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I, Elizabeth [Paperback]

Rosalind Miles
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Nov 2001
Her court knew her as capricious, veering from flirtatiousness to tyranny. History sees her as a powerful ruler. This novel recreates the memoir Elizabeth herself might have written, revealing the true responses, fears and passions that, as queen, she was never able to display.

Product details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; New edition edition (5 Nov 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074341568X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743415682
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,012,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rosalind Miles

Rosalind is a writer who sidesteps time. Both story-teller and scholar, she has led different lives since her childhood in England. As a girl she endured a voyage through a landscape of life and death when she survived polio at the age of four years after spending several months in an iron lung. Her earliest memories are from this underworld of medical instruments and mechanical isolation, seeing her mother's face remotely through the glass.

After her emergence from the realm of medical support systems, she attained robust health and was permitted to roam freely in a large woodland near her home in Shakespeare's Warwickshire. This woodland was once a medieval hunting park, maintained then as now by the Crown. The wood was an Arcadian paradise for a child, who wandered the park's seven lakes and varied forests from dawn to dusk. This park provided the security and a freedom rare at the time, and now generally denied children, to nurture the interior world of the self far from adult supervision. The fall of night, generally but not always, ended these ramblings and imaginings.

A late child, last in a line of sisters, Rosalind was born into a family where stories were treasured and books were portals to other places and times. The youngest of three, she shared a room with a sister, and had the habit of telling her a bedtime story every night. This variant on the Arabian Nights lasted 1000 evenings before the girls were separated into rooms of their own. Whatever lay at the source of this need to tell endless variations on stories of adventure and triumph, typically of a female heroine, Rosalind was developing a sense of the uses of narrative fiction at an early age, in a compelling and determined sort of way.

At the age of ten Rosalind began recording these stories and other thoughts in writing, a habit that never lapsed since. This was also the year in which she was removed from her village life, as a consequence of broader recognition of her academic precocity, and received state sponsorship to a junior women's college.

There, as an adolescent, she acquired a working knowledge of Latin and Greek, and a life-long love of Shakespeare. At seventeen Rosalind was promoted to St Hilda's College, Oxford University, where she studied English literature, Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, Latin and French. This led to five degrees in all, culminating in a Ph.D. from the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham.

Rosalind's Ph.D. thesis and early works in Shakespeare scholarship and literary theory were considered radical at the time yet have since become mainstream.
Examples of these books have been preserved and may often be found through an internet book search or in libraries. Works from this period include a biography and also a theoretical work on Ben Jonson. Both were the products of a literary press, Routledge & Co., and were received as definitive works.

Other works of literary criticism include "The Female Form", a discussion of the origins of the Victorian novel. Interest in these critical studies persists, and re-publication via specialist press or on the internet is in review.

In her twenties Rosalind rediscovered the world beyond academic scholarship, and developed in some very different directions. A range of activities that was once narrow became characterized by diversity. This coincided with marriage to a fellow-student from Oxford and the mothering of two children of her own, a girl and a boy. During this time Rosalind never stopped writing. She became a lecturer in women's studies, and wrote a number of works in this field, at least one of which transcends its time. Her "Women's History of the World" has become part of the feminist canon, even in Chinese.

A decade later, Rosalind became interested in jurisprudence, soon sitting as a lay magistrate in the English criminal and family courts, and eventually on the bench in a superior court in Coventry, a Crown Court.

Rosalind's work at the time turned to social commentary. "The Children We Deserve" and "The Rites of Man" are examples of this. These efforts in social theory received acceptance among some senior figures in government and media. England's Lord Chancellor placed Rosalind on his advisory committee on the changing legislation around women, the work place and child rearing. She also became a frequent commentator on the BBC, on Canadian Radio and in the London Times and Telegraph.

For her friends and admirers, one of the more interesting aspects of Rosalind's character is that long hours of work have never seemed to dull a sense of whimsy, fun, or the adventure of life: on the contrary, they seem to whet it.

Other interests of this phase of Rosalind Miles's life were horseback riding with her children and others, and recreational travel in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and the Arab world. Rosalind's travels in the Middle East led to a special relationship with the Sultanate of Oman, an Arab state unusual for its education and promotion of women. There she has been honoured through acquaintance with one of the world's remaining absolute monarchs, the Sultan of Oman. Rosalind has since often visited this kingdom where the modern world co-exists with a past in which ancient and aural literatures still resonate vibrantly for many, and the borders between legend and history are less distinct. These twin themes of the ancient and the modern, the primordial in each of us and our adaptation to the modern world, are familiar paths for Rosalind Miles, and this may have opened doors in Oman.

The writing of novels has been a labor of increasing fascination for Rosalind in recent years. These novels have taken the form of contemporary narratives, like "Return to Eden", or stories built around historical people and events. As the range of her life and work increased, integrating this wide range of experience may simply have required the broader pallet provided by fictional or semi fictional work. Or perhaps, having immersed herself in the grim topics of social justice, crime and punishment, Rosalind has simply found writing fiction to be more fun.

Whatever her motivation, Rosalind's narrative works appeal to a broad spectrum of people with quite diverse cultural backgrounds and tastes. "Return to Eden" for instance was for a while the best selling fictional work in Russian. "I, Elizabeth" was a popular work in Portuguese. Her present effort is a set of nine novels interpreting the Arthurian legends with emphasis on the Queens, and their primacy to the Celts. That many Celtic tribes were matrilineal is documented in Roman sources, among others, and is not seriously disputed. Yet the interpretation of this legacy, as handed down, leaves something to be desired. A rapist and murderer, Malory wrote his Morte d'Arthur from his prison cell. Certainly Malory cannot be relied upon regarding his reading of the Queens. There are other treatments, but the question of who these women were, and the challenges of their lives, remains an inviting one.

Of these Arthurian works, the first trilogy is now finished. The work was conceived as a trilogy of separate trilogies and the second set of three, based on the Irish stories of Isolde and Tristan, is well in hand, with the first novel finished and the second due for publication shortly. The concluding three exist presently only in outline. Sketches, and notes for other, future projects crowd her study.

So the little girl who wanted to live in the woods is now an accomplished author, with an eclectic group of achievements behind her. Rosalind put pen to paper with conviction at the age of ten, and never stopped. Rather than a process of recording, writing seems to comprise for her a process of uncovering the projections of the ancient in the modern, of the possibilities of language, and the overlooked in our history and future lives. Twenty books down this path, the way ahead looks as rich as the work already done.

Rosalind in brief:

- Guenevere is the first of a trilogy of Arthurian novels, which is itself the first of a trilogy of trilogies.

- Award-winning author of 20 books of fiction and non-fiction.

- Published in 18 languages, including Chinese.

- Biggest-selling contemporary British author in Russia after publication of the modern novel Return to Eden.

- Acclaimed for her Guenevere trilogy and short-listed for a number of literary prizes.

- Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

- Designated by the US State Department as an Alien of Extraordinary Ability.

- Resident of Los Angeles and Kent, England.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For all Elizabeth I lovers 6 Jun 2003
By penny
Anyone who loves the Tudors, Elizabeth I or just historical novels should read this. The era is vividly brought to life, with wonderful descriptions of the food, the clothes and the court life. You get to enjoy every happy moment with her, like her coronation to the more poignant and downright dangerous events in her life. Her fear of being placed in the tower to her sadness as those who were her dearest friends and companions leave her.
You will never think of Elizabeth in the same light again once you read this book. And you may have to keep reminding yourself that she didn't write it.
And if you do like it may I recommend The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 'When history becomes alive.....' 7 Jan 2008
If you would love a toe-curling,spine tingling, electrifying look back into the life of one of Britian's most memorable monarch, then 'I, Elizabeth' by Rosalind Miles is the book for you.
YOu would never have the same view of history again even though I thought I had before I picked up the book out of sheer curiousity in a charity shop. I asked myself what could this author possibly tell me that I didnt know already about my most favourite queen and I was so delighted to be utterly proven wrong.
From the word go ' some are born bastards,some achieve bastardy,others have bastardy thrust upon them', I was spell bound, drawn in a past that was only made sweeter by the fact the events of murder, lies, love and betrayal were the actual records of someone's life and not simply the over active imagination of a zealous writer.
The emotions are real, the history is real, the scenes are vivid, you move as she moves ( the queen ) , feel as she feels, breathes as she breathes and life takes on a newer and more richer dimension.
It was the closest you could get to a person without inhabiting their skin.
Miles is simply flawless.
A master at her me the best read of my life so far.
thank you..
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, an amazing plunge into her world 5 Feb 2002
Having always been interested in Englands greatest queen this book was a must. It is the most wonderful tale of her life both public and personal, from her fears as a child to the dilemma of putting one she loved to death. If i hadnt known it wasnt authentic i could have easily believed that this was written by the gloriana herself.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not all that special. 17 Aug 2007
I've always been interested in Elizabeth I, so when I saw this book in a charity shop I picked it up - and it's good. Elizabeth very clearly has her own voice, and the author is especially good at showing the relationship between Elizabeth and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. Elizabeth's childhood is also explored in detail, and this I found particularly interesting - most books about her tend to dwell on her life only after she was crowned.

On the other hand, the writing itself is uninspired at times, and the constant use of italics was wearing and confusing - you could never tell if she was speaking the thoughts she had at the time, or if she was just trying to emphasise a sentance. There were also a couple of Americanisms in my copy, which were incredibly jarring (the word 'daipers' is used, and Elizabeth at one point describes her mother's virginity as her 'cherry', which I found a particularly unsuitable word for the time), and tended to jerk me out of the idea that this really was Elizabeth's memoir.

A good portion of the book is taken up with Elizabeth's relationships with men - as if the author wants to make up for the Virgin Queen's lack of a husband by giving her lovers she may not have had - and although Robert Dudley was indeed very important to Elizabeth, it would be refreshing to find one novel which doesn't insist that she slept with him. This follows the old cliche, and has Elizabeth in bed with Dudley as soon as possible.

Mary I is also curiously portrayed - at times she comes across as a vengeful harpy, prone to violent mood swings and desperate to kill off any heretic she finds, and I felt that that was particularly unfair. All the mooning that Elizabeth does over the men in her life can also drag down the pace of the book.

I would reccomend this book as a good, easy-to-read and solid novel about one of history's most famous women - but it's nothing out of the ordinary, and quickly forgotten.
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