Newest Review: ... 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 Quee... more
2 Queens claiming 1 Country = Trouble
The Other Queen - Philippa Gregory
Member Name: luckyarchers
The Other Queen - Philippa Gregory
Date: 07/07/09, updated on 03/12/13 (266 review reads)
Advantages: Great insight into power struggles from 1568-1587.
Disadvantages: Plot spoilers on cover.
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)
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd; hardcover edition (21 Aug 2008)
Summary: Story of Mary Queen of Scots' involuntary stay with the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury.