Thursday, 24 November 2011

Book Thoughts: The Lady of Rivers By Philippa Gregory

   So, I'm calling this post 'Book Thoughts' because, frankly, I'm not very good at doing full book reviews, but sometimes I want to say something about books that I've read and I figured 'thoughts' was the best way to explain it. On occasion, if I feel it's necessary, I will write an entire review. Especially about books that are not as well known.

Last night I stayed up late finishing Philippa Gregory's latest addition to her novels about 'The Cousin's War', The Lady of Rivers. The book is about Jacquetta of Luxembourg, mother of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen to Edward IV of England (Elizabeth is the narrator of the first book in the series, The White Queen).
This book was interesting on a variety of levels - it didn't irritate me in some of the ways that the other books in the series have; in earlier books I wasn't pleased with the first person present tense narration, and with The Red Queen I was left wanting to know more. Which is interesting that Gregory was able to weave the story she did when she said in the author's note that there is not a lot of information about Jacquetta, and with the wealth of information about the subjects of the other two books they felt a bit lacking.
The love story between Jacquetta and Richard Woodville, a servant of her first husband and her second husband, was quite remarkable. The passion between the two of them was lovely to read.
I was overwhelmed by how much I liked Margaret of Anjou, one of the 'she wolves' of medieval england and remarkable woman in her own right - but I find this happens with Gregory's books quite a bit. The narrator's story is interesting, but there is always a captivating character that is close to the narrator that knocks your socks off. In this case, it was Margaret of Anjou and Joan of Arc. Margaret took on her husband's country when he essentially lost his mind, roused an army and fought like a true warrior, all to protect the inheritance of her young son. Can't help but respect that.
My favorite part of the book was the parts with Joan of Arc, and the impact that she had on the entire story. I was always curious about the point of view of the people that were around her, what people thought about what happened to her. I think that Jacquetta's sympathizing with her seemed genuine, and I wondered if this was something common. But, this was the real stand out section of the book. All of my irritations with parts of the previous books were redeemed when I read the parts with Joan - Gregory seemed to be in her element, and it was reminiscent of my favorite book by her 'The Queen's Fool'. I'm even going to try to incorporate Joan's sign for the wheel of fortune in my day to day life.

My thought about this book is that if you're a fan of Gregory, it is a must read. If you're interested in a different perspective of The Cousin's War from a key player, it is also worth the read. If you're at all interested in Joan of Arc, it is definitely worth the read. Her part of the story, the impact she had, really makes you think.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Influence of Mary

I wanted to take an opportunity to say something about some of the ideas that influence me.. I always get questions, as most creative people do, that are along the lines of 'where do you get your ideas', so I thought I'd take some time out now to discuss how a particular idea blossomed.
I, as many other people, am an insane lover of historical fiction. Through that, I discovered the Tudor period.
When I'm reading I immediately gravitate to strong female characters - especially those who have survived in a 'man's world' and turned it on their head. So when I started reading about the Tudor period Anne Boleyn was one of my favorites from the beginning, The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory one of the books that nurtured that affection. But as I continued to read on, I learned about the other women of the period that defied order, and a well opened up.
With women like Marguerite of Angoulême, Mary Queen of Scots, Jane Bolyen, and Johanna the Mad, how could a reader not fall in love? It took me some time, and after learning about all these other women I stumbled upon the two Mary's, as I call them.
First, Mary Rose Tudor, Henry VIII sister. Married to the aged King of France and when he died she defied everyone and married her brother's best friend and favorite, Charles Brandon, for love. It's a story for the ages, I must say. The fact that she would even consider pissing off Henry VIII says a LOT about her personality.
Second, and most of all, Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.
Those of us girls who grew up in a broken home can really identify with Mary - cast aside by a father she adored for his new woman, I know it's something that I experienced. When I first heard her story I felt like I'd found a kindred spirit, and even though I might not agree with many of the things she did as Queen there are aspects of her personality I understand. The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory was what started the love, I Am Mary Tudor by Hilda Lewis continued to nurture it.
And so, with Mary in mind, I went out looking for bastard female children of royalty - I wanted to know what happened to them, if they were able to overcome such a label and what went on in their lives. At first, I thought I might write about Mary, and I still might, but that wasn't the story I was meant to write at the time.

Then I stumbled on the myth, legend, whatever you may call it, that Elizabeth Bathory, famed Blood Countess and first female serial killer, had a daughter out of wedlock before she was married.
And, there it was. There was my story. This unnamed, unconfirmed girl was the child of one of the most infamous ladies in history, and she may have never known it.
But, in my mind, she found it in way that most would not expect.

Suggested Historical Fiction, about the Women I named earlier:
Mademoiselle Boleyn By Robin Maxwell
The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn By Robin Maxwell
The Boleyn Inherritance By Philippa Gregory
The Other Queen By Philippa Gregory
The Last Queen By C.W Gortner
I, Elizabeth By Rosalind Miles
Mary, Queen of France by Jean Plaidy

I know a lot of people have things to say about Philippa Gregory. I am a fan of hers, so I would appreciate if you choose to comment on this post that you not comment on your feelings about her. Thank you very much.
And, Sarah Bolger as Mary Tudor and Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn were excellent in The Tudors.