Customer Review

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Better than the White Queen - but that's not saying much!, 22 Sept. 2010
This review is from: The Red Queen (Cousins' War Series 2) (Hardcover)
Looking at the 5 star reviews I'm wondering whether I've read a different book.
Most of the criticisms in my review of The White Queen apply to this second instalment in the series. This is slightly better - hence two stars.
The period covering the Wars of the Roses is one full of dramatic incident - plots, battles, betrayals, regicides - and to students of history or readers of historical novels they are very familiar. In contrast, the personal lives, thoughts and motivations of even the major historical figures are completely unknown. All fertile ground for the imagination of the historical novelist to run riot - alas, not here.
Margaret Beaufort is a fascinating historical figure, the true founder of the Tudor dynasty, and we know very little about her apart from the bare facts. It's likely that she was unable to have any more children after giving birth to the future Henry VII at 13 - at the time it was common for aristocratic children to be betrothed or even married at very young ages. But the marriages weren't usually consummated until several years later, and for a girl to have a child at 13 would have been unusual and brutal. This defining moment of Margaret's life is skipped through like the rest of the novel.
As in all her other novels, The Red Queen records the thoughts of the protagonist in first person, diary style. For an intimate portrait of a short period of time, as with The Other Boleyn Girl, this works well. But Gregory should really stop using this style for a wide-ranging, multi-themed historical novel because it simply doesn't work.
This book is like reading the whiny diary of a spoilt, rather dull girl with a tedious Joan of Arc obsession (why?), interspersed with descriptions of battles and other events cut out of a history text book. Where there is dialogue it is very clunky and poor. Try reading some of it out; these aren't real conversations. And to make these intriguing historical characters quite so dull is an absolute crime. She could have had a field day with Jasper Tudor and all three of Margaret's husbands.
Sorry to be so carping. As an avid reader of historical novels I would have loved to welcome a new series set in one of the most fascinating periods of British history. Once again, I refer you to Sharon Penman's The Sunne in Splendour for a historical novel in a completely different league. Am I accusing Philippa Gregory of lazy writing? Yes.
One final criticism - why do the book designers insist on featuring plastic-faced, expressionless 21st century supermodels in fancy dress on the covers of this series? Surely Margaret Beaufort had more character in her face than this? On second thoughts it's a perfect indication of the standard of work inside ...
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Sep 2010 08:28:15 BDT
Sonja Marten says:
I couldn't agree more!!! Having given up on the "White Queen" I nevertheless purchased "The Red Queen" hoping for an improvement. Alas, I was sorely disappointed! Margaret Beaufort comes across as a self-righteous simpleton, obsessed with her own self-importance and next to NO understanding of the political landscape of her time. In the beginning I thought this was mean to reflect her very young age, but as I progressed through the book, it didn't change. She is whiny and occassionally downright stupid. Anyone with even a superficial understanding of this period in English history and an understanding of the people that lived through it, should have been able to draw a more realistic picture of this woman.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Dec 2012 12:06:52 GMT
I, too, noticed the plastic-faced modern models on the covers of these books, and the dull old-fashioned method of writing, but admire the full use Gregory (or her publishers) make of the equally modern methods of bringing them to our notice. Work in Progress, Personal Websites, Questions for Reading Groups, Advertisements for 'posh' Hotels...
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