Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The King's Curse


Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter—Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret’s contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors.

           After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret’s world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and “holiest” woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors.


            I have recently finished devouring the greatly anticipated finale to Philippa Gregory’s Cousin’s War Series entitled The King’s Curse, and I must say it was well worth the wait! In this final installment, Gregory brings the reader into the lavish and dangerous court of King Henry VIII as seen through the eyes of Margaret Pole. Margaret is the close cousin of Elizabeth of York, mother of King Henry VIII. She is the daughter of his uncle George, Duke of Clarence, who was killed for speaking treasonously against his own brother, King Richard. With such a strong link to the throne, Margaret is safely married off to a loyal Knight to ensure that she is not a threat to the reign of King Henry VII, a Tudor and sworn enemy of the York dynasty. She lives in utter anonymity until the fateful day when the newly married Prince of Wales is sent to live under her roof.
As the story opens, Arthur, the Prince of Wales and his young Bride, Katherine of Aragon are being looked after by Margaret, who has been appointed their royal guardian during their honeymoon. Events quickly turn tragic, and Prince Arthur falls ill and dies of the Sweat, leaving poor Katherine a young widow. On his deathbed, Arthur commands Katherine to promise that she will deny that they consummated the marriage, leaving her free to marry his younger brother Henry, who is to be the heir to the throne. Katherine, strong willed just as her mother the Spanish militant Queen Isabella I, heads for London to fulfill her promise to her dying love. Once there, the accusations stir up in regard to her claim of a non-consummated marriage to Arthur, prompting Margaret to be summoned for questions by the overly pious grandmother of the king. Margaret keeps her promise to Katherine and Arthur, and never reveals the knowledge of their honeymoon bliss, insisting that Katherine is a still as pure as the driven snow. Margaret is rewarded by being installed as Queen Katherine’s chief Lady-in-Waiting, beginning a fiercely loyal and loving bond between the two women.
Rumors and turmoil begin to fly around the court as the King openly courts, not one, but two young Boleyn girls, leaving many to wonder what type of king would raise a commoner so high. While many at court privately discuss their displeasure, no one dares confront him on the matter for fear of being on the receiving end of his ever increasing temper. Katherine is publicly shamed with the knowledge that her once dotting husband has allowed not only his eyes, but his heart to stray, leaving her devastated and demeaned in the wake of the Boleyn scandal that all but shattered England. Though it threatens to destroy all that she holds dear, Margaret manages to hold firmly to her beliefs, even when confronted with the choice between her fealty to a pompous and irresponsible King and her love and loyalty for Katherine. This determination to do what is right, however, may very well cost her her life.
 If I have not already expressed this fact, I feel I must disclose out of complete transparency that Philippa Gregory is my favorite author of this genre of historical fiction. I particularly like her way of telling the story not from the obvious voice of the royal involved, but often from a bystander, or from the vantage of someone who merely plays a supporting role. She is a master of finding the strength and fortitude of the women who becomes the storyteller. Also, her attention to historical detail and accuracy speaks volumes to her academic prowess in research and writing. I have previously reviewed the series “The White Queen” that covers the material in this, as well as three other books in the Cousin’s War series. (The White Princess, The Red Queen, and The Kingmaker’s Daughter). I highly recommend the series, both book and film, to anyone interested in this time period.
Now, back to this novel. . . In the final installment of the Cousin’s War, Gregory totally outdoes herself, and writes a book that, even as a standalone, is captivating and full of royal intrigue. This is by no means a Chick-lit book. Oh no! Margaret and Katherine are tough, independent women who stand up for what they believe, regardless the cost. This story does not mince words when it comes to violence and death, allowing the reader an intimate and accurate look into the Tudor Era. As told from the perspective of Margaret Pole, a York royal denied her birthright, The King’s Curse takes you from the elegant, over-the-top court of Henry VIII to the gritty, backroom conspiracies that directed the course of British, and quite possibly world history. It was bittersweet to finish this book knowing it was the last in the series, but I feel as though I have been thoroughly entertained and completely educated given her strict adherence to using a fact based timeline of events. I give this book a full 5 stars, and wait with baited breath to see what Philippa Gregory comes up with next!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Obituary Writer

     On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, an uncompromising young wife and mother obsessed with the glamour of Jackie O, struggles over the decision of whether to stay in a loveless marriage or follow the man she loves and whose baby she may be carrying. Decades earlier, in 1919, Vivien Lowe, an obituary writer, is searching for her lover who disappeared in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. By telling the stories of the dead, Vivien not only helps others cope with their grief but also begins to understand the devastation of her own terrible loss. The surprising connection between Claire and Vivien will change the life of one of them in unexpected and extraordinary ways. Part literary mystery and part love story, The Obituary Writer examines expectations of marriage and love, the roles of wives and mothers, and the emotions of grief, regret, and hope.

(From Goodreads

            The construct of an obituary seems fairly straightforward: Name, birthdate, death date, spouse name, surviving family, military history, employment, etc. . . etc. The generic fashion in which an obituary neatly encloses a person’s life into a few short paragraphs leaves many to wonder, who was this person, really and truly?  The span of a life is much more interesting than just the basic vitals and statistics. It has much more depth and character than the company one was employed by, or the fact that they may or may not have had 15 grandchildren. In the novel The Obituary Writer, Ann Hood allows the reader a unique insight into the world of obituary writing, using two very separate and distinct women in differing eras to show that a person cannot be summed up in a singular way. Instead the multi-faceted nature of a human life is much more complex, and deserves to be expressed in such a way as to give a more accurate impression of the deceased beyond the basic, nonspecific ramblings of modern day obituaries. In the end, the connection between the two will allow them both to find that place of release from grief and guilt that they have carried upon their shoulders like weights.
            In 1906, Vivien is the happiest she has ever been. She has a handsome and wealthy lover, David, whose main purpose in life is to shower her in lavish gifts and expressions his undying love for her. However, that was all about to change. Soon after leaving for work, David goes missing in the Great San Francisco Earthquake. Distraught, Vivien searches the city, looking for any trace of him, to no avail. Fast forward 13 years, the reader finds a mournful and still grieving Vivian working as an obituary writer for the local newspaper. Her obituaries have taken on quite the following, and her talent for conveying the life of the person, not just their statistics, has proved rather profitable. Her own grief being masked by the grief of others, Vivien never completely gives up on finding David, who by this point she assumes has amnesia and is living another life. Fate, in the form of a grief-stricken young woman, was about to run her over like a freight car, leaving her to question everything she thought she knew, including her time with David.
            Leap ahead to the tumultuous and rapidly changing 1960’s. Claire is the quintessential housewife and mother trying to emulate the perceived perfection that was the Camelot Kennedy Era. It’s inauguration day, and while all of the other ladies are taking bets as to the color and print of Jackie O’s dress, Claire is having an internal struggle with her conscience. Should she stay in a somewhat loveless marriage, or run away with her lover, who could quite possibly be the father of the child she is carrying? As the events of the day unfold, a tragic event will either shatter her marriage or bring them closer together, but at what cost? Claire’s devotion and loyalty to her husband is tested, leaving her with more questions than answers. While all along, her own betrayal of her wedding vows eats away at her, threatening to drive her mad.
            Throughout the novel, the theme of feeling trapped runs rampant. In the case of Vivien, she feels as though she is trapped in the same spot, running in circles, ever since the Great Quake. For her, the chapter of David is never really closed until she is able to confirm without a doubt that he has passed on. Claire, too, carries the sensation of being trapped. . .trapped in a unhappy marriage, trapped by guilt over her affair, trapped in the cookie cutter mold of the conventional 1960’s domestic goddess. Both ladies are struggling to break free, but find that they are so paralyzed by their own fears of inadequacy and grief that moving past their hurdles in life seems impossible. Impossible, that is, until they find that they share a connection that neither would have imagined. ( I am purposely dancing around the connection, by the way, to encourage you to read the novel to find out what it is!) Ann Hood uses this connection to wrap these essentially individual short stories together, but in my opinion, it came a bit too late. I think had the reader been trusted with a little more information regarding the connection, it would have made this fluid, easy to read novel a lot more deep and meaningful. Other than that minor flaw, I enjoyed this book. It gives a unique perspective on what it truly meant to be a woman in two very differing and tumultuous times in American history. I give this book 3 ½ stars.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The White


"I was born a white at sea on the way to the New World . . . But I was taken by those whom we called Indians. Nearly speechless for a time, I was beset by terrors." This is the voice of Mary Jemison, who, in 1758, at the age of sixteen, was taken by a Shawnee raiding party from her home near what would become Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In this intimate reimagining of her life story, Mary endures the brutal scalpings of her parents and siblings and is given to two Seneca sisters who treat her as their own--a symbolic replacement for the brother they lost to the white colonists. Renamed Two-Falling-Voices, she gradually becomes integrated into her new family, learning to assist with the hunt and to cultivate corn. She marries a Delaware warrior, raises a family in her adoptive culture, becomes friends with two former slaves, and eventually, remarkably, fulfills her lifelong dream "to own land bordered by sky, as my mother and father had once purchased woods and fields which were dappled with changing light." A testament to the resilience of the human mind and spirit, The White is a cut-crystal narrative of Mary's life among the Seneca, lit by flashes of her own voice and revealing her curious, open heart. From the novel's bloody opening to its arresting conclusion--by her own choice Mary does not return to white society--Deborah Larsen never flinches from the violence and the splendor that marked the settling of the New World.

(From mfpl.org)


There have been a plethora of books written about the young colonial woman, Mary Jemison, who was violently ripped from her family and home near present day Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In The White, Deborah Larsen gives a raw and at times violently graphic account of the events leading up to and after her capture. Mary’s story is a tale so frightening, that one could easily assume that it holds no basis in truth, but that would be a rather large mistake. At the tender age of 16 and terrified beyond belief, Mary must witness the brutal slaying of her family and neighbors, only to be forced to live among the very people who committed these heinous acts. Rendered unable to speak due to the sheer terror of her circumstances, Mary is given to two grieving Seneca tribeswomen who use her as the physical replacement of a brother lost during a skirmish with the white colonists. They give her the name Two-Falling Voices. This seems to represent not only the fallen voice of the brother she is to replace, but also the lost “voice” of Mary herself. Over time, Mary becomes more than accustom to the native ways, marrying a Delaware tribesman, and raising a family within his native culture. Many years later, when given the chance to leave the tribe, Mary makes the unexpected choice to stay; finding her new way of life actually suited her in a more spiritual way than that of the white colonists.

I chose this book by happenstance. I was shelving books one day at the library and came across it quite by mistake. I saw a small, simple book with the bold title “The White” written very plainly along the spine. This immediately piqued my interest. Where was the flashy script writing with the fancy, artistic curlicues that so typically adorn the cover of fiction novels?  I grabbed it from the shelf, and decided to take a peek at it during my lunch break.  Boy was I pleasantly surprised! My initial reaction to the writing was one of admiration. Deborah Larsen wrote this novel with a subtle, yet lyrically expressive voice. Her descriptions of the colors that surround Mary in the natural settings that have become her home are mentally exhilarating.  I could easily visualize Mary and her warrior husband frolicking among the golden fields of corn and amber hues of the autumn leaves. Although at times her descriptiveness was unnecessary to the scene, and seemed like fluff, it was rather attractive fluff and exceptionally enjoyable to read and visualize.
  Once you wade through the cream of Larsen’s eloquent and elaborate writing style, Mary’s narrative takes on a life of its own that transcends her contemporary time period. It can be translated into various modern scenarios, which makes her tale endearing and relatable. To the modern day reader, Mary is remarkably strong-willed and free-thinking for a woman of her time. She comes across as a person who is dealt an undeserved hand, and finds a way to make the best of her situation. She shows tolerance and compassion in the face of complete and utter despondency, not only in her dealings with the native people, but also her treatment of the former slaves she befriends. Hers is a true life saga that expresses wholeheartedly the internal fortitude and grit necessary to overcome any obstacle, and shows that even in the direst situations, hope can spring eternal. I give this book three and a half stars. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Frog Music


   Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman named Jenny Bonnet is shot dead. 

The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny's murderer to justice--if he doesn't track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers, and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women, and damaged children. It's the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.

In thrilling, cinematic style, FROG MUSIC digs up a long-forgotten, never-solved crime. Full of songs that migrated across the world, Emma Donoghue's lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes captures the pulse of a boomtown like no other
(From Goodreads)

   When I originally read the description of this novel on the New York Times Best Seller list, I was intrigued. I am a sucker for a based on reality, historical crime novel. I immediately added it to my reserve list at the library, and patiently waited for it to come in. Finally, after a month wait, I got the long anticipated email telling me this treasure awaited me behind the circulation desk. I dove head first into this novel as soon as I arrived home, and quite honestly suffered from sleep deprivation the next day because I did not want to put it down. 

   The opening scene, set in an old dusty 1870’s saloon just outside of San Francisco, hooked me quicker than stink bait does a hungry catfish. Yes, I know that might be a slightly unusual way to describe it, but it is the complete truth. The death of a main character in the opening paragraphs seems a bit morose, and quite daring, but Emma Donoghue pulls it off with a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. The raw, gritty way that Donoghue portrays the death of Jenny Bonnet instantly grabs hold of you, and no matter how unfortunate it may be you can’t get away. What starts off as a couple friends, Jenny Bonnet and Blanche Beunon, singing songs from their French homeland while preparing for bed, quickly turns into a violent, confused scene of murder. The way she chronicles Blanche mentally dissecting the situation as it is happening plants the reader right in the room with the two women, allowing you to almost feel the bloody bed and smell the sulfur for yourself.

    So, who killed Jenny Bonnet and why? To answer that question, the story rewinds to approximately two months prior to the fatal night. Blanche, a French burlesque dancer, is the toast of the nightlife scene. Men want to be with her and women want to be her. Her talent to seduce and tease on the stage is second to none, and her “off stage skills” are in high demand. Little did she know that her life would forever be altered by the fateful day that she was nearly run over by the cross dressing frog catcher, Jenny Bonnet. From that point on, whether they liked it or not, their fates would be intertwined. The characters of Jenny and Blanche were such a breath of fresh air. Not once was there a moment of needy whininess. Oh no! Not from these girls. These were strong-willed, no nonsense, Wild West ladies looking to escape the bondage of male domination. Jenny’s way of doing this was by dressing as a man, which allowed her access to places that a proper lady would never venture. Her male disguise also gave her a separation from her secretive past, which ironically is the inspiration for her persona. Blanche, on the other hand, used her sexual power over the men to her own advantage, earning a very sizable living on their concupiscence. 

 For Blanche, however, the stakes were slightly higher. Enter P’tit, her love child with her Bohemian boyfriend, Arthur. Blanche felt that she would not be able to provide a stable home for her child given her lifestyle, so she agrees to allow her Madam to farm him out, if you will, to a family who takes in unwanted children. To her dismay, Blanche comes to find out that this was not the reality of the situation, causing her world to be turned upside down. She quickly discovers that everything she held as evident truths was nothing more than a lie. The tailspin that ensues threatens to bring about momentous changes in the lives of those around her, including the very existence of Jenny Bonnet. 

 At this point, I will discontinue my explanation of events to prevent me from giving away too much. I will, however, add a bit of commentary about the writing prowess of Emma Donoghue. I am an enormous fan of a good storyteller, and Donoghue did not leave me disheartened in the slightest. The action and intrigue in this book are astounding. Her narrative is colorful and filled to the brim with dynamic and vivid depictions of what life was like in San Francisco just before the turn of the century. From the constant fear of contracting smallpox, to the vast chasm that existed between the wealthy and the poor, Pre-1900 San Francisco was the epitome of the Wild West following the Civil War. Emma Donoghue was able to accurately and romantically bring the characters of Frog Music to life in this dusty, and at time earthquake ridden city, while maintaining the integrity of the factual details of the murder of Jenny Bonnet. I confidently give this book 4 stars.

Monday, October 6, 2014



A gripping historical novel set amidst the confusion and chaos of the Civil War, Booth is the story of the only conspirator in the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln who was not killed or executed--a young man who falls under the spell of the charismatic and captivating world-famous stage actor, and is gradually sucked into the vortex of Booth's insidious plans.

The novel opens in 1916, the last year of narrator John Surratt's life. Surratt, who has spent the years since Lincoln's death as an obscure shipping clerk, is approached by D.W. Griffith to read from his Civil War diary in Griffith's movie Birth of a Nation.  As Surratt reads over his diary for the first time in fifty years, the reader returns to the tumultuous days of 1864, and a chance encounter between Surratt and John Wilkes Booth.  Booth, a larger-than-life personality whose appetites, fame, and sheer force of will bedazzle everyone around him, helps to secure Surratt a position as the assistant to renowned photographer Alexander Gardner.  Over the following weeks, Booth continues to lavish attention on Surratt, slowly drawing him bit by bit into his web of intrigue.  By the time Surratt discovers the desperate nature of Booth's true intentions, it is too late, and he finds himself caught up in a firestorm of violence that shatters forever his insulated life and mild ambitions.
(from Goodreads)


 If you are a history geek like me, you are all too familiar with the story. . . A group of Southern sympathizers collaborate to exact revenge on the man that they hold responsible for the collapse of the Confederates hopes of a successful cessation.  The man, who in their eyes turned his back on half of the nation that he swore to protect; a man whose lofty political aspirations defied the very fabric of Southern society by abolishing their peculiar institution. This man was Abraham Lincoln.
 The novel begins a little more than 50 years after the assassination of Lincoln. John Surratt, the son of Mary Surratt (the only female conspirator to be hanged), is contemplating a recent offer to do a filmed reading of his Civil War diaries. While Surratt is perusing the diary that has been untouched since that fateful time, the reader is instantly transported back to 1864 on the very day that he meets John Wilkes Booth, actor extraordinaire! The emotional roller coaster that is Booth is immediately known to the reader, while John Surratt comes across as a naive, easily lead by the nose young man seeking the approval of this semi-celebrity.
 I will begin my critique of this novel by saying I am absolutely appreciative, from a history geek standpoint, how accurate and based on factual events this piece of fiction truly is. I realize there would be no way for David Robertson to have been privy to the intimate conversations that took place in the Surratt house, and his speculation as to the nature of the relationship between Mary Surratt and John Wilkes-Booth is based solely on hearsay. With that said, the layout of events, as well as the precise way he maintained a genuine adherence to the conspirator’s motives and intentions makes this novel not only an adventure in intrigue and suspense, but a real history lesson, too. I very much liked the evolution of the association between Surratt and Booth. At the start, Surratt seems mystified by the larger than life Booth, but as time passes, Booth’s star seems to fade into a drunken stupor, leaving him looking like a washed up has been. John Surratt, on the other hand, has a measure of success working as a photographer’s assistant, but risks it all to help out Booth’s cause.  As the only one in the group not to be convicted and hanged, John Surratt is able to quietly fall into obscurity until he is approached 50 years later to relive these events through the words of his personal diary.
 This is the only book that I have read by David Robertson. I found him to be a compelling and attention holding storyteller, easily blurring the line between fact and fiction. After the conclusion of the novel, he carefully dissects his use of creative license to reveal how he interwove the factual aspects of the assassination by way of diaries, first-hand accounts, official records, and contemporary news articles with his own imagined interpretation of events. I also appreciated the use of actual photographs of the hangings and the conspirators, allowing me to have a visual connection with them as well. I have read other pieces by different authors that make an attempt to do what Mr. Robertson has done with the Lincoln assassination, each leaving me with varying aftertastes. In Booth, I found an impeccably written, believable storyline that made me want to learn more about that time period and the fascinatingly sinister conspirators who played such a detrimental role in American history. For those reasons, I give this book four stars!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Gone Girl


On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? 
(from Goodreads)

** I would like to preface this review by stating that there will be NO spoilers in this commentary. **


 I, like many other avid readers, prefer to read the book prior to watching Hollywood’s on-screen interpretation. When I found out that Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was being made into a blockbuster film, I immediately grabbed the book off the library shelf and began plunking away. I could not have imagined that the journey I was about to undertake would be so infuriatingly long and drawn out.  The novel is broken up into two very distinct and differing sections. The first half I found to be hard to digest, while the second half, albeit more reader friendly, was not as satisfying as I would have liked. For that reason, I am going to assess the novel in two parts. 
PART I-  It is difficult to place my finger on exactly what it was that rubbed me the wrong way about the first section, for the writing was superb. I am leaning towards the notion that the scenarios that were presented were not as true to life as the author was pushing for, leaving the reader full of doubt that the story was really going in any direction. My best description would be that I felt as though I were on a perpetual round-about, desperately wanting to make a right turn to exit, but knowing deep down that once I start a book, I must finish! Previous to my reading the book, a friend had forewarned me that I might feel that way, but suggested that I trudge along because the second section was much more worthwhile.
 The first section of this book is told from a first person point of view through the present eyes of Nick and the past journal entries of Amy. At this point in the story, the reader is unsure of the guilt or innocence of Nick in the disappearance of his wife, although he seems to be a prime suspect.  Amy comes across as a needy and weak wife who desperately seeks the approval of her husband and her parents. Nick, on the other hand, looks to be a pompous and arrogant man-child whose only concern is his own happiness and the hometown bar that he now operates.  I felt as though each narrator was hiding something, and this left me with an mistrustful taste in my mouth. Amy’s depiction of her loving and supportive reverence toward her husband does not mesh well with Nick’s morose view of his wife, causing me to question the integrity of each account. Amy’s sudden disappearance on the eve of their 5th wedding anniversary, with the information given, could not possibly be contributed to anyone but Nick! 
PART II-  In part two of this novel, the truth begins to unveil itself, revealing a lot of ugliness and deception on both sides. Nick is outed as a husband who has made some egregious mistakes, but did they drive him to harm his wife? While Amy, who worked fiercely to uphold her squeaky clean, good girl image, is not necessarily what she seems to be on the surface. Once the reality of the situation is revealed, the ingestion of the story is much more palatable. Flynn’s wit and flair truly shine when she stops trying to deceive the reader. Had she used this approach during the first portion of the piece, I would have found this a much more enjoyable ride.  Without giving away the twist, the finale of the book did raise a lot more questions than answers. I am not one of those readers who must always have storylines tied up with a bright shiny bow, but it would have been nice to walk away with some semblance of justice. In a sense, I felt cheated, making me dislike the author more than the wretchedness of the characters she created. For that reason, I give this book three stars. I hope the upcoming film can redeem my faith in Gillian Flynn.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The White Queen


In 1464, the War of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster is in its ninth year.  Although the sly Earl of Warwick has succeeded in having the easily-controlled Edward IV of York crowned, all his work could be undone when the new monarch falls in love with Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner.  This BBC adaptation of Philippa Gregory's series, The Cousin’s War, follows the women caught up in the battle to be the rightful king of England.
This show was commissioned by the BBC and aired in the UK first.  However, an 'uncut' version of the show was later shown by Starz in the US.
(From TV.com)


 Having read Philippa Gregory’s Cousin War Series (The White Queen, The Red Queen, and The Kingmaker’s Daughter), I was over the moon excited to find that Starz and BBC had created a made for TV series sculpted after the novels. With Philippa Gregory as executive producer, I hoped that the series would run true with the books, and I was not disappointed. Set in late 1400’s England, The White Queen brings viewers inside the intriguing and secretive world of the York and Lancastrian dynasties. Starting with the chance meeting of Elizabeth Woodville and Young King Edward, The White Queen depicts the a more intimate side of the English court. The series allows the viewer to catch a glimpse of the ethereal royals in very earthly and precarious situations ranging from adultery, jealous rages, and blissful unions.

 To draw comparisons between the books and the series, one would assume, would cause me to find great fault where actor choice and scene selection are concerned. Surprisingly, that did not occur. The choice of actors for the roles of  Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Richard Duke of Gloucester, (later King Richard III), Anne Neville, and Lady Margaret Beaufort were exceptionally true to their descriptions in the books, leaving me to wonder if someone was spying on my mind’s eye as I read the novels. I was particularly thrilled that the scenes from the books that were omitted in the series were few, and those included were taken directly, word for word, from the pages of the three novels. My only criticism is the manner with which the series ends. Originally, the White Queen was to have multiple seasons in order to encompass the breadth of material in the novels. After mixed reviews on the BBC, the series was pulled, leaving those who have not read the books at the edge of an exceedingly lofty cliffhanger. With that said, it was an appropriate place to end had another season been in the works. My suggestion would be to read the three novels, or her entire Cousins War series if you are feeling adventurous, and then watch the series. Doing so will give you a greater appreciation for the close relationship between what was written and what was shown, as well as not leaving you wanting when the series is over. I give this series four stars. It could easily have been a five if the series had not been canceled. The books, however, get a resounding and bold five stars!