also had everything to fear from any Plantagenet heirs, legitimate or otherwise, Richard's reputation was stripped away until he became the most vilified king in English history held accountable for a crime for which he was never accused until years after his death.

      Although this book was originally published in 1951, no earth-shattering new evidence has come to light in the intervening years so the facts included in this novel are as relevant today as they were then.


      Synopsis:

      Alan Grant is a policeman on a protracted stay in hospital and he's bored. He's bored with the mindless routine of hospital life, he's bored with reading and he's desperate for something to give his brain stimulation. Then one of his visitors suggests he turns his mind to finding a solution to an unsolved problem but not a modern day unsolved crime. Maybe he could investigate one from history. Rejecting Mary, Queen of Scots, the Man in the Iron Mask and a couple of other non-starters, Alan eventually plumps for Richard III. What follows is essentially a cold case investigation into two unsolved murders which happened 500 years ago.


      My opinion:

      Like most school children of my generation I was told unequivocally that Richard III was an evil hunchbacked monarch who murdered the Princes in the Tower and that Henry VII came along and founded a dynasty which brought peace and prosperity to England under the benevolent Tudors. My Dad was so incensed by what he regarded as shoddy history that he bought me a copy of this book in order that I could make up my own mind. When I first read it as a teenager, I learned that what I'd been told was rather a matter for conjecture and not proven fact. What I'd been taught was, in fact, absolute tosh! Would Alan Grant sift through the evidence and find Richard guilty or not guilty, that was the question.

      Having first read this back in the 1960s when I assume police procedures weren't that different from a decade earlier when the book was set and they certainly didn't have the forensic skills that are available today, the story didn't seem particularly dated. Back then the police were a much more regimented organisation probably more akin to a civil army than the bunch of university educated desk jockeys they are today. Had this book been set in today's world, I doubt it would have worked quite so well. The best way to describe this book is Dixon of Dock Green meets Waking the Dead.

      One would think that a book about the research conducted by a bedridden detective using mainly written sources for his evidence would be unutterably boring but it isn't. The author slowly and painstakingly builds up a picture of Richard; son, brother and King and the reader is shown a portrait of a man who hero-worshipped his older brother, and who had been loyal to him throughout his life and furthermore, one who had put his own life in jeopardy on many occasions in support of Edward IV and his family. Alongside the evidence both for and against his guilt for the crime of which he has been held accused all these years, Josephine Tey also builds up a similar, possibly more convincing case against Henry VII, a usurper with the acknowledged aim of eradicating all the rivals of the Tudor dynasty, especially those from the house of York.

      As Alan Grant's investigation progresses, the pieces of evidence are presented in such a way that shows how history glosses over some facts whilst building up others from little molehills into mountains they never were. During the course of his research, Alan discovers that much of modern thinking about Richard was based on the account of events by Sir Thomas More but when he digs further into this, he find that Sir Thomas More was only eight years old when Richard was killed at Bosworth so he would have been completely unaware of events leading up to and surrounding the young Princes being sent to the Tower. More was also writing during the reign of Henry VIII so was hardly likely to point the finger of blame at his monarch's father.

      Proving the lie seems easier than proving Richard's guilt and much of the evidence presented against him is pretty circumstantial so probably wouldn't stand up in any modern court of law. The author's, or rather her protagonist's argument is well reasoned and if not proving Richard's guilt or innocence either way, it certainly builds up a very convincing case which casts many seeds of doubt not just about Richard but also about Henry VII.

      Alan Grant may be the erstwhile hero of this novel but in many respects he's rather a shadowy figure little more than a mouthpiece and it's Richard III who is very much centre stage throughout the book. The setting of a 1950s hospital comes across as very dated now but is interesting if only for the sharp contrast it draws between it and modern hospitals. This was a time when general hospitals were run like prison camps with Matron being the camp commandant and everybody and everything was disinfected to within an inch of its life: no MRSA in the 1950s. The manners and attitudes demonstrated by all the characters are also very dated but again show just how far we've come in the last half century.

      When I first read this book all those years ago I found the story so gripping that it prompted me to read some real history books to further my knowledge about Richard III and it's a subject which still grips me. Over the years I've read quite a few books on Richard III both fiction and biography and generally it's pretty easy to spot whether the writer is for or against him. With Josephine Tey it's impossible to know. Her detective comes to the investigation with an almost completely open mind and it's interesting to see how he computes the evidence as it begins to stack up and how he assesses his main witnesses both for the prosecution and defence.

      Re-reading this novel for my review reminded me how enthralling a mystery this is and Josephine Tey cleverly presents it in a context which doesn't fictionalise Richard III's life but simply sets it within a fictional story. If you can overlook the rather dated setting, irrespective of whether one believes in Richard's guilt or innocence, I think this book has universal appeal but especially for lovers of crime fiction or historical mysteries.

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      • More +
        31.12.2009 14:06
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        Crime Mystery Meets Historical Fiction - Princes in the Tower Mystery

        == The Author ==

        Josephine Tey was one of the pseudonyms used by Elizabeth Mackintosh who lived from 1896 to 1952.

        Her six Inspector Grant murder mystery novels were written under the name of Josephine Tey. As Gordon Daviot she wrote plays.

        Her first career was teaching. She started writing for a living when she gave teaching up in order to look after her invalid father.

        Her first novel about Inspector Grant of the Yard, The Man in the Queue, was published in 1929, but the majority of her books were written after the Second World War, until her death in 1952.

        She left her whole estate, including the royalties from her books and plays, to the National Trust.


        == My Feelings about The Daughter of Time ==

        The Daughter of Time was published in 1952. An old proverb says that, Truth is the Daughter of Time, so that is where the title of this book comes from.

        The Truth that the main characters in this book are looking for is what really happened to the two Princes put in the Tower of London after the death of their father Edward IV.

        Inspector Grant, who appears addicted to crime solving, even when on sick leave, directs the research from his hospital bed, where unearthed evidence is brought to him to digest.

        A family tree of the relevant Plantagenet Sovereigns would have made the historical detail a lot easier to understand. The logical research undertaken by the modern characters adequately explains why there could be more than one version. I suggest that the "simplified" Tudor version should be used, as the text explains why the Yorkist version might differ.

        The characters of Inspector Grant and the few people he has contact with in the hospital are brought to life with a quirkiness that I found a great humorous contrast to the historic personalities of his research.


        == Historical Accuracy ==

        Historians are divided about who was responsible for the death of "The Princes in the Tower." So it is still a mystery.

        Pro-Tudors will say that Richard III was responsible, and Revisionists say it was Henry VII.

        Inspector Grant in the Daughter of Time tries to convince the reader of his view, but I will leave it to you to read the book to find out whose side he is on.

        I thought Inspector Grant's arguments were very convincing, but as I know some modern historians disagree with him, I am reluctant to formally come down on the side of either king.

        It has awakened my interest in the subject though, so I intend to do further reading now. Alison Weir has the opposite viewpoint to that expressed in this novel.

        The Richard III Society website is a valuable resource to those wishing to keep up to date with research.


        == Recommendation ==

        I highly recommend that you read this book if you are interested in who may have killed the Princes in the Tower, but prefer to find out through entertaining novels based on fact rather than stuffy history books.

        However, if you are diligently searching for the truth, do not limit yourself to one author's views of this historical puzzle.

        I will deduct one star from my rating of this entertaining novel, as you will have to look further to get the full range of historical evidence regarding what happened.


        Paperback: 224 pages
        Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd (6 Aug 2009)
        ISBN-10: 009953682X
        ISBN-13: 978-0099536826
        RRP: £7.99

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          11.10.2006 10:22
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          Fascinating reading based on historical fact

          Josephine Tey is a well known writer in the crime fiction field, although I have to admit this is the first of her books I have read. Her first book was written in 1929, but the majority of her books were published after the Second World War. As a contemporary of Agatha Christie, she does not seem to have maintained her fame; certainly her books are not easily available in High Street book shops or libraries. However, if this book is anything to go by, it is a shame. This story was an unexpected one; nevertheless, I was gripped from page one and will definitely be looking out for her books in the future.

          The story
          Inspector Grant of Scotland Yard has been injured during the course of duty and is hospitalised for the foreseeable future. Bored out of his mind, he spends days staring at the ceiling, unable to bring himself to read any of the fashionable books her friends bring in. Grant believes that he has the gift to tell a criminal by the expression in his face; so when a friend brings in a series of portraits, he is intrigued by one of Richard III, supposedly the murderer of his nephews, the Princes in the Tower, who stood in the way of his accession to the throne, yet does not look capable of such a foul deed.

          His interest is further piqued when he begins research into the murders. The more he reads, the more he is convinced that Richard was wrongly accused of the murders of his nephews. Can Grant use modern forms of detection to find the answer to a crime committed five hundred years before? And if it wasn’t Richard, then who was responsible for the deaths of the two young boys?

          The characters
          To be honest, we find out very little about any of the characters in the book. The whole premise of the book is the story. Luckily, this is more than strong enough to make up for the lack of character development.

          Conclusion
          I have always been interested in the story of Richard III and his nephews and I was aware that there is controversy about the truth of the story. Although this is fiction and cannot be taken as the truth (although it is at least based on historical theories), I found it totally intriguing and have been encouraged to read more works, fictional and otherwise, on Richard.

          The development of the book was excellent, because we follow the story as it unfolds before Inspector Grant. First, we find out the supposed truth; that Richard III was an evil man who was determined to become King of England and swept all barriers to his dream out of the way. Then, as Grant works his way through the historical volumes that he can lay his hands on, he finds that there are many other theories as to the truth, some seemingly more likely to be true than the traditional version. This drip-feeding of facts were what made the book so very readable and I found it very difficult to put the book down. It did slow down a little towards the end, but as the book wasn’t very lengthy anyway, this didn’t matter too much.

          I’m not generally a fan of crime fiction that is based on crimes that took place many years before. I’ve read several about Jack the Ripper and the fact that nothing can really be proved is irritating. However, in this case, the fact that the conclusion to the story may not be the correct one didn’t make the book any less enjoyable. Josephine Tey’s writing is fresh and inspiring, despite the fact that the language is sometimes a little old-fashioned, which was an added bonus to a story that has fascinated many for centuries.

          One thing that would have made the book easier to read is a family tree. At times, it was difficult to follow the names of Richard’s many relations, especially because many of them had the same names. Apparently some versions do have this; unfortunately the one I had didn’t.

          I really do recommend this book. I’m giving it four stars because of the lack of character development and the fact that the story isn’t exactly an original one, but it was still a cracking good read. The fact that it has inspired me to want to read more about that period of history is also a bonus.

          The book is available from play.com for £5.49. Published by Arrow Books, it has 224 pages. ISBN: 0099430967

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        • Product Details

          At Scotland Yard, Inspector Grant has a reputation for being able to pick them at sight. Now he is in hospital, knowing that no amount of good behaviour is going to make this anything less than an extended stay. Yet his professional curiosity is soon aroused. In a portrait of Richard III, the hunchbacked monster of nursery stories and history books, he finds a face that refuses to fit its reputation. But how, after four hundred years, can a bedridden policeman uncover the truth about the murder of the Princes in the Tower?