Currently on Loan from the Library:
Eleanore of Aquitaine by Alison Weir
The Life of Elizabeth by Alison Weir
Other Books I’m Reading:
Mostly pattern books while looking for perfect Christmas gifts to knit.
It is unusual for me to develop a love/hate relationship with an author. I pretty much love the authors I love and hate all the others. So Phillippa Gregory holds a special place on my private library shelves. Many of her historical works like The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen are very enjoyable to me. On the other hand many of her works like The Fallen Skies stop me cold. She also wrote The Wise Woman. Which has the distinction of being one of the stupidest books I’ve read all the way through. Of course what does it say about me that I finished the darn thing???
All that said, I was excited to hear that Phillippa was taking on the War of the Roses. It’s no small task, if for no other reason than there are a positively indecent number of Henrys, Richards, and Edwards running around. I really enjoyed The White Queen which is the story of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV of England, and mother of one of my favorite people in history Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth Woodville was also the mother of the very famous and tragic Edward V of England and his little brother Richard. The Princes who were kidnapped by their uncle, and probably killed in the Tower of London. Which makes the last half of The White Queen down right heart breaking.
The Lady of the Rivers, is about the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, Jacquetta of Luxembourg. I confess I’d never really spared a thought for the life of Elizabeth Woodville’s mother before I picked up this book. It turns out I certainly should have. Jacquetta pulled something that comes up more often in the lives of women in the era than I would have thought before I started reading history books. She was married off at seventeen to the Duke of Bedford, one of the regents for King Henry VI of England. When the Duke who is about twenty-five years her senior, dies just over two years after the wedding Jacquetta revolts. About two years later, she marries a mere knight for love, and in secret. And then proceeds to produce sixteen children including a future Queen Consort of England. Neatly proving her first marriage was probably childless because of the Duke.
That scenario of the rich widow marrying down and in secret turns up all over the time period. Famously, Mary Boleyn, Catherine of Valois, and Mary Tudor. Okay, some people will dispute Mary Tudor. Still, after being even briefly Queen of France, marrying an English Duke is marrying down.
There is a lot to like about The Lady of the Rivers. The plot moves forward pretty rapidly, so it’s an interesting read. There are lots of wars and rumors of wars. Phillippa does a good job of keeping many repetitively named characters separated for the reader. No easy task. It’s also nice the book ends on a happy note. For instance, Jacquetta’s trial for witch craft, and the beheading of her husband Baron Rivers happen after the time line of the book. So they do not mar this book which ends with Elizabeth heading out to meet her future husband the King of England.
The only thing I don’t like about this book is it’s handling of Margaret of Anjou the wife of Henry VI of England. Throughout history many young women have been married off to mad Kings. Some of them turn out to be Catherine the Great, some of them don’t. I wonder if Margaret had fought and won would we still characterize her as flighty and ruthless, or would she be creative and courageous. The world may never know.
Enjoyability: Four stars with a bullet. I really want to read The Red Queen now.
Where to read this book: Anywhere. It’s a good solid read, but you won’t want to stab people that interrupt you either. Probably.
Further reading: I am loving Alison Wier’s Eleanor of Aquitaine. Partially because I just love reading about Eleanor, and partially because they had great names in the 12th century. King Sancho Ramirez, Ermengarde and Petronilla just to pick a few.