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Frustrating, disappointing read
on 17 August 2014
This is the most frustrating historically 'factual' book I have ever read!! It annoyed me so much at the first attempt that I had to stop after only about 1/5 of the way through. I'm now trying again, (about 1/3 of the way through), but I am not enjoying it at all & speed read some sections! Ms Woe's personal positioning, (Richard was a fake; the princes were dead), and her favoured relevant character in this story, (Henry VII), shines through virtually from the start & prejudices her writing. Objectivity doesn't even seem to have been attempted, which is so disappointing. She does not satisfactorily address why 'conspirators' would select Edward IV's 2nd son, rather than his 1st son, which would have been a more obvious choice for their 'puppet'. There are many salient factors that do not support her positioning which are either unsatisfactorily dismissed or glossed over. Passages laboriously presented to support Ms Wroe's beliefs are often unconvincing, sometimes patronising, and frustrating for an objective reader; the holes are so obvious. The complete omission of footnotes to demonstrate to the reader where she obtained her material is most unusual in this type of 'factual' writing & does not help the reader to distinguish whether her hypotheses are based on her opinions, or contemporary, (or future), writing. Had she presented a balanced argument, both for and against Richard's validity, the read would be much more satisfying. Ms Wroe is also incredibly self-indulgent in this book, demonstrating her knowledge of a wide variety of subjects, (Arthurian legend & the bible, to name but two), which she fully exploits, padding out the book with irrelevances. (I wish she had stuck to the subject and written a shorter book!) She is very fond of stating what was going on in characters' heads, with no apology or explanation, drifting into the realms of fictional writing. She frequently, (although not exclusively), quotes from various writers/chroniclers, without properly explaining their currency, (or lack of it), to the events they were writing about, or the biases, extant at the time, that would have affected their work. Thankfully, she does not cite More, at least, not yet!! The most serious omission so far is that she does not explore Henry's motivation for his behaviour, which is central to Richard's story, (although the reader can deduce some of this from his marrying Elizabeth to, in my view, try & validate his usurption of the throne & his desperate attempts to convince the world of his personal right to rule). For Henry to succeed as ruler, Richard not only had to be publicised as fake, he had to die, and Henry energetically set about making sure both objectives were achieved in a politically acceptable manner.
I started this book undecided as to Richard's validity but the more I read, and the more Ms Wroe tries to convince the reader that he was a fake, the more I am convinced of the opposite! The arguments against are so weak, the opposite is more likely to be true, although, sadly, not explored in this book. I will try & finish this book in the waning hope that Ms Wroe might redeem herself, (in which case I will amend this review), but I cannot envisage reading anything by this author again!