8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Philippa Gregory Got Her Head Chopped Off,
This review is from: The Other Queen (Paperback)
I bought The Other Queen having never read any of Gregory's other novels but having very much enjoyed the film version of The Other Boleyn Girl. The plight of Mary Stuart has been a subject that has fascinated me from a very young age (strange child, I know) and I had been enjoying another series of books set in Tudor England so when I happened upon this novel in a local bookstore I set to reading it straight away.
The story Gregory tells in some 400+ pages could be told in 100. It's not that the book is a difficult read it is just so damned repetitive and monotonous. Despite manipulating the structure of the book to try to some extent to hide this fact, which she does by alternating between the perspectives of the three characters Bess and George Talbot and Mary Stuart herself, there is no escaping the fact that the characters simply repeat themselves over and over again. Even when the narrative moves forward the characters do not; Bess only muses over the safety of her fortune and houses; George Talbot constantly longs to be close to the Scots Queen but is a man of honour and cannot betray his own sovereign; Mary Stuart is Queen consort and how dare anyone deny her freedom, what an usurper Elizabeth is! These are the ONLY thoughts rattling around the characters otherwise empty heads. After the first few chapters you have read all that the characters have to say, all that they have to think about and everything thereafter is the same sentiment reworded - and sometimes Gregory does not even bother to reword it.
The characters themselves are very one dimensional. Wherever Gregory has tried to give them some depth she doesn't do so with due sentiment or subtly and as such the characters just come over as false and contradicting themselves. I have no doubt that Bess Talbot was a truly remarkable and unique woman in her day - but Gregory has turned her into a thoroughly detestable character which I am sure was never her intention. Bess is the one of the three characters with whom the reader should identify with most but there is absolutely nothing in Gregory's portrayal of her to cause the reader to warm to her. In George Talbot Gregory has pandered too much to the Mills-&-Boons-reading segment of her fan base; he's simply too weak a man and too weak a character. Worse still, to my mind she has done Mary Stuart a great disservice as her character in The Other Queen elicits no intrigue and very little sympathy.
Neither do I understand the need to tell the story through the eyes of three characters when one would do. This is not done cleverly nor does it add anything to the enjoyment of the book or the understanding of the conflicting interests at play. We do not have the same parts of the story told through three different eyes, as in Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky, the story just flits from one character to other as the plot moves, back and forth and back and forth, adding nothing new which makes no sense. These three characters are all in close proximity and living the same chain of events, if Gregory were heart set on approaching the book from this angle then it would have been far more interesting had she chosen three different characters to focus on, some combination of; Bess, Norfolk & Cecil or even Mary, Bess and Elizabeth. One character from the rising, one from Mary Stuarts "court" and one from Elizabeth's, or even just Elizabeth and Mary - now THAT would have been interesting.
All in all I was very disappointed with the book. It seems to me that Gregory wrote this novel with very little to form the basis of a novel, perhaps feeling that this patricular story would strike a cord in the same way that Boleyn story did. I have stuck with it to the end out of respect for the story of Mary Stuart but I think it's safe to say that this is my first and last Philippa Gregory novel.
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Initial post: 5 Nov 2010 18:02:31 GMT
Well said! You've articulated very well just what failed to work in this book. I've just finished reading it myself, and I found myself thinking the same things as you have pointed out here.
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