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This review is from: The Last Queen (Paperback)
Juana la Loca, the last queen of Spain, narrates her life story which is defined by her marriage to Philip (heir to the Hapsburg Empire) and it's implications/aftermath.
The book weaves an accessible tale of the complex inter-relationships of the great European powers of the time and centres it from the Spanish perspective (the author is half Spanish) - a view not normally considered in Anglo-Saxon writings of history. In addition to this, and what makes it all work, is the love of Spain that infuses the book - descriptions of the smells of jasmine and sounds of water trickling in the Alhambra, to images of the vast arid plains and fierce mountain passes. This deep affection flows from Juana - from her steely resolve to hold the kingdom her mother created, even if it brings her harm, to her reminiscences and yearning to be in her native land when living abroad.
Juana struggles terribly with the conflicts of a sense of duty (invoked by her mother, Queen Isabel) and her marriage to Philip - eventually the forces become so polarised and political scheming overtakes her that it is no wonder she slips into mental turmoil.
Not only is it a great work of historical fiction, based by all accounts on the most accurate information available - because of how congruently it is voiced by Juana it becomes a thrilling, page turning, tragic love-story which left me with a keen sense of the injustices of life of a female ruler in a man's world.