41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 2010
I discovered Philippa Gregory a few years ago when I spotted the eye gripping and truly gorgeous cover of The Other Boleyn Girl at my local library, and which I had to read right away of course. Though I knew it wasn't historically accurate in many places, I found Philippa Gregory's storytelling enchanting: the way the Tudor court took shape before my eyes and how she wrote about every day details like what kind of food people ate, what dresses they wore, how they spent their daya all made that ancient period of history more human and easier to imagine. Once I discovered Philippa Gregory's writing I wanted to read more. However, unfortunately I found both The Boleyn Inheritence and The Constant Princess disappointing. So it was with trepidation that I started reading The White Queen, not knowing if it would be like the gripping historical tale that The Other Boleyn Girl was or repetitive, dull and not too interesting like the other two novels. I have to say The White Queen didn't disappoint, Philippa Gregory is definitely back with an even more excitiong story to tell!
The White Queen is the first book in Philippa Gregory's new series about the Wars of the Roses. It tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, wife to Edward of York, mother of the Princes in the Tower and of Elizabeth of York, who later became the wife to Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII.
I have to admit that I was not familiar with the details of this time period and didn't know much about the details of the wars and tugs for power. And especially because of this it was very refreshing to read a novel and not knowing how it would end (not like with The Other Boleyn Girl, where one could never ignore the fact that Anne would be executed).
The White Queen is a love story at its core, the sweet and romantic love story between Elizabeth and Edward weaves through the historical events and wars, and we have to reckon that their love is not something Philippa Gregory created to suit her novel, since they had ten children together!
The novel is narrated by Elizabeth Woodville, a young widow and mother of two at the beginning of the novel, telling the reader how she met and fell in love with the king of England. Elizabeth Woodville is a sympathetic character (most of the time), she is charming, stunningly beautiful and had a very eventful and interesting life. Philippa Gregory used part of the legend about Elizabeth Woodville's heritage which claimed that her family was the descendants of Melusina the water goddess, and Ms. Gregory wove this part of historical legend together with mystical elements of witchcraft to make the story more interesting.
My only problem with the novel was the repetitive writing style of Philippa Gregory which appeared at certain times. I understand that this tool can be used to emphasize some aspects and may even make the novel sound more archaical and historical, but it irritated me to read the same few sentences for the seventh time (the locket scene for example). My other critique is that sometimes I felt Philippa Gregory made Elizabeth too similar to Anne Boleyn in certain aspects (using witchcraft to revenge her loved ones with the locket, and how the sweet natured woman would sometimes turn quite vicious and cruel), which I felt was quite out of character for the Elizabeth she created all along the novel.
Verdict: Philippa Gregory is back again with a very enjoyable and exciting story. Thankfully the heroine/narrator is an interesting and sympathetic character and the times and events Ms. Gregory chose to write about are definitely exciting. I'm sure that those who love historical fiction or period dramas will enjoy The White Queen very much!
268 of 294 people found the following review helpful
Lady Elizabeth Grey's husband was killed at the Battle of St. Albans and she desperately wants his lands back for her two little boys. She is tired of living in her parents' home and would like her independence. So she stands out in the road as the new king, Edward IV, rides by, holding their hands and hoping he'll see her. He does see her and takes note not only of her problems, but of her beauty, and before she knows it, Elizabeth is the queen of England and in almost over her head with politics and intrigue. She is a Woodville, though, and she will perservere, going to the edge to push her family as high as it can possibly go before her tower of cards topples around her.
This is going to be a good long review, as I have a lot to say on this book. For those who skim, here's my verdict: much better than I was expecting!
If you know me and have been reading my blog, you'll know that I've been working on a dissertation about Anthony Woodville (and fifteenth century chivalric culture in England overall) for what feels like forever. As such, this book was bound to touch on a topic near and dear to my heart, and it was bound to get some of the facts wrong, if only for the sake of storytelling. So it does; the Woodville family was loyal to Edward IV after 1461 but before he married Elizabeth, and Anthony was sent to besiege Alnwick Castle on his behalf with the earl of Warwick in 1463, not to mention that Elizabeth's father Lord Rivers had already been appointed to office. The beginning was anachronistic in another way because Edward kept being referred to as a boy, and there is no way anyone in the medieval period would have considered a man who had commanded and won two battles a boy. I can see that she did this more for characterization purposes, especially given he was younger than Elizabeth, so I don't mind as much, but still worth noting. And Anthony was not at Tewkesbury, although he was definitely in London and fighting when Thomas Neville arrived. There is also the whole magic subplot, but I thought that was actually quite creative, and historical inaccuracy only bothers me if people believe it's true. I don't think anyone would ever believe Elizabeth and Jacquetta were witches. I could go on, but I'll spare you.
All that said, Philippa Gregory got more right than wrong in this instance and I was pleasantly surprised. No one is needlessly victimized here; in fact Elizabeth is quite a sympathetic character which is refreshing after all of the villainizing that typically surrounds her. Even Richard III is not a villain but a multi-faceted man whose ambition just kept on pushing a little too far. The rest of the history is in many ways what has been fictionalized before, and I found nothing that really bothered me. All things considered I enjoyed this book after the first fifty pages and I wasn't expecting to. Gregory even included Anthony's poem, which is authentic and the only one that survives; she inflates his reputation to some extent, but I didn't mind, it fit in.
Gregory writes well, and in general the book is absorbing even for someone who has heard it all before. It's romanticized, but in the way that makes us sigh and wish we had a big blond knight to save the day. It's exciting and tense because everything is dangerous, and because I kept wondering who was going to kill the princes in this version. Another interesting twist there, and I think we're meant to guess at what she means, but for someone who doesn't know the history, it's a nice question. And in the end, I like the way Gregory twisted things here. It's interesting and it's different when the story has been done over and over again. Given the fluidity of history itself, I found myself enjoying the way she pushes boundaries and suggests things that probably didn't happen but might have done. I didn't want to read another fictional recap of the Wars of the Roses, but Gregory made it a little bit new, and despite myself I think I'm looking forward to The Red Queen very much, even if I don't think anyone ever called these `the cousin's wars'.
In other words, I do recommend The White Queen. It is historical fiction, after all, and if you're going to read another book that fictionalizes the Wars of the Roses, I highly suggest this one.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2010
I confess that whilst I might be a knowledgeable source on Tudor history (my shelves are groaning with the weight of the books I have) I'm pretty clueless on the Plantagenet line that preceeded the Battle of Bosworth. Poor considering I used to have to go to said battlefield every summer on a school trip from 10-18 living so close to it!
Philippa Gregory is one of my guilty pleasure authors - She writes so richly and any historical inaccuracies are more than made up for by the pace, the cast of characters and the storytelling process. Elizabeth Woodville made a brilliant heroine and although the magic subplot in the book started to become frustrating at times, I've read more into the subject since then and realised how much magic played into medieval culture.
Like I stated in the title, it's a great read & definitely one of Philippa's better books. I really enjoyed this introduction into the Plantagenet dynasty and, now that I've taken a dip into another period of history, I'm definitely going to be reading more about it!
116 of 129 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2010
I loved Gregory's `The Other Boleyn Girl' and have always been pretty interested in the Tudor period in English history, but I have no great knowledge of the preceding Plantagenet age in which this book is set. I know a little of The Wars of the Roses and of the Missing Princes in the Tower, but that's it. Before reading this book on Elizabeth Woodville, I knew nothing of her at all. However, Gregory really brought these characters to life for me. she has chosen a fascinating female protagonist, and the era in which this is set is just as exciting and interesting as the Tudor era.
My lack of knowledge on this period in history made this book a very exciting read for me. I usually find lengthy battle scenes in historical novels pretty boring, but here I found them to be tense and exciting since I didn`t know the outcome of most of them. If there was one main difference between Gregory's Tudor books and this one, then it was the suspense factor for me. The Tudor books didn't hold much surprise for me as through study, books and even TV, I have a good background in Tudor chronology. Here, I feared for the characters at every turn. I didn't know what hand fate would deal them next, and I loved it.
While my lack of background knowledge on the time period added to my enjoyment of the book, it brought it's problems too. With so many battles, so many changed allegiances and so much plotting going on, it is sometimes easy to get confused. That's before I even mention the names. There are so many Edwards and Richards in this book, that things can get a little muddled. I did a little background reading and looked up a chronology of English Kings and Queens online, and this helped.
Elizabeth herself is an interesting character to read about. As powerful and resourceful as she is ambitious and ruthless, I liked her for the most part, although her relentless ambition was a little grating in the end. I loved the added supernatural element to Elizabeth's story, in which Gregory weaves the tale of Melusina, the water goddess alongside the story of Elizabeth for she and the female members of her family are descended from this otherworldly being. I loved the additions of magic and witchcraft to the story - it was something I hadn't expected, but it really worked for me. Gregory also has an interesting viewpoint on the missing princes in the tower. It is a mystery that has never been solved, and I very much enjoyed reading her take on it.
Overall I think this is a great read for fans of historical fiction. It is a wonderful prequel to her Tudor series, and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, The Red Queen, due for release in August 2010.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I thoroughly enjoyed this. Not a genre I read much of, so when I do I really like to feel the period, and Philippa Gregory clearly is a thorough researcher and it was easy to picture the places, the clothes, the period.
I finally gave in to this after seeing the TV series and loving the stories they never covered in school.
Elizabeth Woodville's first person narrative was an excellent method of conveying the story, the woman's story that is usually hidden.
The book covers the period in history prior to the Tudors, where the widowed Elizabeth meets the new young king Edward, on the opposing side in the Cousins' War to her family. They fall in love and the course of history is turned in an unelected direction.
The political machinations of the court are seen through Elizabeth, we see her life as eventual Queen and mother and how events affected her family and more importantly how events changed the entire family's lives.
I didn't enjoy the witchcraft parts. Elizabeth and her mother were said to be descended from a water goddess and so much cursing and spell casting take place, some of which coincidentally happens at the time of historically-significant weather conditions. Though whatever we think of witchcraft today, they would then have truly believed they could affect the world, so these sections are true to what possibly did occur in the characters' lives.
It wasn't as difficult as I anticipated keeping track of everyone though there were a few too many Edwards that weren't easily distinguishable.
I liked that the author put forward her own theories on the Princes in the Tower and why these people acted as they did. I also could appreciate how the story will be filled in by reading Red Queen and Kingmaker's Daughter to fill in the story of the other significant women in Elizabeth's tale. I have already reserved my library copies.
Very readable, lots of wonderful historic detail and a very entertaining and sexy look at a much-overlooked period in our history.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 August 2013
This is actually the first historical fiction novel I have read and I really enjoyed it. I think Philippa Gregory was the perfect author to introduce me to this genre. The War of the Roses was a fantastic backdrop for this novel and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the history of England.
When Elizabeth Woodville's husband Sir John Grey dies in battle, she is left with nothing. Her husband's lands are confiscated and her young sons, Thomas and Richard, are left without an inheritance. Elizabeth is a loyal Lancastrian but must approach the Yorkist King Edward IV to retrieve her sons' lands. What Elizabeth does not count on is falling in love with this Yorkist King - her sworn enemy.
It is love at first sight for Edward and Elizabeth. They marry in secret to curb any opposition to their union - it was uncommon in those days to marry for love. Edward was expected to marry a foreign princess, not a commoner like Elizabeth. Elizabeth faces resistance as soon as she is crowned Queen of England - many people believed she bewitched the King to marry her. How will she deal with the challenges that are presented to her during these hard times of the Cousin's War?
I found Elizabeth a likeable narrator, she was a very strong woman and very ambitious. When history is studied, men are the main focus of a historian's research and it is refreshing to see the War of the Roses through a woman's eyes, especially one who I think has been overlooked.
What I found interesting about this book is that Elizabeth and her Mother Jacquetta are portrayed as witches. They were supposedly descended from Melusina the water goddess. Whenever a situation was not falling in Elizabeth's favour, Jacquetta and Elizabeth would turn to their ancestor for some other-worldly help. I enjoyed this aspect of the book, the magic gave the story another dimension.
Philippa Gregory entwines fact and fiction together beautifully. Where historical information was not available, Philippa used her own imagination and knowledge of the characters to add to the story of Elizabeth herself. I highly recommend this book and will definitely be reading the rest of the books in this series.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 June 2011
Elizabeth Woodville was the Queen of Edward IV, the mother of the murdered princes in the tower, and the grandmother of Henry VIII. She played a larger role in the period of the War of the Roses then she is often credited with, and her portrayals in the books have usually been less than sympathetic. This novel covers her story over a span 0f 21 years from the time she is wood by the debonair Edward IV in the midst of the bloody War of the Roses until the eve of the Battle of Bosworth in which Richard III was defeated by Henry Tudor and killed.
She gives a more sympathetic portrayal of Elizabeth Woodville than she does of her subject in The Other Boleyn Girl (Anne Boleyn) and her books about Queen Elizabeth. I love novels about English medieval and Tudor history and was quite excited to find this-having read The Other Boleyn Girl, The Queen's Fool (my favourite Gregory book next to this one and The Constant Princess. I certainly enjoyed this one and found it an addictive page turner and am looking forward to reading The Red Queen and The White Princess. She portrays her characters in a multidimensional fashion in the novel which I liked.
Her portrait of Elizabeth is of a strong, ambitious and determined woman who although she can be ruthless and conniving , greatly cares for her children, and can show generosity of spirit. Perhaps it is close to the real character of Elizabeth Woodville. The saga of the Rivers family is an interesting one as many of the characters she covers in this novel appear in Shakespeare's Richard III.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester is portrayed as ruthless and cruel, extremely self-serving and cunning, not the saintly figure of Sharon Penman's The Sunne in Splendour, yet she is absolved of blame by Gregory for the deaths of the princes.
Interesting aspects of this novel include Elizabeth's witchcraft- she curses Richard III so that his arm withers and he weakens and alludes to the scene in Richard III where he flounders at the battlefield of Bosworth before his death, desperate for a horse. She curses whoever had ordered the death of her son, Edward V, and the facts that would unfold point to the perpetrator being Henry VII, who as Elizabeth Woodville incanted would lose his firstborn son in youth and his grandson (Prince Arthur brother of Henry VIII and Henry VIII's only son Edward VI).
Her sorcery is a central part of the novel and much is made of her reputed descent through her mother, Jaquetta of Burgundy from the feminine spirit of sacred springs and rivers, Melusina. The book includes a figure of the time I have always much liked, Edward's beautiful mistress (and mistress of many others)Jane Shore, who is referred to by Elizabeth as 'the Shore Whore'but eventually Elizabeth after gaining much help from Mistress Shore, is unable to not like her. As Elizabeth exclaims after her cruel penance by King Richard: 'Harlot or Angel: God bless her".
she puts forward in her novel the story that her youngest son Richard of York, the other prince was smuggles to safety and replace by Elizabeth Woodville with a peasant boy who died in the tower together with Prince Edward.
Also shown here is the fascinating and romantic character of Elizabeth Woodville's daughter Elizabeth of York, mother of Henry VIII. A compelling blend of romance and history, Gregory has done her research well and gives a more than satisfactory coverage of The Wars of the Roses and the waxing and waning fortunes of the Yorks and Lancasters as well as Elizabeth's family, the Rivers. I found it a complete page turner.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 May 2011
Philippa Gregory is perhaps best known for her novels focussing on the Tudor period, taking a strong woman and then retelling the history we all know from her point of view. The White Queen focuses on the period before Henry VII came to power (so beginning the Tudor line), and tells the tale of Elizabeth Woodville (Henry VIII`s Grandmother), someone I hadn't actually heard of before reading this, but a woman who had a fascinating part to play in our history.
The White Queen follows the same writing style as many other Gregory novels, allowing the main protagonist to tell their own story. I find this gives a far more personal reading experience and allows me to easily immerse myself in the book. But, and this is a big but, interspersed between the main narrative is the story of Melusina, a fairy tale very similar to The Little Mermaid. While I understand that this is included due to the fact that Elizabeth's maternal family believed themselves to be descended from this water goddess, I found that it would often snap me out of the zone. I personally feel that the book would have read better if Melusina's tale had either been omitted or placed at the end of the book.
As with the majority of Gregory's novels (that I have read), I loved her choice of Elizabeth as her main character. I love the way she takes a strong woman as her lead, especially as woman of that period generally had very little power. While there is plenty to love about Elizabeth, such as her devotion to her husband and children, she's not perfect, which of course makes her far more believable. The very fact that she is a woman in a time where woman had very little power over their own lives means that she is a little power-hungry. I also loved the way that Elizabeth's husband was written, again not perfect but his love for his wife certainly shone through. The other main characters were also well written, I certainly had no trouble imagining all of their interactions.
As for the plot itself, well for obvious reasons it follows a very well defined route, being based on historical figures means that we all know a little of their tale. While much of the history is glossed over I really enjoyed the actual interactions that caused the famous events. The scenes between Elizabeth and Richard are particularly touching, especially in the opening chapters. I didn't really enjoy the inclusion of witchcraft, especially as Gregory appeared to be saying that Elizabeth, her mother and her daughters could actually conjure up storms. Yes I do realise that it was widely believed that Elizabeth and her mother were witches, after all why else would the young King choose to marry an older woman, who was not only a widow but not even a virgin, but to me it felt forced at times.
The one part of Elizabeth's story that we all know at least a little about, is that of her sons, The Princes In The Tower. Little is known about the fate of those two little boys (as in nothing), but Gregory handles the story sensitively and sensibly. I'm not going to spoil the book by telling you the fate Gregory has written for them, but I will say that I was impressed with her reasoning.
While there was plenty of contemporary evidence for Gregory to draw on when writing her Tudor series of books, there was (and is) far less for the Plantagenet period, meaning that she has had to take far more liberties when telling Elizabeth's story (as she readily admits in her author's note). I admit that I have little personal knowledge of the time period, having only briefly covered it in primary school, so I am unable to state whether the book contains any glaring errors, but to me it feels right. After all this is a novel and not a text book and there's nothing that actually shouts at me that it's wrong.
All in all, I found this an enjoyable read, albeit one with a few flaws. I enjoyed the writing style and enjoyed the glimpse into the life of a little known, but historically important woman. This is a book that I am happy to give four stars out of five and recommend to a wide range of different readers. If romance is your thing, then this contains romance, and of course if you enjoy historical novels then you'll enjoy this. As to the age range, well although there is murder and sex, there are no graphical descriptions and I would be happy for a thirteen year to read this (if it's their type of thing).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Philippa Gregory is best known for her Tudor court novels, but with The White Queen she moves further back in time to the Plantagenets and the Wars of the Roses.
Elizabeth Woodville is twenty seven when she meets and falls in love with King Edward IV. Following a private wedding, Elizabeth becomes Queen of England and finds herself caught up in the ongoing battles between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. Amidst all the politics, intrigue and betrayal, Elizabeth's concern is for the future of her children - in particular her two royal sons who will become the famous 'Princes in the Tower', a mystery which remains unsolved to this day.
The book is written in the first person present tense which I found slightly irritating, though not enough to stop me from enjoying the book. The use of present tense does help the reader to feel as if they are experiencing events along with Elizabeth, so it works in that sense. I found the story itself quite suspenseful and exciting - it probably helped that although I read a lot of historical fiction novels, I haven't read many about the War of the Roses, so only had a vague idea of what was going to happen.
If you're not very familiar with the historical background, you'll need to concentrate to be able to keep track of all the battles, changes of allegiances and numerous claimants to the throne. The family tree provided at the front of the book is not very helpful - it's incomplete and really needed to show at least one more generation, as it ends before some of the important characters in the story were even born.
The book ends abruptly, but that's not surprising since The White Queen is the first in a trilogy called The Cousins' War and will be followed by The Red Queen and The White Princess which will focus on Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth of York respectively. I would recommend The White Queen if, like me, you don't have much knowledge of the Wars of the Roses and are looking for an enjoyable and relatively easy to understand introduction to the period. For those of you with a lot of background knowledge, I think there should still be enough new ideas to keep you interested.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 December 2013
Philippa Gregory is a good writer and she clearly does a great deal of historical research. However, a lot of historical information is open to interpretation and I do not always agree with Ms Gregory's interpretation. One of my issues with this particular novel is that it just did not seem gritty enough given the circumstances in which it is set and it concentrates too much on the love story and the elegant lifestyle for my liking. Also the dialogue occasionally seems more 20th century than 15th; for example, I do not believe that 'numpty' is a word that would really have been used in court circles during medieval times.
I have subsequently read a proper history book about Elizabeth Woodville and it was much more enjoyable than this fictionalised account. Having said all that, this is still a ripping good yarn and I have already moved on to other books in the "Cousins' War" series, all of which are so far, much better than this one. This was written as the first book in that series, but if you are thinking of reading all the books, I would recommend the third book "The Lady of the Rivers" as a better starting point because it deals with the life of Elizabeth's mother Jaquetta and the beginnings of the conflict that lead to Edward IV becoming King and I think that it makes more sense chronologically to start there.