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Gregory on Top Form Again
The White Queen - Philippa Gregory
Member Name: flodombey
The White Queen - Philippa Gregory
Advantages: Wonderful, easy to read, completely indulgent
Disadvantages: Lots of Edwards and Richards to get your head round
Being a fan of Philippa Gregory's series of books on the Tudor dynasty I was very much looking forward to getting my teeth into this, her first attempt at the predecessors of the Tudors, the Plantagenets. I took this book on holiday with me and devoured it in 2 days - yet again Gregory manages to weave a wonderful story around the historical characters and creates a book which is very difficult to put down!
This book focusses on the life of Elizabeth Woodville, who as a widow meets the young Edward IV and falls in love with him. Secretly married, against the wishes of the kings advisor Lord Warwick, she becomes Queen Consort and bears him 9 children including 2 sons who will later become the infamous 'Princes in the Tower'.
Following her life on the rocky road of being Queen to a King who is in and out of power against the backdrop of the Wars of the Roses - referrered to as the Cousins War here as everyone is loosely related, it charts the life and death of Edward, the inheritance of the throne by his and Elizabeth's son Edward V and his subsequently being userped by his uncle, the much maligned Richard III.
I really liked the way Elizabeth was portrayed as such as strong and resourceful woman in this novel. Having read quite a lot of the factual history behind the era I feel that Gregory went down the correct path with this portrait of her and that it made for a cracking good read because of this. One thing I wasnt so sure on was the constant references to witchcraft which, whilst I know it was a real accusation against her and her mother at the time, bordered on stumbling into fantasy levels here.
The characters of the three royal brothers, King Edward, Prince Richard and Prince George were painted in vivid detail and were just how I imagine them to have been, Edward as the conquering hero and the other two as over-indulged and rather ungrateful siblings. It really worked.
Later in the novel the relationship between Elizabeth and her eldest daughter, also called Elizabeth, is touching and believable and I really enjoyed this.
Gregory paints an entirely vivid and genuine feeling scene and writes so engagingly that you simply get drawn into the story. I absolutely loved it and this is one of those books where I felt like I was being incredibly indulgent to just let myself get lost in it and read it for 2 or 3 hours at a time.
There are moments when the emotion is so intense that I was almost in tears, Gregory is an expert and capturing the intensity of situations and the story of Elizabeth Woodville is such that at times you absolutely feel for her appalling situation and are shocked at the brutality of the world in which she lives.
There is nothing really bad about this novel, only a few minor niggles - as I have previously said its a little weak around the witchcraft issue and to my mind it could have done without some of the elements of this. I struggled to reconcile the validity of the historical set pieces (which I know to have actually happened) with the image of Elizabeth and her mother conjuring up a storm.
The amount of Edwards and Richards can be a bit confusing at times and I did need to refer back to the family tree to keep a track of things, this is not Gregory's fault however as it simply is the way things really were.
A fascinating and appetite whetting insight into the Plantagenets, I adored it and cannot wait for the next installment now. For me it makes a refreshing change to come away from the Tudors and exploring new territory and Gregory manages to retain her formidable style in writing about this equally compelling era of history.
Summary: Another classic from Gregory which is a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in history