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The Other Queen - Philippa Gregory

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Philippa Gregory / Hardcover / 448 Pages / Book is published 2008-08-21 by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

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      07.02.2014 21:43
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      Not a bad read, but difficult to keep track of the time setting

      The Other Queen

      The Other Queen is another Tudor-era book by Philippa Gregory, the writer of "The Other Boleyn Girl" and various other books exploring the Tudor dynasty and the Royal family. In this case The Other Queen is Mary Queen of Scots, cousin to Queen Elizabeth I. Her paternal Grandmother was the sister of King Henry VIII of England, making Mary one of the possible contenders for the English throne.

      Considering Philippa Gregory's popularity with these books it should be fairly easy to find a copy in your local library. If you prefer to own it the paperback version is £5.75 on Amazon at the moment, while the hardcover one is around the £8 mark and Kindle is just under £4, I always buy the hardcover versions for my Mum at they look very nice, but this then means she likes to keep them on the bookshelf and rarely touch them in case they get damaged XD

      The Story

      This book covers four years, starting in 1568 with Mary Queen of Scots captured and imprisoned after she escaped Scotland to get away from her rebellious Lords. Several of Gregory's books are written from several different perspectives (The Boleyn Inheritance for example is written from the views of Jane Boleyn, Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard) and this one follows that style of storytelling. This time we see Mary through her own eyes, as well as through the eyes of her captors, Bess of Hardwick the Countess of Shrewsbury and her husband George Talbot, an Earl. All three have their different virtues and flaws which become quite obvious very early on in the book.

      Mary is shown as being beautiful and highly educated, she speaks French and English (she was raised in France alongside her future husband the Dauphin of France), dances and sews "beautiful" tapestries and is effectively everything a Queen should be. She makes promises and breaks them constantly, swearing one minute that she wants to be friends and a good cousin to Queen Elizabeth and in the next chapter she will be declaring that Elizabeth is a heretic and bastard and she has stolen Mary's throne, she believes that she should be Queen of England, Scotland and France through her ancestry and her marriage. She is determined to be returned to Scotland as Queen and doesn't care who gets hurt in the process, and plots against Queen Elizabeth several times.

      Bess of Hardwick is shown as a determined woman who has pulled herself out from the gutter. Through the story we learn that her mother was a widow whose husband left her with nothing. Bess is on her third marriage and each one has brought her some advantage, the first two gave her money and property (it was very unusual for a woman to own either in Tudor times) and then her most recent husband has given her the title Countess. She manages her household well and tries to befriend Mary at first. But she is also shown as being domineering and obsessed with money, she only accepts the responsibility of looking after Mary because she believes it will lead to some sort of reward in the form of lands or property. Her respect for her husband diminishes at first not because he is in love with Mary, because he is completely ignorant as to how much Mary is costing their family and doesn't want to know.

      George Talbot is pictured as an old-fashioned gentleman even for those times. His family are "old money", he has been raised in the normal form for Lords at the time where the sons of various families all studied together and served in the households of other Lords before inheriting the family fortune. He is discreet and has a very strong code of honour, and clearly loves Bess at the beginning. But he is also a chauvinist, he believes Bess to be a "weak woman" despite the fact that she is an impressive businesswoman and rather formidable at times. He despises the new men at court, especially Cecil who is Queen Elizabeth's advisor. He believes Cecil is nothing but a jumped-up civil servant and thinks that Elizabeth should only be advised by Lords like him. He also believes that Mary cannot possibly lie about anything, he is horribly naive and refuses to accept the truth that she is plotting against Elizabeth until Mary herself tells him that she is breaking every promise she makes to him and the other Lords.

      Altogether they are an impressive set of characters. Each one fascinates and annoys you in equal measure and at the end I had to Wikipedia the article on Mary Queen of Scots simply to see how much of it was true.

      The History

      Needless to say you don't want a long history lesson about Mary so I will refrain. From what I have read (mostly on Wikipedia) the story that Gregory spins is rather close to history even if the portrayal of the characters has to border on fictional (we'll never really know their reasons for their actions). She is very good at looking at and including several points from history and then trying to work out what prompts people to do such a thing.

      Mary was indeed a guest at the home of George and Bess Talbot. And Bess Talbot really was an impressive businesswoman. At a time when women weren't, technically, allowed to own any kind of property she defied the norm and owned her houses and lands in her own right and managed them on her own. Whether or not George Talbot was really so naive is something else but his reputation for honesty appears to have saved his life with regards to his handling of Mary. And as for Mary herself, while we can never know what she was thinking everything that Gregory mentions tallies up with what is known about her, she was raised in France, her Scots Lords rebelled against her and her son was captured by the Lords.

      One of the big problems that Mary gave Elizabeth was the fact that she was a firm Catholic, most of northern England was secretly Catholic and despised their Protestant queen for taking away their religion. Mary was a figurehead for them to rally behind, she could be made queen and restore the old religion. It was a very turbulent time to live in and I think Gregory manages to get this across quite well.

      The Bad Bits

      The book is very well written but there are a few small flaws. One of the reasons for George Talbot hating Elizabeth's advisor Cecil is because of the number of spies he now has around England for Elizabeth's "protection". There have been various plots against Elizabeth since she came to power and she is now terrified of being overthrown. George blames Cecil for England becoming such a dark, suspicious place and hates that he has so much power over Elizabeth. But we don't really get a sense of the "terror", George and Bess are much further north, away from London, and you get the feeling that it's actually sensible to have spies around Queen Mary. The spy problem seems to be mentioned as more of a strange sub-plot more than anything else and it never really goes anywhere and doesn't add much to the book.

      The other problem is that the book covers four years (and then Mary's execution) but it actually feels a lot longer. Several times I had to stop at the start of one chapter and go back to check the first one to remind myself what year it had started in as I felt that so much had happened six years must have passed when actually it was only eighteen months. It skips from several chapters covering one day, or a few days, to one chapter suddenly seeming to cover a month all in one go.

      Recommended?

      I would definitely recommend this book. If you haven't read some of Gregory's work then you might be better off going back to read some of her earlier works but as a stand-alone book this works very well. The chapters are fairly short so you can pick it up, read a few pages and then put it back down without having to stop in the middle of a chapter. You probably won't want to put it down though as it is a very good book.

      As usual Gregory has included a short bibliography at the end so if you want to read more and can't stand Wikipedia then you can look up some of the books Gregory herself used and get a much bigger and more detailed picture of the history. And even if you don't then you will at least some away with a better idea of what happened to Mary Queen of Scots from this book alone.

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        16.12.2012 17:04
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        The other Queen book

        I was quite pleased with myself when I finished this book as it had taken me two attempts but I finally finished it. It's not a book you can start and then come back to a few weeks later, for me, in order to keep reading it and keep up with all the characters and various places they were I needed to read it in one go. I found it fairly hard going as there were so many different characters and quite a bit of chopping and changing but it was well worth it as I thoroughly enjoyed the subject matter and feel I know more about that time period in history now.

        I think the best way to learn about history is to read it in a written down, story form. It sinks in so much better if you can remember a story rather than learn lots of dates and facts and who was queen in what year and for how long and so on etc. This book is really an extraodinary story and very well written. It is quite long at 437 pages but the characters and the way Philippa Gregory wrote them are amazing.

        From the back of the book we are given this synopsis, " Two women fighting for one mane, two queens competing for dominance. Mary Queen of Scots is in flight from rebels in Scotland, and puts her trust in her cousin Elizabeth. But she finds herself imprisoned as the enforced guest of George Talbot and his determined new wife, Bess of Hardwick. THe couple welcome the doomed queen, certain that this will bring them nothing but advantage in the competitive world of Tudor England. To their horror they find that their home becomes the epicentre of intrigue against Elizabeth. Even their own loyalty comes under suspicion, as George's hopeless admiration for the beautiful Mary is impossible to hide. The conspiracies come together in the greatest threat that Elizabeth has ever faced. She has no choice but to instruct her spy-master, Cecil, to set the trap to catch her cousin. But even he is caught by the spell of this remarkable young woman, who is prepared to die rather than deny her need for freedom.

        Its so interesting to read that the same sort of trials and tribulations that these people faced back then are the same ones that we are facing today too, love, scandal, backstabbing and it was really funny to see how much we can relate to them even though it was hundreds of years ago. The book covers the time period from1568 to 1587 so you do learn a terrible large amount of history but you need to know that much for the story. I really liked the character of Mary the best and it seems like the others fell under her spell a bit too and found I was on her side in a way much more than Elizabeth. I like the way this story was written as it tells the story from three pints of view, that of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots; Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury, also known as Bess of Hardwick; and George Talbot, the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. A different person takes a different chapter and at the start of each chapter you are given the date, where the person is (for example in Wingfield Manor or Tutbury Castle) and also who the person is. I found this very helpful as like I've said above it is quite easy to get lost with where everyone is and who they are.

        Theres a big bibliography at the back so you can tell that the author definitely did her research into this subject. I feel as if I know more now about these characters and the time period than I ever did before and if you enjoy this kind of literature then I definitely recommend this book.

        It is published by Harper Collins, costs £7.99 and has an ISBN 978-0-00-719214-4

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          09.12.2010 14:32
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          Historical novel

          The year is 1568 and Bess, newly wedded Countess of Shrewsbury, thinks that taking responsibility for the newly captured Mary Queen of Scots will bring her family honour and riches. Little does she realise that her home will soon become the centre of intrigue and that soon she'll be fighting for her home, husband, fortune and perhaps even her life....

          I really wouldn't say that historical novels are my thing, I'm more a horror and science fiction type of girl, but I've recently found myself enjoying Philippa Gregory's take on the Tudor period. I've steadily worked my way through this series and have just finished re-reading The Other Queen, a book that follows Mary Queen of Scots and her time as the Earl of Shrewsbury's unwilling guest. I love the way that Gregory takes a period of history that we all know something about, and then takes a lesser known character and builds a story around them. In this book she focuses on three characters, Bess, her husband George and Mary, Queen of Scots, and then allows them to tell their own story. Rather than being simple prose, the book switched between the characters, with each chapter giving one point of view. This means that some events are retold more than once, but it's actually quite a good way of fleshing out the plot.

          I also love the way that Gregory writes about strong women, especially as the Tudor period was one where strong women were definitely not encouraged (and were often accused of witchcraft). Bess, in particular, was very unusual for her time, she was a woman of independent means, who had built up a fortune through marriage. Although Bess isn't a particularly pleasant character, with her money grabbing and pragmatism, she is a believable one, who I did find myself sympathising with. George, Earl of Shrewsbury, was, perhaps even less likeable, but equally well written, Gregory really had me thinking 'what a twat', as he made foolish decision after foolish decision. To be honest, not one of the main characters were particularly likeable, even Mary was portrayed as a heartless madam, who would do anything to regain her throne. But with along with the flaws, Gregory did add aspects to their characters that allowed me to emphasise with and even feel sorry for them at least once. Although these three main characters are well fleshed out, all the other characters in the book are most definitely not, not that this distracts from the story.

          Although the book starts relatively slowly, (as the characters and their motivations are set up), it quickly gathers pace. I did find that it took me until about halfway through before it got to the point where I was finding it hard to put down. But as the book drew to a close it became harder and harder to stop reading and I read the last hundred pages or so in one sitting (even though I really should have been getting some sleep). The fact that each of the chapters are quite short, means that there was always a suitable place to pause within a few pages, but also means that it's all to easy to say one more chapter. Although the actual ending is no surprise (Mary's fate is well documented), I still enjoyed the book and Gregory's take on the events leading up to that ending. Whether the book is completely, historically accurate, I really don't know, but it does feel right and from the author's note at the end of the book does give me the impression that Gregory has done her homework. I must admit though, that the language used didn't particularly strike me as being how people would have spoken in the Elizabethan era, but it may have been much harder to read if it had been full of 'thees' and 'thous'.

          I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Other Queen and found myself fully immersed in the lives of the three main characters. Although I have seen this billed as a love story, personally I would disagree, there is the aspect of a love triangle, but to me this was more of a sideline to the main plot. In my eyes, this is more a social commentary of life in the Tudor period, and one that took a new angle on a story I already knew. As far as re-readability goes, although my first thoughts were that I would be unlikely to read it more than once, I have actually read the book again (after a period of about a month), and I enjoyed it even more the second time around. This was, perhaps, down to the fact that I understood more about why the characters acted as they did, or perhaps it was just because there wasn't really an ending to be ruined.

          And so am I recommending The Other Queen? To right I am, I really enjoyed reading it, and unlike others in the series, it can be read without having read any of the other books. And so I'm giving The Other Queen a healthy four stars out of five.

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            25.10.2010 20:25
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            Believable, interesting and well written

            This is a review of 'The Other Queen" by Philippa Gregory. Having really enjoyed reading her other novels, such as the Boleyn Inheritance, the Queen's Fool and The Other Boleyn Girl I was looking forward to reading this.

            Reading habits
            I like to split up the order I read Gregory's books so that I don't get in a historical novel reading rut so had been saving this for a while. It was a brand spanking new hardback with a ribbon built in for page marking (which incidentally drives my cat crazy!) so it felt really special when I began reading it.

            Initial thoughts
            I have to say, whilst still a good and gripping read, this book was not as good as the other ones I've read by Gregory. It may have just been down to the characters but I prefer a bit more fire in these novels than this one provided.

            A bit about the story
            The other Queen is Mary Queen of Scots who is held semi captive by Queen Elizabeth who believes Mary is challenging her for her crown as queen of England. As usual the main theme is speculation about Elizabeth and whether she is still able to provide an heir (son) for the throne after her reign. The clue is in her nickname, the virgin queen... also the fact that she doesn't marry anyone nor does she seem to want to.

            The story is interwoven by plots supposedly led by Mary in cahoots with English and Scots lords. We are led to believe that Mary is an absolute stunner whom men will do anything for her favour.

            Her hosts, whilst not painted as jailors, are Bess and her husband George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury. The story is narrated by Bess, George and Mary in turn, which is the style Philippa Gregory writes in. It's easy to get used to; keeps the story moving and you get things from different perspectives.

            The whole plot is a will she won't she (Mary) get back on the Throne in Scotland or will Elizabeth have her properly inprisoned in the tower. In the meantime her hosts Bess and George struggle to keep her under control in their various grand houses and castles whilst striving to prove their loyalty to Queen Elizabeth.

            Down side
            Whilst I enjoyed reading it, I also thought it went on a bit too much in parts. George clearly falls for Mary's charms but never acts on his feelings as he is loyal to his wife Bess but Bess does see what George is like around the Scots queen and feels let down by him and the drain that hosting the Queen takes on her personally striven and collected fortune.

            Maybe the reason I didn't enjoy it so much is because it was set away from the Royal Court where all the fun and flirting takes place in the other novels. Both the characters label themselves as 'past it' and just don't seem to do much other than sewing and going on horse rides.

            Religious undertones
            There are the usual undertones of religious battle that go on in all of Gregory's novels, which are true of the times I believe. Gregory clearly has a grasp on the actual facts of the times and uses her research and talent to write realistic and believable novels.

            Verdict / final word
            Next in the pile is 'The Virgin's Lover' by Philippa Gregory so I haven't lost my enthusiasm for reading her books just yet! This book was good enough for me but didn't set me on fire like the others did.

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              12.09.2010 13:48
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              Mary Queen of Scots is thrown off her throne

              After reading The Boleyn Inheritance and a part of The queens fool (I had to return it to the library) I picked up the only book left by Philipha Gregory. I like historical movies and TV programmes and the ones that are set in a historical period but don't necessarily involve the monarchy. The books she has written are based on the Tudor period although some of the newer books are about the period before the Tudors (I think).


              The other queen was the only book by Philipa Gregory left in the library so that is the only reason that I was reading it. The book is really a follow up from The queens fool in terms of the story line and as I had only read a part of the The queens fool (which was excellent) I found it rather frustrating. I still decided to read it before finishing The queens fool.


              The year is 1568 and Elizabeth has been ruling England for 10 years and her cousin Queen Mary Stuart of Scotland is thrown off her throne by her half brother. She is put under Elizabeth's protection while she is waiting to go back to her throne in Scotland.


              Then there are two queens and two religions in England and Elizabeth does not want to do anything to put Mary who is of royal blood in danger. It strikes me that most of the historical conflicts arise from religion and power. Religion though seems to be the reason that all of the conflicts and struggles that these people have. William Cecil is Elizabeth's Sectary of state and is a reformist.


              Shrewsbury and his wife Bess think that they are blessed as they have the job of housing Mary Queen of Scots as they think that this will give them the Queens favour. The Tabolts (Shrewsbury and Bess) are newlyweds that are very well off. Bess has married her way up and has amounted a fortune and a reputation. They expect that the queen will only be there for a while just before she is restored to her throne in Scotland. But this does not happen and the months drag on and Marys extravagant spending habits but a stain on their marriage.


              The story is told through three different characters: Bess, Mary and George. This was not my favourite book by Gregory as there seemed to be bits that I really got confused about and I couldn't understand where the story was when the chapter changed to the next character. The chapters are split between the three characters, a bit like it was done in The Boleyn inheritance.

              This is a reasonably good book by Gregory but she has written better. I would recommend that fans of Gregory and those interested in historical novels have a look at this book. Those interested in Elizabeth's rein would probably enjoy this book more than I did as I'm not really a fan of Elizabeth's rein.

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                01.06.2010 22:26
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                Boooring

                I'm a big fan of historical fiction, and especially of Phillipa Gregory, having found several of her books extremely enjoyable. So, I had absolutely no doubt about buying myself a copy of this book, especially as it centred on Mary Queen of Scots, someone I hadn't read too much about .

                The book covers the period from 1568, when Mary fled Scotland to England hoping for her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, to offer her protection. Instead she found herself practically imprisoned, with George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and his wife, Bess of Hardwick, in charge of keeping her secured and out of trouble. Elizabeth is worried that her young attractive cousin, who already has a male heir, may be a rallying point for angry Catholics hoping to get their religion restored, and is eager to avoid any kind of catholic uprising at all costs . Sadly Mary, even while imprisoned, can not resist plotting, and only brings danger with her .

                I found this book much less enjoyable than many of Gregory other works, I think mainly due to the split narrative. Changing from character to character every few paragraphs was very confusing, and I often had to check back to see who had said what. A book should be gripping and readable, with facts presented in an interesting way that seals them in your mind, but I felt many situations were handled too briefly, leading to me not feeling I was learning an awful lot at all . This split viewpoint also led to the same scene being repeated just from a different viewpoint a couple of times.

                The book just doesn't seem to gain momentum . While big events are happening, they're always happening someone else, and we learn about them either after the fact, or through someone's correspondence. I'm not sure how best to describe it - it's a bit like reading a book about someone reading a book , none of the action is actually occurring close enough to the characters for me to actually care.

                The other problem with the split narrative was that, as well as leaving events dealt with in too little detail and too far removed from the characters, the chopping and changing of viewpoints every couple of pages really didn't allow me to engage with and care about the characters. I found myself honestly not giving a stuff if Mary lived or died . Don't get me wrong, I know my history and Iknew she'd lose her head, but part of Gregory's usual skilful mastery is that she somehow manages to make you get emotionally involved in the book, and makes the known ending an exciting path to get to .

                Sadly, this book just didn't do it for me . I didn't care about the people involved, I didn't care about the events that were always happening somewhere else, and I just found myself thinking 'Just behead her already so I can stop reading this dross.'

                I was really disappointed in this book,as many of Gregory's other works have been simply wonderful. I actually feel really bad for hating a book by one of my favourite authors, as though I'm being somehow disloyal . So I'd end this review by saying that although I am only awarding this particular book 2 stars (one of those purely because I can't find any historical inaccuracies) and do not recommend it, I do recommend reading some of her other books .

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                  24.12.2009 00:18
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                  Well worth a read

                  A good read, historical romance, my favourite genre, and by Philippa Gregory one of my favourite authors within that genre. When reading the her books it is so very easy to forget that they are fictionional as her brilliant and applausable level of research brings history alive for readers!

                  Mary Queen of Scots, during her years of imprisonment with the Shrewsbury's is the focus of this novel. I was worried how the book could be so thick when she wasn't really imprisoned that long however... Full of suspense, passion and political intrigue the story is told in three voices, those of Mary, George Talbot (Earl of Shrewsbury) who is ordered by Elizabeth I to take on Mary and his hard faced wife Bess of Hardwick who'd been married 4 times and hopes to gain from housing Mary.

                  As the story unfolds we see Bess struggling, firstly that she is losing her money and households trying to support Mary and her household and then realising her husband develops feelings for Mary who is much younger than herself... She sees Mary as competition as George is led on by Mary, who continues to fight for her throne, never giving up, always plotting even when the plots seem to keep being found out and more threats are made towards her and slips deeper and deeper into Elizabeths agents traps...

                  We all know what happens in the end... but reading this feels like your living it. I polished off the novel in 2 days! Passed it onto several friends who've all relished the read and will be choosing it for my book club read next week.

                  Enjoy!

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                  26.10.2009 12:30
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                  Mary Queen of Scots does little to win me round to her cause in this slow moving novel

                  Why this book
                  *******************
                  Having read and enjoyed a lot of Philippa Gregory's novels about Tudor Britain such as the Queens Fool. I took this book out of the library with high hopes of enjoying another enthralling read about Tudor Britain and reading about Mary Queen of Scots as I haven't read many novels about this Queen.

                  About the author
                  ********************
                  Philippa Gregory is an internationally renowned author of Historical fiction. She holds a PhD from Edinburgh University. She lives in Yorkshire on a small farm several of her novels have been adapted fro television and film the most famous probably of these is The Other Boleyn Girl. A full author's biography can be found at her website which is www.philippagregory.com


                  About the book
                  *********************
                  This novel centres on the period from 1568 when Mary Queen of Scots finds herself imprisoned as the "guest" of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his indomitable wife, Bess of Hardwick. Bess and George are newly weds in this book and start the novel with love and respect for one another. Mary is a devout Catholic, and is a living threat to the rule of her cousin Elisabeth, whose Protestant reign is uncertain. The book is told through the three voices of George, Mary and Bess giving you their different perspectives on the events that unfold from the start of Bess and George's period as Mary's custodians up to Mary's death in 1587.

                  My opinion
                  *************

                  I found this book very difficult to get into due to the three different narratives. It felt initially very cumbersome to go from one voice and thoughts to another especially as some of the chapters and sections were as short as 2 pages and covered a very small amount of information. I also found myself getting irritated by the book on several occasions due to it appearing to be very repetitive. I found this also slowed the pace of the novel down considerably as each event was told from their individual viewpoint. I think that this narrowed the scope of the book because there are so many events in history at this point by only looking at three people's perspective some events seemed to be missed or skirted over such as the Duke of Norfolk's role in events.

                  I found the characters as written by Gregory didn't lend themselves to being liked me as the reader.

                  Of all the characters the one that I found myself caring about was Bess and I found that I left this novel wanting to know more about her. That said I still found the fact that a lot of her thoughts and views were colored by her constant winging about money to be tiresome. As this lady had married four husbands and got richer each time it was understandable for her to worry about her fortune but I felt this was done at the expense of her feelings and emotions about how Mary was bewitching her husband.

                  George as a character is written as essentially weak he appears to struggle only briefly with his honor before becoming Mary's man rather than a supporter of Elizabeth and a wife to Bess. However Gregory writes repeatedly and to the point of ad nausea about his struggle with his feelings I just felt like saying for god sake pull you together man!

                  In regards to Mary I got bored of Gregory's endless repeating of "I am chosen by God to rule! I am an anointed Queen! I can never be killed because I am chosen by God to be an anointed queen!" this just served to want me to hasten her beheading really. The vanity that is ascribed to Mary is also astonishing she loves the fact that she can seduce a man around to her way of thinking. Now I am sure that Mary was a great beauty but the focus on her seduction powers also left me wondering what else she could offer as Queen. Portrayed as constantly demanding, whiney, devious and with an inability to keep her word she was very annoying. As was the fact that she seemed to have no concern for her own well-being or that of her "hosts". All of which just made it impossible to care in anyway for her fate. That said I was left however wanting to know more about her past and the murder of one husband and more about the relationship between her and Bothwell so I think I will look for a novel about that.

                  Elizabeth is mentioned and referred to she is portrayed as a gullible, naive, wishy-washy, spineless queen and not credible at all which I found difficult to give credence to and it just made me like Mary's less as it just felt like sour grapes at her imprisonment.

                  The events towards the end of the book get compressed, presumably to bring about a neater conclusion. Mary's execution is described in a dream sequence by George 15 years previously this was just laughable really and the stuff of B movies not good historical fiction in my opinion. The only view point we get at the end is a brief couple of pages of Bess reflecting on how hard it must be for George that day. We don't really learn how Mary came to be beheaded other than a few sentences. This just felt sloppy writing really. We had a novel describe in minutiae detail some parts of events but the actual crux of how she came to be beheaded only warranted a sentence or two this I just found incredulous as reader and not what I expected from this novel.


                  On a more positive note Gregory's talent for well researched and historical accurate information and detail is evident throughout the book. The references to the uprising in the North and Elizabeth visit to her cousin Norfolk in the Tower stand out to me as a good elaboration of historical fact with a waft of the fiction magic pen. However this unfortunately for me are not sufficient to recommend this book or read it again I was just glad I got it from the library rather than wasted money on it.


                  Overall
                  ************
                  I novel that is slow and cumbersome it did little to enamor me to the characters or care about the fate of Mary Queen of Scotts. I wouldn't really recommend this novel and I am only giving it 2 stars for the historical detail and the bits I enjoyed about Bess of Hardwick.


                  Book details
                  ****************
                  Paperback: 375 pages
                  Publisher: Harper (2 April 2009)
                  Language English
                  ISBN-10: 0007192142
                  ISBN-13: 978-0007192144

                  Available on Amazon for £4.56

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                    17.09.2009 20:00
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                    I would only reccomend to historical novel enthusiasts. Not a light read.

                    A historical novel by Philippa Gregory, based on the life of Mary Queen of Scots. Published in September 2008, 448 pages long. It can be purchased from all good booksellers, paperback retailing at approximately £4-£5.

                    This novel is similar to Gregory's other hostorical books but is set a lttle further forward in history, during the reign of Elizabeth I.

                    It takes place away from the Royal Court, detailing Mary's house arrest in England after fleeing from Scotland. It is written from the perspective of 3 people, Mary Queen of Scots, Bess of Hardwick and George Talbot (Bess of Hardwick's husband, The Earl of Shrewsbury.)

                    The story develops through the perpective of these 3 individuals, it can be quite confusing to follow at first until you get used to switching points of view.

                    Mary is a seductive woman and deceives people and seduces them into doing her will. George Talbot falls in love with Mary and thoughout the novel we see the conflict in Bess and George's marriage and how Mary comes between them. Additionally we learn a little about social climbers in this era. Bess is obsessed with money and profit, she thinks that playing host to the Queen will elevate her socially. Instead their finances are drained and they are ruined. It isan interesting spin on the social expectations on members of the Royal court. Elizabeth expected them to house the Queen and essentially fund a royal household. She contributed little to the upkeep of the Queen but iinsisted on maintaining the house arrest for years.

                    I am a big Philippa Gregory fan but I did find this novel quite disappointing, It was slow and predictable and I was waiting for the climac/pinnacle point which never came. It was quite flat as a story. Although it is well written and quite historically accurate I did struggle to read it. It is one that I kept putting down and had to remind myself to keep reading it, it was a little bit labourious and not overly compelling.

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                    07.07.2009 19:06
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                    Story of Mary Queen of Scots' involuntary stay with the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury.

                    *** The Main Characters ***

                    This is a tale of Elizabethan Tudor England told by the Earl of Shrewsbury (George Talbot), his wife the Countess (Bess), and Mary Queen of Scots. With each chapter the storyteller changes as the reader learns about the years when The Queen of Scots was a "compulsory guest" of the Shrewsburys, as desired by Queen Elizabeth I, and her chief advisor, William Cecil.

                    As with all good historical fiction books, I felt that I got to know the main characters very well. In addition to the three storytellers, I also got an understanding of the most important people in England at the time. This included Elizabeth I, William Cecil and the Duke of Norfolk, plus the mood of the ordinary people regarding these leaders.

                    To me, William Cecil is the most interesting character, although I have no wish to go back in time to meet this clever, fanatically ambitious and devious spymaster. Having taken in the views of the three storytellers, I don't believe anyone knew exactly what was going on in his mind, except him.

                    The most appealing character to me was Bess. Like Cecil she had worked hard at raising himself from lowly beginnings to the upper echelons of society, but she seems to differ from him in that she had a conscience, even if it didn't restrict her too much.

                    The Earl of Shrewsbury comes across as an annoying fool, so used to money from birth, that he seems to take his assets for granted. I believe that his rigid interpretation of family honour also helps blind him to the truth about his relationships with others. At least partly because of their lack of refinement, he fails to recognise the value of the friend who could, and wants to, help him most. I felt like shaking him, across the centuries, into realising the truth, and willed him to come to his senses before it was too late.

                    Having the account told from the three conflicting viewpoints of the main diverse characters, made it easier for me to understand the implications of the different strands of the story.

                    As I have had some lovely holidays in the Derbyshire area covered in the story, and visited buildings and countryside mentioned (Chatsworth, Hardwick and Tutbury), the story was all the more real to me.

                    Although this is a mainly tragic tale, there is one of the main characters that triumphs over adversity, making me feel that no matter what, we should never give up on goals that are really important to us.


                    *** Profound Quotes ***

                    As my words are no substitute for this author's own, I have picked these quotes to give you a better feel for this book.

                    Bess - "There are two queens in England now; the one who holds the throne by our good will, and the other one who probably deserves it; and I am in the odd position of being in the service of both of them."

                    Mary - "I am half divine. I have a place of my own between the angels and the nobles. I am the only true and legitimate heir to the throne of England, being the great-grandniece to the King Henry VIII of England, though his bastard daughter, Elizabeth, has usurped my place"

                    George - reporting the Duke of Norfolk's words about William Cecil. "We are his rivals for power. He will destroy anyone who challenges him. Please God he does not pick us off one by one and we are too trusting to defend ourselves. His is a rule of terror. He makes us afraid of imaginary enemies so we don't guard ourselves against him and against our government. We are so busy watching for foreigners that we forget to watch our friends."


                    *** Style ***

                    I think that this is a five star read, but it differs in style to other Philippa Gregory books.

                    This book is largely about Mary Queen of Scots waiting to be returned to Scotland.

                    This waiting means there is less action than I have come to expect from this author's novels. However, the reflections on the past and the hopes for the future expressed, gave rise to exceptionally good characterisation, in my opinion.

                    In the case of the Queen of Scots, though young, she has a lot of previous "action" in her life to reflect on. While she is waiting she reflects on her past, as well as planning for what she believes will be a great future.


                    *** Historical Accuracy ***

                    I believe Phillipa Gregory always researches for her novels well. As usual a long list of helpful research reading is included at the back of the book. She has been criticised for some for her interpretations of history though.

                    Historians mostly agree on some historical facts. The author does not alter these. But when drawing conclusions from these accepted truths, she often does not go with the main flow of opinion. But, however unlikely some historical purists think her deductions, I believe that they are possibilities worth considering.


                    *** Alternatives ***

                    I think that readers who want to read novels based on uncontroversial historical facts should give the author Jean Plaidy a try.

                    MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS is among the subjects written about by this prolific author. Jean Plaidy wrote about her life in two instalments entitled The Royal Road to Fotheringay and The Captive Queen of Scots.

                    The fact that I read Jean Plaidy's version first, probably made the different analysis of the character of Mary Stuart a more compulsive read for me, in the same way that people gossip to get different interpretations of the same facts.

                    So was she a romantically foolish beauty, a cunningly calculating witch, or a mixture of both?

                    Was Mary Stuart more like her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England, than is usually suggested, with the main difference being in the ability of their advisors?

                    Whichever version readers believe is most credible, I think that they should find the Scottish Queen a colourful character.

                    I believe that the most comprehensive and accurate biography of BESS SHREWSBURY is Bess of Hardwick by Mary S Lovell. Hardwick was where she was born. The Earl of Shrewsbury was her last husband. The enormous amount of facts can make it seem dry reading at times. Though, as stated in my earlier review of this book, it is written in such a way that readers can identify chunks to leave out, if they want a quicker read.


                    *** Paperback, Hardback or Audio ***

                    In the past Phillipa Gregory paperbacks have had smaller than average print, which would have given me eye-strain, so I have borrowed the hardbacks from the library instead of buying the cheaper version.

                    The good news, for people like me, is that this newly released paperback has average sized print.

                    On the front inside flap of the dustcover of the hardback, and the back cover of the paperback, I feel that there are plot spoilers for those who don't know the full story of the Queen of Scots' captivity, and the effect on the Shrewsburys. I knew most of the information there, but not all, so was pleased that I did not notice this until I came to review the book, after I had read it. I realise that some background information to the plot is desirable, but in this case, I think there was too much.

                    An abridged audio CD version is also available, with a different reader for each of the 3 characters that tell the story from their own viewpoint.


                    *** TWO Recommendations ***

                    IF YOU PREFER LOTS OF ACTION in your novels, you may want to GIVE THIS ONE A MISS, even if you usually like Philippa Gregory's books.

                    I liked Philippa Gregory's version of this story, as I appreciated finding out what effect being put in charge of the "security" of the Queen of Scots had on the newly wed Shrewsbury couple.

                    I was also intrigued to see how close the history of England came to being very different, and the part attitude played in both the national and personal threads to the tale. Strength of character isn't always enough to get us want we want, but this story illustrates how it can be a major asset.

                    GIVE THIS BOOK A TRY, IF YOU THINK THAT YOU APPRECIATE GREAT CHARACTERISATION from historical fiction novels, and don't believe continuous action scenes are essential to a good read.



                    Paperback: 375 pages
                    Publisher: Harper (2 April 2009)
                    ISBN-10: 0007192142
                    ISBN-13: 978-0007192144
                    RRP: £7.99


                    Hardcover: 448 pages
                    Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd; hardcover edition (21 Aug 2008)
                    ISBN-10: 0007190344
                    ISBN-13: 978-0007190348
                    RRP: £18.99

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                      14.06.2009 18:10
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                      Philippa Gregory is quickly becoming my favourite historical novelist, (just behind Jean Plaidy) this is the 6th book out of her Tudor series and excels each of them. It covers the life of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, during her long imprisonment in England from 1568-1587.

                      Like other Gregory novels this book is narrated by three characters, them being Mary herself, George Talbot and his wife Bess. Throughout the course of this novel you see how dramatically they realise their mistakes have changed the way they live.

                      It starts off with the fact that Mary has had to flee from Scotland despite that she is the rightful heir and Queen of the country. Due to the Scottish Lords disliking of her and that it is rumoured she had a hand in the murder of her husband it is no wonder that they have not welcomed her with open arms.

                      Hoping to seek refuge from her cousin Queen Elizabeth I she expects help and protection from those she feels will set out to have her killed. Giving promises that she will be reinstated as Queen of Scotland, Elizabeth places her in the safe keeping of George Talbot, a man she knows she can trust. Especially as he is newly married and could not possibly have his head turned by a beautiful young woman.

                      With her trusted advisor, Cecil, always beside her she is somewhat manipulated into making decisions based on what he wants. Instead of being taken to Chatwsworth House as what was first decided, Mary gets taken to Tutbury Castle. Much to Bess's dismay after spending years making Chatsworth fit for a Queen, she has the task of just a few days to make a run down building equally acceptable.

                      I have been unable to come to a conclusion as to whether I have much sympathy towards Mary Stuart. At the beginning she comes across as being a Queen who has been mistreated by those around her. Putting too much trust in people who cannot possibly have her best interests at heart. Despite that Lord Bothwell had imprisoned , raped , got her pregnant and forced her to marry him, she continually trusts and relies on him to set her free.

                      Yet whilst Elizabeth has promised her a protected arrival back to Scotland, Mary continues to encourage plots which would mean her becoming Queen of England as well. She feels set that when this comes about Elizabeth will be punished as Mary believes herself to of been by her loving cousing.

                      I see her as being ruthless and manipulative. A woman who knows she is beautiful and is willing to charm and seduce the men around her to do as she pleases. However there are times when you see maybe a glimmer of somebody who cares about these people, especially George Talbot her 'guardian'. Clearly a man who has fallen in love with her.

                      There is only very few words which can describe the Earl of Shrewsbury. Weak being one of them. He is obviously a man who is willing to have people tell him what to do even though in some cases he is higher up the ladder than they are.

                      Then there's Bess. She was a poor woman, daughter of a farmer who married well to get her fortune. In the book she does come across as someone obsessed by money but you have to feel that she doesn't want to fall down into a life of debt again. Which is why I can forgive her for her complaining about losing all her things because of her 'fool of a husband'

                      This is a good read if a little bit long. 437 pages to be exact. The retail price is £18.99 which I'm sorry but no book is worth that amount of money. No matter how good it is. It will set you back £9.65 for the hardback copy or £3.86 for the paperback from Amazon. A considerable difference in price!

                      It brings the story of Mary Queen of Scots to life and thanks to Philippa Gregory I now know that she was the grandaughter of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. So that's something to go away with.

                      I like how Philippa Gregory has managed to write about the different plots that were going on at the time as the only one I knew about was where she was climbing out of a window, and then got caught. It's a good read and is one which I found difficult to put down. In a way it does make you think about the situations which the 3 put themselves in.

                      Risking everything for a Queen who isn't your Queen is not the right way to go about things, no matter what she can offer you at the end.

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                        04.06.2009 01:09
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                        Overall a book for someone interested in the period rather than a casual reader

                        This is the sixth novel in Philippa Gregory's "Tudor Court" series. The majority of the novel is set between 1568 & 1572 (with the final chapter in 1587), making this the novel in the series which is set the latest chronologically. In order they are:-

                        1491 - 1529: The Constant Princess
                        1521 - 1536: The Other Boleyn Girl
                        1539 - 1547: The Boleyn Inheritance
                        1548 - 1558: The Queen's Fool
                        1555 - 1560: The Virgin's Lover
                        1568 - 1572: The Other Queen

                        The events described the in the novel are seen through the eyes of the three major characters: Mary, Queen Of Scots, George Talbot (6th Earl of Shrewsbury) & George's wife Bess.

                        After fleeing from Scotland, prior to the events of the novel, Mary Queen Of Scots sought refuge in England which was then ruled by Elizabeth I, a cousin of Mary's father. This presented Elizabeth & the ruling elite of the time with a thorny problem. England had previously been a Catholic country (aside from a brief period under Edward VI: 1547-1553) & there was still much tension between Elizabeth & her Protestant advisers & Catholic sympathisers amongst the aristocracy & general populace.
                        Mary's presence in the country gave the Catholics a figurehead, a rival for Elizabeth's throne. Elizabeth therefore had the option of ordering Mary's execution or attempting to limit her ability to be a problem. Initially, she elected the latter option, choosing to place Mary into the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury & his wife Bess, which is what this novel covers.

                        After finishing the novel I read the rest of the reviews on here to see what other people who had read the book thought about it. To an extent I agree with some of the points raised in all of the reviews.

                        This novel will probably divide readers more than any other in the series purely for the style & approach that Philippa has used to tell the story.

                        In essence she has chosen to emphasise the prevailing concerns of the three major characters. So, Mary talks an awful lot about her need to be free & her desire to take the English throne from Elizabeth. Bess's main concern is her property & her fortune whilst George is concerned about how Mary is treated & whether she'll be restored to her throne in Scotland.

                        The focus on these main concerns of the characters means that they are perhaps not as well rounded as they could have been & that some readers may find elements of the novel repetitive & dull. However, given that Mary had lost her throne & was, to all intents & purposes a prisoner, it's not beyond the realms of probability that her overriding thoughts revolved around her freedom & regaining her throne (or displacing Elizabeth from hers).
                        Likewise it's likely that Bess was worried about losing her wealth & possessions given that she'd been born in poverty &, through hard work & strategic marriages had managed to rise to a position of wealth & privilege.
                        So, even though some readers might find this approach annoying or tiresome I can understand why the choice was made to structure the novel in this way.

                        The novel may also fall down in terms of background information. Readers familiar with the story of Mary, Queen Of Scots & reign in Scotland before her flight to England should have no problem setting the story in context. However, readers who know little or nothing about Mary's life might struggle to understand the reasons for Mary's escape from Scotland etc.

                        Very little actually happens in the novel, aside from Mary being moved from one location to another, although I personally found it fairly engrossing as I knew a lot about the period already.

                        Overall, not the most accessible book in the series &, with it's reliance on the three main characters it may turn out that you don't like any of the three at all.

                        More information on George Talbot, his wife Bess & the events of the novel can be found at:-

                        http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/talbot6shrewsbury.htm


                        # Paperback: 448 pages
                        # Publisher: Harper (2 April 2009)
                        # ISBN-10: 0007192142
                        # ISBN-13: 978-0007192144

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                        27.05.2009 11:32
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                        Based on thr Tudor period

                        I recently decided to take a look around my local library knowing I would want something to read on my holiday, however I was shocked to see the lack of books on the shelves. Now this could be a good thing in that more people are borrowing books but I suspect it could well be a lack of funding by Derbyshire.


                        With nothing taking my fancy I decided to check out my local Tesco instead but typical of me I managed to buy the middle book of a trilogy, so decided to order the first and last books on-line at Tesco.com but needed another book to get free delivery. Knowing I would enjoy a book by Philippa Gregory as I have read most of her Tudor Court books before I picked The Other Queen without even knowing what the book was about.

                        Still without even reading the back of the book I chucked it in the suitcase with a couple of others ready for a bit of holiday reading.


                        The book is based on the first 3 years of the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots by her Cousin Queen Elizabeth I, after Mary's escape from rebels in Scotland. The book starts in the autumn of 1568 and is set around 3 main characters, Mary Queen of Scots and her "guardians", the Earl of Shrewsbury, George Talbot and his new wife, Bess of Hardwick.

                        Mary Queen of Scots.


                        Forced to abdicate her throne and chased out of Scotland by the Scottish Lords who suspected her of taking part in a plot with her lover Lord Bothwell to kill her husband Lord Darnley. Mary claimed however that she had nothing to do with Lord Darnley's murder and that Lord Bothwell had imprisoned her, raped her, got her pregnant and forced her to marry him, Mary lost the baby during her escape and sort protection from her cousin Queen Elizabeth I who promised to reinstate her back on the throne of Scotland. Many Catholic people thought that Mary was the rightful air to the English throne because she was daughter to Henry VIII's sister and believed that the Protestant Elizabeth should not have been on the throne because Henry declared her illegitimate after the execution of her mother Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth never overturned this declaration even when she was on the throne.

                        George Talbot - Earl of Shrewsbury


                        From a long line of Earls all devoted to the Tudor Kings and Queens. Knight of the Garter to Queen Elizabeth I and newly married to Bess of Hardwick. Queen Elizabeth asked him to imprison Mary Queen of Scots and to keep her safe until Elizabeth could get Mary reinstated back on the throne of Scotland. It seemed he was very confused with the situation as he was a loyal subject of Elizabeth but became besotted with Mary Queen of Scots.

                        Bess of Hardwick


                        Married four times, each time to better herself and her financial situation. Bess was well known for keeping her accounts so that she would never be short of money. Builder of Hardwick Hall and owner of Chatsworth House both in Derbyshire, when she married George Talbot she had to sign over her property to her husband because women were not allowed to own anything. She was a protestant and had benefited from the closure of the Abbeys and Monasteries when it became illegal to be a Catholic in England by keeping any gold and treasure looked away. She was against Mary Queen of Scots from the start and never wanted her to have any claim to the English throne.

                        The book follows the trials, tribulations and thoughts of the three main characters and the effects on their lives of the poison that is fed to Queen Elizabeth by her chief advisor William Cecil, who put thoughts into Elizabeth's head that Mary Queen of Scots was trying to get Elizabeth off the throne.


                        William Cecil comes across as a devious snake in the grass who will do anything to better himself and make Queen Elizabeth trust and rely on him even more. Unfortunately this puts a lot of pressure on the marriage of George and Bess, George doesn't agree with William Cecil's underhanded techniques but Bess is good friends with William Cecil and will do anything she can to help Cecil. This, along with the money pressures put onto George and Bess by keeping a Queen in their household who has certain living standards and wants the best of everything causes more anguish because Bess can see her finances dwindling so fast that she believes she may have to sell her beloved properties and treasures. The book goes from 1568 to 1572, the first three years out of the 19 years that Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned.

                        My thoughts on the Book


                        I found this book very easy to read and difficult to put down. If you have enjoyed Philippa's other Tudor Court series then you will enjoy this. The book is 437 pages long but most of the chapters are between three and five pages long. The book is set in the picturesque hills and countryside of Derbyshire, which is where we live. I could picture the characters riding between the estates of Tutbury Castle, Wingfield Manor and Chatsworth House. Although knowing that Wingfield Manor (about 5 miles from my home) is now a ruin owned by the English Heritage and is only open by appointment, I found it difficult to imagine people living in the manor. The book is based on historical facts.

                        At the end of the book are extracts from Philippa Gregory's website where fans have asked her questions about her writing and her books. Website address www.philippagregory.com.


                        This book cost me £3.86 from tesco.com with a recommended retail price of £7.99 or is available from Amazon for £3.20.

                        Other books by Philippa Gregory set in the Tudor Court period.


                        The Other Boleyn Girl - Based on two sisters Mary and Anne Boleyn both vying for the affections of Henry VIII - 2001

                        The Queens Fool - Follows a young servant girl stuck in the middle of Henry VIII three children, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth - 2003 (This info is taken from Wikipedia as it is the only book I haven't read)


                        The Virgins Lover - Based on a love affair between Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley - 2004

                        The Constant Princess - Follows the Life of Henry VIII first wife Catherine of Aragon - 2005


                        The Boleyn Inheritance - Covers Henry VIII's forth and fifth wives Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard - 2006

                        The Other Queen - 2008


                        Many thanks for reading. Anna


                        This reviw can be found on other review site by me.

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                          20.05.2009 11:58

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                          Worth a read

                          I am an enormous Phillipa Gregory fan and having read all of her historical novels I was waiting for this one to be published for some time.

                          It is the first book she has released in a while that isn't written directly about one of the Tudor Monarchs (although it features Elizabeth the first, the primary focus is on Mary Queen of Scots) so although I love the authors writing style I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as previous books.

                          The book focuses on the triangle between Mary Queen of Scots, Her "jailer" George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and his new wife Bess of Hardwick. George and Bess have only just been married when Mary's appearance in England causes Elizabeth to ask them to offer Mary 'sanctuary' which in truth is imprisoning her until Elizabeth makes a decision as to what to do with her.

                          The book is written in the voices of the three main characters Bess, George and Mary and tells the story from their three very different viewpoints.

                          It shows Mary continuously plotting to escape, Bess plotting against George to try to protect her wealth, George falling in love with Mary and Elizabeth plotting against everyone.

                          It is brilliantly written if not a bit predictable but easy to say if you already know what the outcome will be!

                          Admittedly I didn't enjoy it as much as I have done with her previous books - I felt that it was a bit stretched out but I guess that was necessary to do justice to the story.

                          I bought it in hardback for £18.99 but it is available from Amazon for £9.93 or paperback for £3.86. Personally I think hardback is easier to read but obviously more expensive. Hardback books also keep better.

                          A good book but potentially a bit boring if the history doesn't interest you.

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                          28.04.2009 15:33
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                          Recommended

                          Due to my obsession with all things Tudor I purchased a copy of The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory. I've read The Other Boleyn Girl by the same author and found it hard to put down so I knew I'd like this. The Other Queen is about Mary Queen of Scots and starts at the point where she has to flee Scotland after her second husband Lord Darnley was found murdered in the grounds of her estate. Mary was widely believed to be the murderess along with James Hepburn the 4th Earl of Bothwell who she then married. The Scots forced her to abdicate and she came to England seeking help from Elizabeth I who was her father's cousin.

                          The book starts at the point where she arrives in England and rather than be given the help she desires Elizabeth has her arrested. The bone of contention between the two of them was the English throne. Elizabeth had been declared illegitimate by Henry VIII and although she was quite obviously his daughter he never changed this status before he died. Mary thought because of this she had more claim to the English throne than Elizabeth and set about plotting and scheming to make it hers.

                          Elizabeth had her arrested and put into the care of George Talbot and his wife Bess who were the Lord and Lady Shrewsbury. At first they considered this to be a great honour and could see themselves gaining status, power and wealth from assisting Elizabeth in such a way but it wasn't to be.

                          The story is told from three viewpoints, Mary, Bess and George. Mary is portrayed as a daredevil, willing to risk anything to get the English and Scottish thrones and also a great beauty who could bewitch almost any man. It seems she was actually quite good at getting men to do her bidding as she managed to get several of the Lords of Elizabeth's court to raise the northerners in an uprising on her behalf and if it hadn't been for the Spanish letting her down after promising involvement they would have undoubtedly won.

                          Often there are letters in Mary's part of the story as she was in regular contact with a host of supporters even though she had been banned from contacting any of them. Servants who were previously intensely loyal to Bess and George switched sides and helped deliver and receive correspondance on Mary's behalf.

                          George's part in the story really highlights his conflicted loyalties. Not only was he loyal to Elizabeth but he also fell for Mary's beauty and charm and found himself loyal to her as well. Not only was there that problem but also he found he no longer felt the same about his wife Bess once he had seen the graceful Mary so he was in turmoil. Unable to completely rebel against Elizabeth but completely in love with Mary he came close to being accused of treason a couple of times. He was blind to Mary's plotting and lies and couldn't see she was just using him.

                          Bess is the staid character in the story. She had been born into a poor family and a few marriages later had achieved the status of a wealthy woman in her own right. Of course in those days this was not common and once she married George he owned her wealth. Bess is portrayed as primarily concerned about her dwindling fortune as Elizabeth doesn't pay the allowance she promised for the upkeep of Mary. Mary is treated like a queen and her stay almost bankrupts them, especially as it runs into years. Bess is also aware of her husband's feelings for Mary and often her chapters turn into a bitch fest! She resented both the financial problems of Mary's stay and was insanely jealous of Mary's hold on her husband.

                          The book is alot slower than The Other Boleyn Girl and didn't have me as gripped but it still held my interest very well. The section where George, Bess and Mary have to flee to another property because the northeners are on their way to free Mary and will kill anyone who tries to stop them is very well written and you can feel the fear and tension as they try to outrun the army.

                          We don't hear alot from Elizabeth, she only features in a couple of conversations with George which I think is a shame, I would have preferred her to have a chapter here and there too. Her frustration with Mary and her constant plotting must have driven her crazy, I think under the circumstances she was actually very patient!

                          George is enough to make any female reader want to shake him, his stupidity and blind faith in Mary is infuriating to read and eventually leads to Bess leaving him. But again it is well written, it must be to provoke this kind of reaction.

                          Mary is extremely persistant and never gives up hope that Bothwell will come and save her or an army will come and free her. She is a first class schemer and I'm surprised she wasn't executed alot sooner. She manages to get a number of people executed for trying to help her and seemingly feels no remorse over this. Her chapters are quite sly and even though she knew George and Bess were in grave danger several times because of her plots she did nothing to try and avoid this. Her heart seemed to be with Bothwell even as she flirted with George and every other man who came her way.

                          Bess was clearly the brains in her marriage and her sections see her as infuriated by Mary, the scheming, George's idiotic infatuation with her and the lack of funds provided by Elizabeth. She seems to have despaired to be caught in such a situation that as a woman at that time she could do little about. At times her obsession about money gets on the nerves of the reader though, it really is unrelenting.

                          This book is very interesting if you want to read about the relationship between Mary, George and Bess with snippets of politics and uprisings thrown in. It is more about the three of them though and how they all deal with being forced to live together for many years. It has the expected elements of jealousy, intrigue, unrequited love and utter frustration but not as much about the relationship between the two Queens as I would have liked.

                          Still I recommend it to any Tudor fans, it's not strictly factual but has most of the facts imbedded in the story but it does make for a good love triangle read with a twist! Currently selling at Amazon for £3.84.

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