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The Gunpowder Plot Audio Download – Unabridged

4.4 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
For those among you who have read other historical narratives by Antonia Fraser you will know that her depth of research and story telling skills are beyond reproach. And so it is with this book.
The book outlines not only the details of the conspiracy itself but also sets the scene by explaining the very real persecution that catholics were exposed to in the last years of Elizabeth's reign and how they hoped, and indeed believed, that they would achieve toleration once James was securely on the English throne.
One aspect of the book which I found particulary fascinating was in respect of how little things have changed over the last four hundred years. We still have politicians who are prepared to make all kinds of promises before they gain power which they have no intention of actually keeping. We also have politicians who have no qualms about lying to us about the real dangers posed by our so called enemies in order that they can implement policies which are beneficial to themselves. And, of course, even in the twenty first century we still have religious extremists who are prepared to bomb London in order to further their cause, though not thankfully those with catholic sympathies anymore.
As we would expect from a historical writer who has written so extensively about female historical characters she places much emphasis on the women who are connected to the powder treason, most notably Anne and Eliza Vaux. She also betrays her catholic sympathies, not so much by supporting the conspirators which she doesn't, but by her very sympathetic portrayal of the Jesuits and lay men who were part of the story, though not of the conspiracy.
In summary, I would highly recommend this book not only because it is a very good read but also because in many important respects many aspects of the narrative are still highly relevant today.
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Format: Paperback
Antonia Fraser has the gift of presenting facts and documents from history in beautiful, engaging prose that you just want to keep on reading. The Gunpowder Plot was the first book by Ms Fraser that I read and I loved the thrill and the suspense which she weaves into her narrative. I felt as if I was reading a fast-paced, intriguing detective story rather than a book of fact - and though I knew from the start that the Plot will not succeed, Ms Fraser's style is so absorbing that you'll find youself turning the pages with excitement as you glimpse into the early 17th century religious turmoil of England. Most people will probably have heard of the Gunpowder Plot but won't really know about the forces that shaped it, or the outcome that it brought for England. With The Gunpowder Plot you will discover so many interesting facts about the Plot that you never knew, for example why celebrating Guy Fawkes Day in the USA is such a bizarre contradiction. I learnt a lot while reading this book and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.
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Format: Paperback
I don't want to repeat all the many reviews already on here, but would like to add that there is a detectable emotional bias on the side of Fraser for the catholics. That doesn't detract from the book in any way (and could we ever elide our own emotions, opinions, bias' from any narrative?) but instead does add an interesting contemporary layer to her story. At the end, after the conspiracy has been discovered, this emotionalism becomes more obvious in the stories of the torture and execution of the conspirators (some of whom, arguably, were not actually involved). Fraser ends by not coming out on the side of the conspirators, but instead evoking the pity that such 'noble' men were forced into such ignoble deeeds: an interesting view, perhaps, given our own more recent experiences of terrorism in London and other places? A worthy book, and well-worth a read, both for its historical story-telling and its more modern narrative sub-text.
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Format: Paperback
. . . and the version of the Tudor period told to Catholic children differs from the version taught in state schools. To the majority of us, Elizabeth was the golden queen who held the balance of power for 40 years, redeeming the bloodbath of her sister's reign with mercy and temperance, and saving us from the terrors of the Inquisition as carried in the holds of the Armada. More or less, anyway. It is, of course, a biased view in which Henry the Eighth, despite being a Bad Man, did a Good Thing when he got rid of monasteries, relics, chantry chapels and the other institutions used by Rome to maintain her hegemony.

Fraser, as a Catholic, necessarily has a different view from the mainstream on the history of the years from 1520 to 1620. She takes the view that the Gunpowder Plot was an extremist manifestation of a wide-spread seething of Catholic frustration and suffering. Her sympathy with fellow-travellers, and pity for the (admittedly wrong) conspirators, is evident from the start. Perhaps it is, indeed, high time the balance was redressed.

However, this is a weighing down on the other side of the scales, rather than an impartial view. From the start, Fraser refers repeatedly to the extremity of the 'persecution' of Catholics under Elizabeth. But if they felt so very persecuted, why was there so little insurrection during her reign? We need to look at matters from both sides.

Henry never embraced the theology of advanced Protestantism; he remained an Anglo-Catholic and liked to see himself as a sort of demi-pope rather than a trailblazer for reform. His short-lived son, educated in a more radical vein, brought in the main recognizable features of the Church of England.
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