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Lady Mary Paperback – 5 Apr 2018
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The captivating third novel from popular television historian Lucy Worsley, exploring the most famous divorce in history from the perspective of Princess MarySee all Product description
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Lady Mary tells the story of Mary from when she is 9 years old, and happy, until she is a young woman of 21. During these years Mary is transformed, first by the appearance of Anne Boleyn in their lives and secondly by the King’s marriage to Jane Seymour. This is the story of Mary’s trials as a princess and royal figure but it is also, and more importantly, the tale of Mary’s suffering as a young person missing her parents and not quite understanding what is happening. She looks for friendship and sometimes finds it but she must also learn about dishonesty and betrayal.
This is a children’s book and I think, just like the earlier Eliza Rose, it will greatly appeal and hopefully spark an interest in this most fascinating and colourful of periods. As an older reader, there were certain parts of Lady Mary that I really enjoyed. I did like the depiction of life at Hatfield. It’s all very visual and full of little details, all reflecting Lucy Worsley’s knowledge as a curator of the royal palaces. There is also something very appealing about this portrayal of Mary. It’s so easy to warm to her and I didn’t want to put the novel down, I was so caught up in her story.
However, my biggest issue with the novel was also in this portrayal of Mary. Her religious fervour is removed and so, although I could believe in her gentleness and kindness as presented here, as a whole this depiction didn’t ring true for me. We’re given little glimpses of a possible romance, alongside quite upsetting scenes showing her brutal treatment as a prisoner, but, although she ages by over ten years through the book, her voice doesn’t change. It’s hard with hindsight to escape Mary’s legacy, that of Bloody Mary, but there isn’t a sign of any of that Catholic belief that dominated her life.
Henry VIII is equally unbelievable, in my opinion. He comes across as a bit of a fool. Some of the other characterisation isn’t subtle – Anne Boleyn is a horrifying ogress while Thomas Cromwell is as slimey as he is dangerous. Jane Seymour, by contrast, is a gentle angel. I did, though, really enjoy the scenes between Jane and Mary, and what they show about life at court. I did question the point at which the novel ended – with the birth of Edward VI. I would have loved it to have finished with Mary’s destiny – her accession to the throne.
Depth is missing from Lady Mary but in its place is an accessible and pleasing introduction to the Tudor court for young readers, and I found it much more successful than its predecessor My Name is Victoria. I certainly found Lady Mary very hard to put down, enjoying its Tudor richness and colour. I'm grateful for the review copy.
Worlsey returns to the Tudors, this time heading straight for the controversial Queen Mary, when she was a girl. Readers will be fascinated by the story of her separated parents, the second wife of the King, her mother's political striving and struggles. And Mary's own demotion from royalty as punishment for not accepting the situation. The spirit she shows here, while we may not have proof of every action, does give rise to a feeling that Mary must have acted unlike most women of her time.
Mary is born an heir, but the tempestuous situation of her youth, such a key period in history, gives this book many tense and surprising times, as Mary is treated in ways readers will be shocked at.
With social history and details aplenty, this will be much loved by history teachers (even if it strays from truth into speculation here and there) and any young reader who likes tales set in the past.
I began re-watching 'The Tudors' while reading this, and it also inspired me to learn more about some of the figures presented within it (Cromwell, Anne Boleyn), and I love books that encourage me to consider well-known stories from perspectives I hadn't given much credence.
Lucy Worsley seems to write naturally for her readers, the style personal and flowing, without resorting to old-fashioned language but giving plenty of historical detail to bring the scenes around them to life. This was a fairly short but engaging historical read, one I'd be recommending in a school library to Years 7-9 particularly.
With thanks to Netgalley for the sample e-copy, provided for review purposes.
What’s interesting about this story though, alongside that perfect blend of fact and fiction, is the relationships between key players during this time and how these relationships may have shaped Mary, and perhaps even her successors, to become the vengeful ruler she was alleged to be. True or not, it’s definitely some fun food for thought and it’s fun to imagine these well known figures interacting with each other more personally than a non-fiction book or documentary could capture.
I hadn’t even considered much of what is included in this book and the creativity with the storyline, whilst still holding true to things historians know to have happened, really made me question if Mary was just misunderstood, or maybe if I just understand the method behind her madness now!
I loved Mary and her relationship with her mother most of all. This book perfectly captures the bond between mother and daughter, but also the allies we often find in our parents, and this really made the characters shine for me.
An interesting book, with a slightly slow pace, but a really compelling character in Mary.
ARC provided free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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