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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Given how well-reviewed the book is, I was expecting something brilliant, but for me this book just didn't work. Why? Because it has so much detail in chronological order without that much analysis of wider trends or explorations of the bigger factors behind the day by day, year by year narrative.

It's got a tremendous amount of well researched detail, presented at a fairly intense tempo of names, battles, deaths and the like. Each individual retelling of an event is pretty good, but the overall effect is to drown the reader (or at least me) in more and more names, battles, deaths and more, making it hard to spot the bigger forces at work or to sort out the different pieces of the narrative into a clearer set of themes.

The relentless narrative makes clear, for example, how often political power was dependent on the health of particular individuals, disappearing when they died, but the reasons why more power didn't rest with organisations or families that could persist beyond the one death never gets much explanation. You'll end up knowing a lot about who and when, but rather less of the why.
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on 10 November 2013
A detailed look at the York / Lancaster battle for the English crown. The book is hugely detailed but succeeds in mapping out a very complex period of history in a clear and understandable fashion. It focuses on the period up to the Battle of Tewkesbury & the death of Henry VI, so events following his and Edward IV's death are not covered. It is a generalist's book told in a narrative rather than an academic style. As there are no footnotes or detailed sources if you need academic rigor then you'll need to supplement this with additional reading,but if you want an overview of the period then this is a good beginning.
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on 10 October 2016
She makes what is quite a complicated part of English history,very easy to read and understand.
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on 1 March 2017
A great read. A fast paced ride through the history of the war and the characters in the murderous drama.
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on 15 September 2014
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on 10 June 2012

I began this book with some trepidation having struggled a little with Alison Weir's Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Duchess. The problem I had with that story was not in its telling but in the lack of firm factual information to base it on. Her story of Lancaster and York has no such shortfall.

This is a brilliantly researched and highly readable account of a very complex saga. I have read many other books about and touching on the War of the Roses, but I don't think any of them surpassed this telling of the tale, and I can think of only one has equalled it - namely Paul Kendall's Richard III.

Having just read Juliet Barker's Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle, I was struck by one or two inconsistencies in minor detail between the two books - for instance, Barker's statement that English knights always dismounted and fought battles beside their infantrymen, whereas Alison Weir states the opposite. Barker also depicts Henry V as merciful towards French civilians during his 1415 campaign of conquest, whereas Weir presents him as the complete opposite. No doubt history is full of such conundrums and divergences in interpretation.

Anyway, I have nothing but praise for Lancaster And York: The Wars of the Roses. Weir introduces her book by saying that her intention was to focus on the people rather than the politics, and to present them in more depth than is normally allowed them. In this she mostly succeeds, though the story has far too many characters for more than a few to be given three dimensional treatment. Perhaps most notably, King Henry VI appears less of a puppet than in most accounts, and having a capacity to combine stubbornness with stupidity. However his wife, Margaret of Angou, remains somewhat two-dimensional though perhaps a slightly less evil one than Shakespeare and Kendall present her. I will be interested to see if Helen Castor can fill her out a little in She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth

Even if Weir did not intend to focus on the political machinations that underlay the Wars of the Roses, she succeeds in presenting a very clear and detailed account of them, and she has done so in a strictly chronological sequence - no mean feat for such a complicated and interwoven story.

I cannot do justice to this brilliantly written book about an extraordinary period of English history, but I can recommend it with confidence.

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on 4 September 2014
Loved this!
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on 20 May 2017
As described.
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on 7 March 2017
I love this book. :) Very interesting, thrilling, I can not put it down!!
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A wonderful book that went a long way to filling in the shameful patchy gaps in my knowledge of history from Edward III to Henry VII. My interest in the period was sparked by the wonderful BBC series The Hollow Crown - TV Mini Series [DVD] focussing on Richard II, Henry IV, and V.

In 1461 at the battle of Towton Edward IV was victorious over Henry VI and around 40,000 lives were lost in the brutal struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster. There followed a turbulent, violent, and bloody period where the crown was wrested between king and king and prison gates revolved with those deposed and reinstated - unless beheaded, or worse, along the way. The ghastly fates of those, along with enemies and allies across the water in France, is meticulously, and always excitingly, told. There are strong wives, helpless infants, and betrothed and manipulated children, helpless pawns for scheming elders. I frequently consulted the genealogical tables at the back and can now recite my kings and queens from Edward I to the present day. What struck me in all the jostling for power by the bigwigs was that then as now, the ordinary people probably didn't care greatly who won, so long as law and order reigned and the taxes weren't too high.
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