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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good things come to those who wait!!!
As a big fan of Philippa Gregory, having read all of her Tutor novels and for the most part finding them reasonably fun, historical romps I was looking forward to her latest offering of "The Other Queen". While this novel never really reaches the same heights as some of her other books such as the much acclaimed: "The Other Boleyn Girl", it is also true to say that this...
Published on 15 Jun 2009 by A. Lalor

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A real disappointment!
I was crestfallen by the latest produce of Phillipa Gregory my favourite author. Having waited with baited breath for the new publication and even managing to obtain a signed copy, I did give it my best shot. Never having not completed one of her novels, in fact usually galloping through them, I have to admit to not getting past the first half of the book. The narrative...
Published on 13 Aug 2009 by Julie Ellis-gowland


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A real disappointment!, 13 Aug 2009
By 
Julie Ellis-gowland "daffodil" (Cheshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Other Queen (Paperback)
I was crestfallen by the latest produce of Phillipa Gregory my favourite author. Having waited with baited breath for the new publication and even managing to obtain a signed copy, I did give it my best shot. Never having not completed one of her novels, in fact usually galloping through them, I have to admit to not getting past the first half of the book. The narrative was different - I think she is experimenting with a different writing style. I found it bitty as it jumped from character to character (something which Susan Howatch does with great skill). It could not retain my interest. The story lacked excitement, adventure and variety. I only hope that when she writes again she will stick to what she does best.
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132 of 139 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's not a bad book, but nor is it terribly compelling., 30 Aug 2008
By 
Julia Flyte - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Other Queen (Hardcover)
"The Other Queen" is about Mary, Queen of Scots' imprisonment in England, focusing on the early years of her imprisonment. The story alternates between three perspectives: George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife, Bess of Hardwick who were charged with responsibility for the Queen; the third narrator being Mary, Queen of Scots. Bess is an ambitious social climber who initially thinks that hosting Queen Mary will be a way to advance the family fortunes, but who is dismayed to find that it drains their financial resources instead. George on the other hand becomes infatuated with the Queen, which causes irreparable friction in his own marriage.

I've enjoyed other books by Philippa Gregory, but The Other Queen lacks momentum. It's a long book and not a lot happens (and when things do happen, they're invariably taking place somewhere else). I enjoyed it in a mild way, but it felt so repetitive: countless variations on Bess complaining about money, George idealizing Mary and Mary telling us how charming she is. Bess was actually quite a remarkable woman for her time, but she comes across as being so unpleasant that she failed to elicit my sympathy. You also get the feeling that most of the exciting parts of Mary's life have already taken place, so there is lots of time spent filling in her back story.

As always, Philippa Gregory has done her research. I didn't necessarily agree with her interpretation of Mary's personality, but I couldn't fault it on historical grounds. It did feel however as if she couldn't quite make up her mind what the nature of Mary and Bothwell's relationship had been and why Mary had chosen to marry him, which I think is something that she needed to establish more clearly. Towards the end of the book events also get twisted and compressed, presumably to bring about a neater conclusion. Mary's execution (still 15 years away) is described in a dream sequence: couldn't Philippa Gregory come up with a better way to include it?

I kept waiting for the book to get going, but it never really did. At one stage Bess writes: "I can hardly believe that this nightmare goes on, goes on and on, and we never achieve victory and we never achieve peace". In many ways that reflects how I felt about the book. It's not a bad book, but nor is it terribly compelling.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, 18 Jun 2009
By 
D. Hunter (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Other Queen (Paperback)
Being a fan of Philippa Gregory, particularly of her other Tudor novels which I have loved, I was so disappointed with this non story which I had to force myself to finish. None of the characters are likeable and the story ( which we all know the ending of ) drags out over the Queen's years of exile in England. Don't buy this if you're a fan of The Other Boleyn Girl or other Tudor novels by this author as this could have been written by someone else.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The other Queen - sorry, but I was disappointed., 23 Jun 2009
This review is from: The Other Queen (Paperback)
I have just finished reading Philippa Gregory's latest Tudor novel and must confess that I was disappointed in it. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed all her other Tudor books, but the author just didn't hold my attention with this one.

It is about Mary Queen of Scots, one of the most famous and enigmatic queens of history, and concerns a period during her captivity. She is being held in some of the various castles and houses belonging to the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury( the famous Bess of Hardwick) dotted around England. The story is narrated by these three people only. Queen Mary always seems to be saying how wonderful she is, and how so many countries and people will do absolutely anything for her, including putting her back on the throne of Scotland or even on the throne of England. She plots and plans her escape continually and doesn't seem to mind putting her admirers in great danger for her. George, the Earl of Shrewsbury falls in love with her and is blind to all her plotting and deception, while his wife Bess watches all of this from the sidelines. Towards the end of the book, the Earl realises the Queen's deception, and I think that the author dealt well with that part.

I have read quite a few books about Mary Queen of Scots and I appreciate how difficult it must be for an author to write about her from a new perspective. I can't help thinking that maybe there are no new facets to this dramatic historical person to be found. Authors are maybe just going to give rein to their imagination to create another story about her? People will always want to read more and more about Mary, and I include myself here too.

My lasting impression of this book is one of repetition, repetition and more repetition. To date, Philippa Gregory has written wonderful books, so maybe she has just written a not so wonderful one?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not up to the usual standard expected from Philippa Gregory, 26 Mar 2009
By 
Cadeyes (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Other Queen (Hardcover)
I have immensly enjoyed the other books she wrote about the Tudor times in England and was eagerly awaiting this book. I have read other accounts of Mary Queen of Scots (one great one was by a german - speaking author called Stefan Zweig) and was curious to see how Ms. Gregory would tell the story. Unfortunately though I must agree with reviewers who claim there is all too much repetition in this book. All three characters are constantly moaning about their lot and repeating what is important to them. Also I found the concluding remarks about Bess a bit too modern - feminist, as she will not have been the first great woman with an independant mind in history and mostly through the novel comes across as a selfish and rather ruthless person. I do realise it is not easy to write about the story without repetition (and of course it was a captivity which lasted for many years), but it seems to me the book could have been a third shorter and readers would not have missed a thing. I won't give up on this author though, she truly is a talented woman!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Thin In Plot, Character and Page Length, 18 Sep 2010
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This review is from: The Other Queen (Paperback)
This has to be Philippa Gregory's weakest novel to date. She attempts to weave a story through the viewpoints of three people (Bess Hardwick, her weak husband George, and Mary, Queen of Scots).

The thinness of the material shows, as the book is much shorter than Gregory's earlier novels, with chapters just two or three pages long, with many pages virually blank until the next chapter. The font size is larger. A far cry from the small font 600 pages of before, with layers of storylines.

As to the novel itself, strong-willed Bess, a staunch Protestant, who is a rich woman in her on right, who has married many timesw is annoyed to find that she and her husband George have been given orders by William Cecil (Queen Elizabeth's chief advisor) to look after the beautiful Mary, Queen of Scots.

It is not long, however, before George starts falling for Mary and does her bidding. The cost of maintaining the Queen is all but on Bess, and she starts to see her fortune diminish.

The major fault of the novel is that the trio are constantly moved from place to place, and we hear news of goings on from the outside. The reader never actually sees these events, but just hears about them from the lips of others. Very much a hearsay novel, in which nothing actually happens.

The death of Mary, Queen of Scots is a shambles. George describes it in a vision years before it happens, and right at the end, Bess tells us that Mary was executed when the novel suddenly jumps many years forward. As before, we don't 'see' the important events actually happen.

The 'triple narration' idea was very successful in Gregory's earlier novel 'The Boleyn Inheritance', but failed miserably here. Philippa needs to put more substance in her novels. I was pushed to give this two stars.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull and monotone, 6 Nov 2010
By 
Isis (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Other Queen (Paperback)
I groaned when I realised that Philippa Gregory had returned (why, oh why?!) to the formula she used in "The Boleyn Inheritance" of three different first person narrators. Three reasons why this format doesn't work for Gregory. One, she has a tendency to use this as a crutch so that she can "tell" rather than "show". Two, the voice of the three different narrators is indistinguishable and you only knew who was narrating which chapter because the chapter heading always said so. Three, in an effort to really distinguish the personalities of her three narrators from one another Gregory tends to hammer her readers over the head with certain points. From her first chapter, which was only five and a half pages long in paperback, Mary Queen of Scots repeats three times how she is a sacred anointed queen and a queen of three countries (Dowager Queen Consort of France, Queen Regnant of Scotland, and rightful heir to the throne of England). I could tell instantly that this is what she would be harping on about for most of the book. The three protagonists often express the exact same thoughts in concurrent chapters. Real people do not think exactly the same thoughts as each other.

Once again, Philippa Gregory lazily amalgamates Francis Walsingham into William Cecil, and the historical inaccuracies are ever a problem in Philippa Gregory's works. This is the third book in which Gregory promotes the idea that Elizabeth was in fact the daughter of Mark Smeaton, the other books being "The Queen's Fool" and "The Virgin's Lover". I overlooked this in the previous two books, but by this stage the level of her anti-Elizabeth bias is plain for all to see. As a historian, this is a glaring example of how Gregory picks out baseless slander to insert into her books over the facts. There are plenty of anachronisms too. Bess refers to the exploits of "Sir Francis Drake" in a chapter dated 1569, but Drake would not launch his first major enterprise to the Spanish Main in order to plunder Spanish treasure ships until 1572, and he wasn't even knighted until 1581 - in 1569 he was no more than an officer in the private fleet of his distant cousin John Hawkins and no one in Elizabeth's court would have heard of him. Bess also refers to "a fine Turkey carpet" which keeps popping up in the novel. Turkey, as a nation state, would not come into being for several centuries; in 1569 it was known to Elizabethan England as the Ottoman Empire. Mary's character talks about the Spanish raising an Armada for her in yet another chapter dated 1569, when in fact construction work did not commence on a planned Armada until 1586. Astonishing. Gregory even picks out details such as Mary making an embroidery of her new motto - "In my end is my beginning" - whilst with Bess at Tutbury Castle, when in fact Mary sewed this motto when she was newly arrived in England and at Carlisle.

A word on the resolution of the two plots as portrayed in the novel. The first plot, known as the Northern Rebellion, is resolved in the book by a simple loss of confidence from the Northern forces and a melting away of the threat. In fact, though Elizabeth struggled to raise an army at first, she was able to muster an initial force of 7000 men, and a supporting army of over 12,000, against the estimated 4600 of the rebels. The second plot, the Ridolfi plot, was actually uncovered by John Hawkins - aforementioned relative of Francis Drake - who gained the confidence of the Spanish ambassador to England and informed the government. Elizabeth was also sent a second notification about the plot from the Grand Duke of Tuscany, so far from being without friends in Europe as the novel proclaims she was, this was not the case at all. There was no Spanish help coming for Mary - they rejected the idea of sending support because of Mary's close ties to France. Philippa Gregory must have researched even these basic facts when writing the novel, so why does she falsify events? Why not go with actual events? The only reason for doing this that I can see is to underplay Elizabeth's support and popularity, overplay the support and popularity of Mary, and portray Elizabeth's situation as far more precarious than it was. It's repeatedly stated that the whole of the North is in support of Mary, but this was not the case at all. The Papal Bull mentioned in the novel, encouraging Elizabeth's Catholic subjects to rise up against her and assassinate her, was widely ignored by English Catholics, who enjoyed the prosperity brought by her moderate middle-way policies.

This ties in with the repeated nonsense notions in the novel that Elizabethan England was crawling with spies, that torture was used as a matter of course, and that justice and law meant nothing to "evil Cecil" and Elizabeth's other "unscrupulous, hard-hearted" advisors. Norfolk's trial is portrayed as little more than a show trial. The Protestants, embodied in Bess, are portrayed as nothing more than greedy money-grabbers concerned only with expensive houses and possessions. All of this seems simply a ploy to further vilify and discredit the historical figures that Philippa Gregory dislikes, whilst at the same time promoting those she has taken a liking to. I'll give you an example of this. Towards the end of the novel, Mary receives a crude drawing of herself as a mermaid and a comment on her scandalous love life. Mary and Bess then discuss how the drawing and other scandals going around about Mary were probably created and spread by Cecil's agents. I mention this in particular because I've seen exactly the artefact on which this little incident is based. It comes from Edinburgh in Scotland (not from England), and dates to the spring of 1567 (not December 1571), at the height of Mary's affair with Bothwell. The placard was one of many such plastered throughout Edinburgh at the time, and reflected a widespread unpopularity of Mary amongst her own people. The fact that Philippa Gregory uses this artefact and twists it in such a way clearly demonstrates her bias against Elizabeth and Cecil and the way she changes the facts in her novels for seemingly no other reason than her own biases.

Gregory's selection of time period feels odd, given that she could have chosen from many other far more interesting periods in Mary's life, such as the murder of Rizzio and Darnley followed by the rebellion of Mary's lords against her and Bothwell. The characterisations of the three narrators were uninteresting - George was dull and I rushed to get past his chapters, and I found it incredulous that he was so blinded by his love for Mary (incidentally I would really like to see the supposed wealth of evidence that Philippa Gregory claims in her author's note strongly suggests that George was in love with Mary). Bess was reduced to a constant cataloguing of her income and outcome, always at her account books and grumbling about Mary reducing them to paupers. I found it hard to like Mary when not only is she so false, but almost every single character falls under her charms and Gregory drastically overplays her popularity and prospects. An even worse sin - she makes Mary boring. Most of her thoughts and conversation are rehashed and vapid fare.

The book also severely lacks action. I thought something might happen when the three protagonists were forced to flee from the Northern Rebellion, and in fact the way they went on about how convinced they were that the rebels would catch them, I was anticipating an action scene or two... but then nothing. I don't think Philippa Gregory can write action. She dodged out of it in "The Constant Princess", she dodges out of it here, and come to think of it the only action sequence I can recall in any of her novels is the fall of Calais in "The Queen's Fool". Frankly, the book drags interminably and feels dull throughout. I didn't think much of George foreseeing Mary's death in an afterthought at the end - Gregory writes with far too much hindsight. Overall, the novel was simply monotone, failing to make an impact. It lacked passion, excitement or intrigue, and some of Gregory's readers have suggested that Gregory was by this time bored with the Tudors.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not very gripping, 3 July 2009
By 
Kim Cowley - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Other Queen (Paperback)
I am a huge fan of Philippa Gregory but really couldnt get into this book, in fact I didnt finish it. The charectors are one dimensional, predictable and not at all likable, the story line was tedious..if you have enjoyed her other books then give this one a miss.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good things come to those who wait!!!, 15 Jun 2009
By 
This review is from: The Other Queen (Paperback)
As a big fan of Philippa Gregory, having read all of her Tutor novels and for the most part finding them reasonably fun, historical romps I was looking forward to her latest offering of "The Other Queen". While this novel never really reaches the same heights as some of her other books such as the much acclaimed: "The Other Boleyn Girl", it is also true to say that this book is far from the worst you will ever read.

As other reviewers have described, the story revolves around the captive years of Mary Queen of Scotts, when she was pretty much imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth I, as she eagerly awaited her return to Scotland. Like alot of Gregory's books the story is told from the point of view of three people: the imprisoned but ever determined young Queen, her jailor and host: George Shrewsbury and his wife: the tough speaking and financially aware: Bess of Hardwick.

In my opinion this style of writing is the novel's greatest strength as it prevents the novel from becoming too one-sided. One constantly never knows whose side to be on, which adds a touch of objectivity to the story. As always Gregory delivers an interesting, engaging, witty and absorbing read, yet again bringing the world of Tutor England vividly alive. One cannot help but concede that she is the Queen of the Tutor novel.

On the other hand this novel (like "The Constant Princess") does take a while to get into and is certainly not as addictive as its predessessors. One has to read at least 150 pages before one starts to really get into the story. It is hard to know if this is Gregory's fault or indeed the time period she has selected. After all Gregory can really only add frills to the hard facts. At times the story is a bit repetitive (Bess grumbles about her debts, George worries about his honour, Mary plans her freedom) but I would not necessarily see this as a major weakness of this book. In fact in many ways it adds depth to the characters and makes them all the more human to us.

To conclude I would definitely recommend "the Other Queen" to all Philippa Gregory fans and indeed anyone who is interested in learning more about Mary Queen of Scot's captive years.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Philippa Gregory Got Her Head Chopped Off, 30 July 2010
By 
J. Ryan "JR" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Other Queen (Paperback)
I bought The Other Queen having never read any of Gregory's other novels but having very much enjoyed the film version of The Other Boleyn Girl. The plight of Mary Stuart has been a subject that has fascinated me from a very young age (strange child, I know) and I had been enjoying another series of books set in Tudor England so when I happened upon this novel in a local bookstore I set to reading it straight away.

The story Gregory tells in some 400+ pages could be told in 100. It's not that the book is a difficult read it is just so damned repetitive and monotonous. Despite manipulating the structure of the book to try to some extent to hide this fact, which she does by alternating between the perspectives of the three characters Bess and George Talbot and Mary Stuart herself, there is no escaping the fact that the characters simply repeat themselves over and over again. Even when the narrative moves forward the characters do not; Bess only muses over the safety of her fortune and houses; George Talbot constantly longs to be close to the Scots Queen but is a man of honour and cannot betray his own sovereign; Mary Stuart is Queen consort and how dare anyone deny her freedom, what an usurper Elizabeth is! These are the ONLY thoughts rattling around the characters otherwise empty heads. After the first few chapters you have read all that the characters have to say, all that they have to think about and everything thereafter is the same sentiment reworded - and sometimes Gregory does not even bother to reword it.

The characters themselves are very one dimensional. Wherever Gregory has tried to give them some depth she doesn't do so with due sentiment or subtly and as such the characters just come over as false and contradicting themselves. I have no doubt that Bess Talbot was a truly remarkable and unique woman in her day - but Gregory has turned her into a thoroughly detestable character which I am sure was never her intention. Bess is the one of the three characters with whom the reader should identify with most but there is absolutely nothing in Gregory's portrayal of her to cause the reader to warm to her. In George Talbot Gregory has pandered too much to the Mills-&-Boons-reading segment of her fan base; he's simply too weak a man and too weak a character. Worse still, to my mind she has done Mary Stuart a great disservice as her character in The Other Queen elicits no intrigue and very little sympathy.

Neither do I understand the need to tell the story through the eyes of three characters when one would do. This is not done cleverly nor does it add anything to the enjoyment of the book or the understanding of the conflicting interests at play. We do not have the same parts of the story told through three different eyes, as in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky, the story just flits from one character to other as the plot moves, back and forth and back and forth, adding nothing new which makes no sense. These three characters are all in close proximity and living the same chain of events, if Gregory were heart set on approaching the book from this angle then it would have been far more interesting had she chosen three different characters to focus on, some combination of; Bess, Norfolk & Cecil or even Mary, Bess and Elizabeth. One character from the rising, one from Mary Stuarts "court" and one from Elizabeth's, or even just Elizabeth and Mary - now THAT would have been interesting.

All in all I was very disappointed with the book. It seems to me that Gregory wrote this novel with very little to form the basis of a novel, perhaps feeling that this patricular story would strike a cord in the same way that Boleyn story did. I have stuck with it to the end out of respect for the story of Mary Stuart but I think it's safe to say that this is my first and last Philippa Gregory novel.
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The Other Queen
The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory (Paperback - 2 April 2009)
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