Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The White Queen - Philippa Gregory

The Cousins' War
Book One

Philippa Gregory, "the queen of royal fiction,"* presents the first of a new series set amid the deadly feuds of England known as the Wars of the Roses.

Brother 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.
*USA Today

Title: The White Queen
Genre: Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publisher: A Touchstone Book, Published by Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 18, 2009
Source: Borrowed from library
My Rating: 4/5

This book chronicles the tumultuous reign of Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen and her husband, King Edward IV. She was a woman of astounding beauty, a widow, and young mother who wanted to claim the land and fortune taken by her mother-in-law after her first husband's death. She broached the subject to the young King of York, and he granted her wish, and then some. They married secretly, and once he was officially pronounced King of England, he announced that he had married, and so the reign of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, and King Edward IV began.
This was my first historical fiction read by Philippa Gregory, and I quite enjoyed it. The history from this era was recreated vividly, and plausible explanations were given for certain scenarios in history that are still unsolved. The Princes in the Tower being one of the unsolved mysteries of said time. I love history, but haven't read that much historical fiction. That said, this isn't a time period that I know much about, so I really enjoyed reading Gregory's version of Plantagenet life.
Elizabeth was an intriguing character. She was very much a mother, and cared for her children, but she also cared for her throne. She quickly arranged marriages for her siblings to those in higher positions, therefore securing her position as queen. She was a loving, yet ruthless and bitter woman. She held lifelong grudges, and she apparently was a witch who also had the Sight. The only thing I didn't find "real" in this book, was that key points in battle hinged on Elizabeth's use of witchcraft, and the resolution of said "crafting". It just didn't feel plausible that every spell, or working cast provided results. However the mystery generated with the disappearance, or death of the princes in the Tower was captivating. I know even now, that I am left wondering what actually happened to them.
All in all, Gregory deftly weaves a brilliant tale of history merged with fiction, bringing the characters, and era to life with just a few words. A plausible explanation of the mystery surrounding the princes in the Tower, and a tale of Houses divided, which will resonate with readers for some time. An excellent start to the Wars of the Roses.


(Bookish)InABox said...

Great review! I absolutely love Philippa Gregory and have been wondering about her more recent works. I'll have to pick this up soon.

Ebony McKenna. said...

I loved this book, and also one of her earlier books The Constant Princess. Gregory is so good, I feel like she can transport me through time.

As a history nerd, it's so magical to live in the times of these characters - but there are also times in the books where I think 'how would anyone know what two people said in private?' She takes liberties, but the story is all the better for it.

She's a very good storyteller - and I love the mystery of the princes in the tower. Have you ever seen the first season of Blackadder? They solve that one too - with tongue firmly in cheek.

Anonymous said...

I've got the second book but I haven't read this one. I love Philippa and I hope to read this. Great review!

Corrine said...

Bookish - Thank you. I really enjoyed this one, and I hope you get a chance to read it soon! :)

Ebony - I will have to check out The Constant Princess and add it to my reading list!
I agree, but it's definitely excellent to get a feel for the characters through her vision, eh? :)
I haven't seen Blackadder, what's it about? I'll have to check it out! :)

Kailia - I hope you are enjoying The Red Queen, and yes, you should definitely read this one as well! It was good! :)

Ebony McKenna. said...

Hope this works:

Blackadder - ep 1 introduction.

Corrine said...

Ebony - Thank you for posting the link, I just checked it out, and it must be tongue in cheek if Rowan Atkinson is in it! :D

Lisa R said...

If you enjoyed this one be sure and check out her Tudor Wives Books they were excellent, as were the royal gardener books.

Lea (YA Book Queen) said...

Nice review! This sounds like an interesting story,