Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Review: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
My review: 4 stars

I find Philippa Gregory's novels to be a nice escape from reality and a way to learn a bit about history (although I know that not all that she writes is TRUE, per se). At least it gives me a flavor for the history.

I read this one via audiobook. The narrator was very good and I liked her narration of the story. This book was very interesting because it focuses on a time in English history that I didn't have a lot of context for beyond the whole "War of the Roses" name. I didn't really know the players or the true history behind the name until I read this book. I found it fascinating to read about Elizabeth Woodville and King Edward IV who I knew so little about before this book. If nothing else, the book did get me to go do some reading up on the War of the Roses as well as the "Princes in the Tower" mystery. Very interesting and cut throat time in history!

I enjoyed this book a great deal but have to say that it is not Gregory's best. I liked the book overall - found the story compelling, the writing was fine, the characters engaging. What bothered me more than anything was the repetition. Sometimes I felt like screaming - OK, I GET IT!!!!! Move it along, please. This didn't happen often but when it did, it was frustrating! The other thing that I found difficult with the novel was the use of magic and the use of the goddess within the plot. Although I certainly buy that the characters may have believed in/practiced magic, it frustrated me that Gregory used it as something very real in the plot of the novel. It was really used as a tactic for plot development and she made the magic a true force of change in the book. Which gave the book less 'realness' than it would have had otherwise. It gave it a bit more of a mystical touch than I would have liked to have seen. I will note that she herself has an author's note at the end of the novel that basically states that there is more fiction in this novel than fact given the time period and the lack of information available for the time period. She discusses the liberties she took with the historical record. I appreciated the note but would, ultimately, have liked to have seen less mysticism in order to feel that the novel was more 'grounded' than it appeared.

That said, the story was engaging overall and Gregory did an excellent job of highlighting the brutality and treachery that was such a huge part of royal life during this time period. I enjoyed learning more about this time in history and look forward to reading more of this particular series (I believe this is the first book in a series). I definitely recommend this one if you like historical fiction or if you have an interest in this time in history!

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