Review: The White Queen (The Cousins’ War #1) ~ Philippa Gregory

The white QueenBrother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.

The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown. From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores this most famous unsolved mystery of English history, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills.

With The White Queen, Philippa Gregory brings the artistry and intellect of a master writer and storyteller to a new era in history and begins what is sure to be another bestselling classic series from this beloved author.

1 Thumbs-UpAs with anything to do with the War of the Roses research, and in-depth good research has to be a key to writing a riveting book.  Regardless of personal feelings the aim is to create a piece of fiction that supporters of both Houses will enjoy, unfortunately this was not the case this with book or series.  Yes, despite not liking this book one bit, I gave it the benefit of the doubt and read the whole lot of them.  What a waste of time and a big disappointment for me.

As with most written works on this time period, there are many different ways the story can be related, and from many different points of view; be it that from a purely Lancastrian bent or from the idealised House of York side, this Author threw all this out of the window and took a route that was so unbelievable it almost made me think that, despite the main characters being based in history this could easily have been a fantasy novel.

This neatly brings me onto the issue of characters.  With so much material available to a good researcher, the way in which this Author treats her characters is an insult to them and the period of time they inhabited.  The central character and the person who the title surrounds, it depicted as a witch.  What more can I say, not much really.  Anything and everything bad that befalls those around her is attributed to witchcraft from the first meeting with Edward IV right up to the withering of Richard III sword arm.  At every opportunity this woman bleats on about the death of her Father and Brother so much that I found myself at yet another bemoaning of this event telling her to move on, it’s the times you live in, everyone suffered during the war of the Roses.   It wasn’t Elizabeth of Woodville that I disliked, love her or hate her she is historically portrayed as a strong and opinionated woman for her time, definitely a force to be reckoned with especially when the reader considers that she managed to remain as Queen through some very turbulent times; what I disliked was I felt the Author took the easy way out when writing about her, it’s a lot easier to run with the same old witchcraft guff than develop a true to life character.  I could go into in-depth detail about the mistreatment of her other characters too, but that would take me almost as long to write this review, if not longer, than it did for the Author to write the book.  What I will say though is Margaret Beaufort, really?  The Author needs to be grateful that these people are not around to read her depiction of them.

When it comes to the rest of the book, either this part was missing in mine or the Author chose to ignore a definite historical fact, what happened to Middleham Castle where Anne and Richard spent a great deal of time and where their son was born?  Why does the Author have them constantly hanging out at Warwick Castle?  This is the main reason that this book received the 1 thumb review it has, the facts were either just not there or extremely loosely adapted for the book.

I can’t, with a clear conscience recommend this book to anyone, and I have a suspicion diehard fans of this Author may have a hard time liking this, amnd defintiely not like the review I have just written.  However, if you do enjoy reading about this period of time, and especially about the House of York (I wrote my Masters dissertation on them) I would highly recommend Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour as it relies more on history and has some very strong characters.

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Review: The King’s Grave: The Discovery of Richard III’s Lost Burial Place and the Clues It Holds ~ Philippa Langley, Michael Jones

The Kings graveThe first full-length book about the discover of Richard III’s remains by the person who led the archeology team and the historian whose book spurred her on

The mystery of who Richard III really was has fascinated historians, readers and audiences familiar with Shakespeare’s dastardly portrait of a hunchback monster of royalty for centuries. Earlier this year, the remains of a man with a curving spine, who possible was killed in battle, were discovered underneath the paving of a parking lot in Leicester, England. Phillipa Langley, head of The Richard III Society, spurred on by the work of the historian Michael Jones, led the team of who uncovered the remains, certain that she had found the bones of the monarch. When DNA verification later confirmed that the skeleton was, indeed, that of King Richard III, the discovery ranks among the great stories of passionate intuition and perseverance against the odds. The news of the discovery of Richard’s remains has been widely reported by the British as well as worldwide and was front page news for both theNew York Times and The Washington Post. Many believe that now, with King Richard III’s skeleton in hand, historians will finally begin to understand what happened to him following the Battle of Bosworth Field (twenty miles or so from Leicester) and, ultimately, to know whether he was the hateful, unscrupulous monarch of Shakespeare’s drama or a much more benevolent king interested in the common man. Written in alternating chapters, with Richard’s 15th century life told by historian Michael Jones (author of the critically acclaimed Bosworth – 1485) contrasting with the 21st century eyewitness account of the search and discovery of the body by Philippa Langley, The King’s Grave will be both an extraordinary portrait of the last Plantagenet monarch and the inspiring story of the archaeological dig that finally brings the real King Richard III into the light of day.

5 Thumbs-UpThis is definitely not a dry history book, and for those who know next to nothing about Richard III they will receive an almost personal history lesson about this Monarch as they progress through the book.  This is an extraordinarily user friendly book.

The chapters in the book alternate between the story of searching for, and eventually finding the grave of Richard III and his factual history, and it is not the one everyone is familiar with  and painted by Shakespeare and the victor of Bosworth Field.  However, in reading this book it soon becomes apparent that this is more than a simple recounting of an archaeological dig; it is very personal to the Author and that comes through in their writing.  The book is loaded with an impressive amount of information, both about the search itself and, as I’ve already noted, the history of this King, but it s the delivery of this information that really impressed me.  There is not a point in this book where the delivery becomes stale and dusty, the Authors managed to make every part of it enjoyable to the reader.

The sections of the book that cover the identification of the remains, and the scientific techniques used are equally as interesting as the descriptive scenes of the battle that took the Kings life.  They covered disputes and grievances between the House of York and the House of Tudor with great tact and never once came out in favour of one House or the other.  This book will also serve to dispel some of the images people have that Richard III was just an all-round evil man; it informs the reader of all the good he did for the country and shows him in the context of the world he lived in.  Through the Authors writing skills the reader is introduced to a man of deep convictions and courage whilst at the same time showing he was definitely not a saint.

The great strength of this book is that it captivates like a well-written historical novel while at the same time informing and educating the reader.  This strength kept me up late into the night to finish this book and once again stoke the flames of my love of history.  Richard III, the last King of England to come from the House of York and the last Plantagenet King found his champions in these hard working people, and will finally have the burial a Monarch deserves, particularly one of such fame.

I highly recommend this book to lovers of all forms of history, plus those who want to learn a little more about this period of time in England.

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