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Power Struggles in the Wars of the Roses
The White Queen - Philippa Gregory
Member Name: KLockwood75
The White Queen - Philippa Gregory
Advantages: Fascinating story, page-turner, gives an insight into that period of history
Disadvantages: May not be entirely historically accurate
The White Queen is the latest in Philippa Gregory's series of historical novels. It is set slightly earlier in history than books such as 'The Other Boleyn Girl' and 'The Other Queen', swapping the Tudor / Elizabethan era for the 'War of the Roses' when the Houses of York and Lancaster battled for the throne of England.
The heroine of this novel is Elizabeth Woodville (who is also known as Lady Elizabeth Grey). Her family are linked to the House of Lancaster, but after her husband is killed at the battle of St Albans, she ends up falling in love with the new king, Edward IV, of the House of York after meeting him on the roadside to plead for the restoration of her lands. They end up marrying in secret, against the wishes of his advisor, and she is then crowned as Queen.
However, the turbulent times in which they are living means that their reign as King and Queen is a constantly troubled one. There are many battles to face and challenges to the throne, from both within the royal family and from the House of Lancaster. Throughout this story, Elizabeth struggles to protect her family (both the children from her previous marriage and the nine children that she bears to Edward IV) from what is going on in their country and they end up seeking sanctuary / protection on many occasions.
The characterisation in this story is very strong. Elizabeth is portrayed as a strong woman who will do whatever it takes to protect those she loves - even if that means resorting to the witchcraft techniques used by her ambitious mother Jacquetta, a dangerous tactic in a society where the penalty for use of witchcraft is death. I loved the way that she was presented in so many different lights, as a strong Queen, a loving mother and as a bit of an enchantress at the same time. The characters of the three brothers of the York Royal Family - Edward IV, George and Richard (later Richard III) - and their characters and relationships are crucial to the way the story unfolds.
I'm not sure of the historical accuracy of the story as it isn't a period of history that I know that much about. The little bits I know are mostly from the stories of the Princes in the Tower (Elizabeth and Edward's sons) and from bits of the Shakespeare plays, but I found it a fascinating story which made me want to know more about the period. Obviously a bit of artistic licence has been used in the parts of the story which focus on the 'magic' used by Elizabeth and her mother, as well as the interwoven story of the River Goddess Melusina, but I feel that this enhances the story rather than spoils it.
At the moment, this book is only out in hardback, but Amazon have the release date for the paperback edition as April 2010.
Overall, like virtually all of Philippa Gregory's books, this is a novel which I really enjoyed and kept me turning the pages right to the end. It is part of a new series, entitled 'The Cousins' War' about the 'Wars of the Roses' and I am really looking forward to the next instalment. I would definitely recommend this book.
Summary: A gripping read for fans of historical fiction