Customer Review

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
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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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 Sep 2008 13:03:08 BDT
Cath says:
This review describes word for word my own opinion of this book. Not in the same class as The Other Boleyn Girl and the other books in the series.

Posted on 25 Sep 2008 13:34:22 BDT
PG is without a doubt my favourite author and was really looking forward to reading this but I have to totally agree with this review - this sums up exactly how I feel about this book. If you are a PG fan it is still worth reading....

Posted on 30 Sep 2008 08:58:15 BDT
Julia Flyte says:
Thanks for the comments. I agree Ms Steer - if you are a PG fan you'll probably still find enough there to enjoy (especially if you start off with low expectations). I was disappointed in it, but it was far from being the worst book that I've read this year.

Posted on 10 Oct 2008 14:49:38 BDT
SusieQ says:
Very good review & it reflects my opinion of the book, also.

Posted on 3 Nov 2008 12:48:00 GMT
Exactly how I felt on reading the book. An excellent review. Whilst mildly entertaining it is very repetitive.

Posted on 22 Apr 2009 17:04:25 BDT
Ms. S. Luker says:
I completely agree. I felt that it was just waaaay too long and hardly anything happens. I found it very difficult to get enthralled by it. I found this disappointing as a have really enjoyed many of her previous books. Such as The Other Boleyn Girl, Wise Woman and Wideacre and many more.
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