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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hell hath no fury
Very interesting stimulating read. This book puts forward the case for the defence of some of our more notorious Queens. It helps provide a more rounded picture or at least corrects the image of these women whom history has judged extremely harshly. The book is very comprehensive, mentioning various anglo-saxon Queens I had never heard of previously and struggled to...
Published on 9 Nov 2010 by L. Chapman

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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great idea but disappointing execution
The irritatingly breathless, hyperbolic and off-putting cover blurb was ironically the reason I picked up this book; surely the author was not seriously suggesting that Emma of Normandy, Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey and Mary Tudor (to name a few of the "notorious queens" profiled here) all shared a penchant "for...
Published on 25 Jan 2009 by Rachel


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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great idea but disappointing execution, 25 Jan 2009
By 
Rachel (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
The irritatingly breathless, hyperbolic and off-putting cover blurb was ironically the reason I picked up this book; surely the author was not seriously suggesting that Emma of Normandy, Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey and Mary Tudor (to name a few of the "notorious queens" profiled here) all shared a penchant "for witchcraft, murder, adultery and incest"! Thankfully, no - the product summary is very much a misrepresentation of the approach here. The common theme is the notion that the notoriety of these queens arises from their failure, or refusal, to conform either wholly or partly to contemporary expectations of female behaviour, and that their reputations are not necessarily deserved. Given its scope -approximately twenty queens' lives are examined here, some famous, some more obscure - each chapter is understandably a very brief and general account of each queen.

In attempting to rehabilitate some of her subjects, Norton regrettably goes too far in the other direction. For example, in the chapter on Isabella of France, Edward II's Queen, she argues that Isabella was "driven" into her "cruel and terrible actions" by "years of mistreatment"; that the invasion of England and the tyrannical regime that Isabella and Mortimer set up was the result of being provoked beyond endurance by her homosexual husband and his favourites (Piers Gaveston and the Despensers, which is spelt "Dispensers" - both annoying and unintentionally funny). This implication that Isabella was really just a put-upon wife in an abusive marriage is too simplistic for words, as well as unfair. If a strong and powerful woman is able to own her achievements, then she should be held just as responsible for her less laudable actions. The "victimhood" approach (which also forms the basis of Alison Weir's analysis of Isabella) denies women's agency, and is just as paternalistic as some of the contemporary attitudes that Norton criticises.

Unfortunately, the actual writing is also rather pedestrian and a bit simplistic. There is too much speculation as to what each of her subjects may have felt or thought: so-and-so "was probably excited at the thought of her marriage" or "probably hoped to be able to influence her husband." The narrative is extremely repetitive: words such as "notorious" and "unsavoury" are used far too often, which suggests Norton and/or her editors need to invest in a good thesaurus, and the prose is fairly lifeless. Just because a book is non-fiction does not mean the writing style has to be dry and laboured; Antonia Fraser and David Starkey are examples of biographers whose writing is vivid and entertaining, and whose books read like novels.

The lives of the queens depicted here are definitely fascinating, and deserving of analysis. Unfortunately this book does not quite do them justice which is a real shame, and an opportunity missed.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Who was supposed to edit this book?, 19 Jan 2012
Having been given a Kindle for Christmas and recently read a reasonable review of this book, I ordered it as my first e-book. When I started reading it, I couldn't believe that any experienced editor had passed it for publication. While the endless split infinitives may not bother many readers, surely the lack of essential commas which require several re-readings to elicit the sense of a sentence should have alerted someone. Again, perhaps everyone doesn't know that "auger" is a tool rather than the verb "augur", but surely a decent editor would have picked that up.

But taking a less pedantic overview, the whole thing is a morass of "perhaps she...", "she might have..." and "it is possible that..." rather than a confident insight into evidence. Elizabeth Norton seems to have (or to quote her preferred phrase) "might have" discovered a list of queens, read some accounts of their various periods - William of Malmesbury being a particular favourite - and dashed off a series of possible versions of their lives.

I admit to having been hugely impressed by the combination of research and authorial invention Hilary Mantel achieved in "Wolfe Hall". But "She-Wolves" shows the pitfalls of a less scrupulous writer attempting to perform that trick. I have to rate this as a pot-boiler from a writer who's churning out books in a Barbara-Cartland-style production line rather than as serious scholarship.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hell hath no fury, 9 Nov 2010
By 
L. Chapman - See all my reviews
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Very interesting stimulating read. This book puts forward the case for the defence of some of our more notorious Queens. It helps provide a more rounded picture or at least corrects the image of these women whom history has judged extremely harshly. The book is very comprehensive, mentioning various anglo-saxon Queens I had never heard of previously and struggled to pronounce their names. It is very informative about the court, politics and customs from anglo-saxon times to the reign of Mary Tudor. A thought-provoking read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Informative but..., 22 May 2014
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Often enjoyable and interesting subject matter enthusiastically conveyed, though narrative flow often marred by excessive repetitive use of certain points particularly with reference to women's place in patriarchal society. Obviously this important point is central to the book's thesis and needs reinforcement, but not to the obvious extent routinely stated. As such the book reads like a late draft requiring further editorial input.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Medieval queens gone bad, 9 Mar 2009
By 
She Wolves presents a montage of very different queens across a wide spread of time. They all share in a common a `bad press' from contemporary writers and later historians. I found the earlier queens the more interesting, not least because I knew less about them, but also perhaps because they did more outrageous things (at least, according to the people writing about them!) This book takes some very interesting angles on the queens, neither apologising for some unashamedly bad behaviour nor condemning them. Instead, Norton just tries to explain their motivations and why they did what they did, which makes for a fresh and compelling viewpoint.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great overview of queenship in medieval England., 19 Mar 2010
By 
Ms. N. M. Laverick (Newmarket, UK) - See all my reviews
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Personally, I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't long-winded like some history books - it went straight to the point of the title. It gave a great insight into the role of the queen consort in medieval England and the social views of the times. However, if you're looking for great detail into the lives of these queens, this is not the book for you. On saying that it is a great starting point.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Trash, But Unfortunately Not Good Trash, 19 Jan 2010
By 
Judith Loriente (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
You know how sometimes you just want to read a good, almost trashy work of popular history? Something that has no pretensions to being an academic study, that requires no thought whatsoever - something that's just a ripping yarn, but that doesn't leave you feeling cheated by bombarding you with factual errors, amateur psychology and pet theories stated as fact? A book that makes you wonder why you bother with so many bad works of historical fiction by churn-'em-out hacks and Richard the Third apologists, when a brilliantly-written work of popular history beats most historical fiction out of this world?

Well, `She Wolves' ain't it. The surface is racy and trashy, but the content is uninspiring. The writing style isn't very impressive either - it's badly punctuated, with commas thrown into some sentences with no logic whatsoever. Language like "Aelfthryth is one of the most notorious of any queen of England" is also highly irritating. Why not, "Aelfthryth is one of the most notorious queens of England"? As I always end up concluding in these cases, a good editor could have helped a great deal, and massaged something inadequate into something adequate.

What's most irritating is those passages that manage to bombard you with information, and at the same time, tell you almost nothing. For example: "Anne Boleyn is the most controversial woman ever to wear the crown of England. Like Elizabeth Woodville, she rose from humble origins to marry the king but her king was already married. By deciding to marry, Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII set in motion a divorce which dragged on for over six years and dramatically changed the course of English history. Anne Boleyn had a huge impact on religion in England and helped to shape the course England would take into the early modern period. In spite of this, however, she was never popular and Anne's security was ultimately based on maintaining the king's love. One of the most studied of her generation, Anne Boleyn's life held moments of great triumph and calamity. She is also one of the most vilified, though Henry should bear most of the blame, as he held the power in their relationship. Anne ended up an unfortunate victim, just like Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon." Whoa! This rushed, breathless style made me start to feel almost dizzy if I read more than one chapter at a time.

There's a monstrous factual error about Bloody Mary that I must point out, in order to prove I'm not just being snide about how bad this book really is: "Mary had begun to burn Protestants in February 1555 but these dramatically increased following Philip's departure, in Mary's bid to please God and so earn His favour again. Thousands of Protestants were burned during Mary's reign and she earned the nickname, `Bloody Mary' for this policy." Yes, that's right: THOUSANDS of Protestants were, according to this supposed historian, burned between February 1555 and Mary's death in November 1558. Not the 300 or so that other historians state (though some specify about 280). David Starkey's `Elizabeth' mentions, in addition to those 300, about 100 other deaths in custody, so if you add those suspected heretics who died in prison awaiting trial, you could safely say she was responsible for the deaths of approximately 400 Protestants. That is not `thousands'. One other possible mistake: "Mary must have been devastated by the failure of her `pregnancy' and her grief was confounded on 29 August when Philip sailed to Flanders." I know "confounded" means confused, perplexed, astonished, etc. - but still, this doesn't sound right. Is there any possibility she meant "compounded"? Mary's grief at the ending of her phantom pregnancy would certainly have been magnified by her husband's desertion of her.

I have to say, I'm also disappointed with the production standards. After reading works such as John Schofield's `The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell', Peter Rex's `The English Resistance' and Arlene Okerlund's biography of Elizabeth Woodville, I'd assumed The History Press was a highly reputable publisher that only published well-produced books by serious historians. `She Wolves' has blown that theory out the window. In addition to the problems already outlined, the book was not edited or proofread properly - there those commas all over the place, and problems such as "One of Mary's first acts as queen was to repeal her parent's divorce", "Matilda of Flander's daughter-in-law" and "Isabella must have eager to visit her new country" are enough to make anyone who cares about the production standards of books wince. She also refers to Thomas More and `Thomas Moore', and writes that Elizabeth Woodville's father was named Sir John Woodville, when his name was Sir Richard Woodville.

I'd say, "Don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed", except that I'd be lying. Based on other reviews, I didn't expect too much, yet I was still disappointed. It's not completely unreadable (though it's close!), but the awkward writing and haphazard punctuation do not make it an enjoyable read. And I have to say that her statement in the Conclusion that "The queens discussed here were all, for a variety of reasons, portrayed as She-Wolves" seems unsubstantiated. Were the witless wanton Catherine Howard and the manipulated and abused Lady Jane Grey really seen by their contemporaries as "she-wolves"?
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars catchy title! (Very catchy!), 30 Nov 2010
The title promised a sharp, engaging account. In reality, it was quite tedious, dry, especially in the first 3 chapters - I only persevered because I wanted to get the 'whole picture' - but it was confusing often - too many unneccessarily unpronounceable names of queens (and others - to show the author's studiousness in research??) narrowly set out, and with confusing overlaps and back-tracks. Altogether disappointing. Was pleased to finish it.
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6 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 5 Sep 2008
By 
A fascinating insight in to a much neglected area. I note that the author as a further book coming out which I am very much looking forward to.
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3 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic, 10 Aug 2008
This is a very thought provocating book. I really enjoyed reading it. The facts about the Queens were very interesting. I did not realise the Queens in British were so excuiting.
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