Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The White Queen - Philippa Gregory

Rating: 7/10

I'm not Philippa Gregory's biggest fan, but I have enjoyed some of her books like The Constant Princess and The Boleyn Inheritance, while I thought books such as The Other Boleyn Girl were overrated. Gregory's talent of weaving history into a racy, thrilling plot is definitely the main reason I keep going back to her books, even if I don't think they are the best books ever. 

The White Queen is proof again of why Gregory is definitely a master at her field. The story of Elizabeth Woodwille, a Lancastrian widow who marries King Edward IV of York and lives through the War of the Roses, is narrated at a swift pace that makes it a great page-turner. The ingredient that makes for most of her novels is  in place here too: a strong, feisty heroine fighting to keep herself and her children victorious. 

Elizabeth Woodwille is a ruthless, ambitious, often unforgiving woman with many a grudge to hold. She cares about nobody except herself, her family and her husband. She is often not at all easy to like. Yet, I found myself sympathising with her several times for being a lone woman, standing strong and fighting for herself and her children. For all her cunning, wicked and sly behaviour, when it comes to her children, Elizabeth is remarkably  loving and emotional:

'I am not nursing him for the sake of York, I am nursing him for love. I do not want him to thrive to be a prince. I want him to thrive to be a strong boy. This is my baby boy. I cannot bear to lose him as I lost his sister.'

This book is set in a period strewn with wars, which can make the tale boring if not portrayed in the right doses, which Gregory does here. The characters in the book are scheming all the time with one often looking for just the opportunity to overthrow the other. This is of course a scenario that gets tedious at times, especially if you can't really sympathise with one 'side' or the other. The fable of Melusina, the water goddess, is also woven into this book in a way that adds to the mystique element of the story without seeming too pointless.

I went into this book knowing next to nothing about the Wars of the Roses or indeed even the mystery of the Princes in the Tower, both of which are skilfully narrated in the story. Gregory brings history to life and spices it up with witty exchanges and interesting dialogues. By the time I finished the book, I was looking forward to reading more about the Plantagenets and the House of York. Gregory, in her author's note, explains clearly the factual and fictional portions of her book which is helpful for the reader who is a novice in this period of history. 

I definitely enjoyed reading The White Queen and would certainly recommend it to fans of historical fiction. The Plantagenets are just as interesting as the Tudors and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of Gregory's books about them.


Hannah Stoneham said...

Very interesting. I've always been rather fascinated by Elizabeth Woodville.

Thanks for sharing


Anonymous said...

I loved The Other Boleyn Girl, that was my first of Phillipa , but The bOleyn Inheritence really dissapointed me.. after that I didn't go back, but this sounds not too bad maybe I can give it a try.

Tales of Whimsy said...

Superb review :)

Priya Parmar said...

i loved this too! gorgeous review!

i have an award for you at the plum bean!

Kals said...

Hannah - I hadn't heard of Elizabeth Woodwille before but I was very fascinated by her in the book!

BookswithCoffee- I'm the opposite. I felt The Other Boleyn Girl was mediocre while I liked The Boleyn Inheritance more. But if you like any of Gregory's books, I'm sure this one is worth a read.

Juju - Thanks! :)

Priya - Thank you so much!! :)

Grad said...

Serendipitous is how I would describe reading this post after landing on your blog for the first time. First, I've thought about getting this book for quite awhile. Now I really want to read it. Second, I just finished reading Shakespeare's Henry VI which has the War of the Roses as one of its main themes. So, this post is very current for me.

Heather G. said...

I still have yet to read one of her books, but I really enjoyed the movie of the Other Bolyn Girl. They are just soooo long. I really need to find time for one of them! Great review!

Whitney said...

Great review! I've never read anything by Philippa Gregory but have had numerous others recommend them. Unlike the Tudors I know next to nothing of the Plantagenets, maybe this would be a better introduction.

BookQuoter said...

Thanks for the review. I am encouraged to read this. I was also disappointed with the "Other Boleyn Girl' so I have stayed away, but I will give this a try.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like this is better than The Other Boleyn Girl, which I felt was a bit too soap-operaish.

Anonymous said...

I loved The other Boleyn Girl. Thought it was fabulous. Hated Boleyn Inheritance...didn't even finish it.
I'll totally go for this one though. Thanks for the review!

Vaishnavi said...

I saw this in Landmark the other day and almost picked it up but I ended up buying the latest two installments of the Vampire Academy series instead :-D Another awesome review, I have seen documentaries on the Boleyn girls and have some sort of fascination with the life of Henry VIII especially. What a heartless man he was! I will definifely put this on on my list :)

Kals said...

Grad - I need to read Henry VI soon! It's amazing when we find relevant posts! It's an amazing coincidence :)

Heather - Thanks! I haven't seen The Other Boleyn Girl movie, but I'd like to. Eric Bana is usually quite good =)

Whitney - Thanks. This definitely will be a great introduction to the Plantagenets. Gregory points out in her author note that they're even more fascinating than the Tudors!

BookQuoter - Thanks! I hope you give this book a try :)

Nishita - This is definitely better than The Other Boleyn Girl. And I agree with you about the soap opera feel! It makes for fast reading though.

Mrs. B - I'm exactly the opposite, lol. But I hope you enjoy this book =)

Vaishnavi - Henry VIII was a terrible man, but definitely makes for a fascinating read! I hope you like this book :)


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