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on 23 May 2011
Philippa Gregory is perhaps best known for her novels focussing on the Tudor period, taking a strong woman and then retelling the history we all know from her point of view. The White Queen focuses on the period before Henry VII came to power (so beginning the Tudor line), and tells the tale of Elizabeth Woodville (Henry VIII`s Grandmother), someone I hadn't actually heard of before reading this, but a woman who had a fascinating part to play in our history.

The White Queen follows the same writing style as many other Gregory novels, allowing the main protagonist to tell their own story. I find this gives a far more personal reading experience and allows me to easily immerse myself in the book. But, and this is a big but, interspersed between the main narrative is the story of Melusina, a fairy tale very similar to The Little Mermaid. While I understand that this is included due to the fact that Elizabeth's maternal family believed themselves to be descended from this water goddess, I found that it would often snap me out of the zone. I personally feel that the book would have read better if Melusina's tale had either been omitted or placed at the end of the book.

As with the majority of Gregory's novels (that I have read), I loved her choice of Elizabeth as her main character. I love the way she takes a strong woman as her lead, especially as woman of that period generally had very little power. While there is plenty to love about Elizabeth, such as her devotion to her husband and children, she's not perfect, which of course makes her far more believable. The very fact that she is a woman in a time where woman had very little power over their own lives means that she is a little power-hungry. I also loved the way that Elizabeth's husband was written, again not perfect but his love for his wife certainly shone through. The other main characters were also well written, I certainly had no trouble imagining all of their interactions.

As for the plot itself, well for obvious reasons it follows a very well defined route, being based on historical figures means that we all know a little of their tale. While much of the history is glossed over I really enjoyed the actual interactions that caused the famous events. The scenes between Elizabeth and Richard are particularly touching, especially in the opening chapters. I didn't really enjoy the inclusion of witchcraft, especially as Gregory appeared to be saying that Elizabeth, her mother and her daughters could actually conjure up storms. Yes I do realise that it was widely believed that Elizabeth and her mother were witches, after all why else would the young King choose to marry an older woman, who was not only a widow but not even a virgin, but to me it felt forced at times.

The one part of Elizabeth's story that we all know at least a little about, is that of her sons, The Princes In The Tower. Little is known about the fate of those two little boys (as in nothing), but Gregory handles the story sensitively and sensibly. I'm not going to spoil the book by telling you the fate Gregory has written for them, but I will say that I was impressed with her reasoning.

While there was plenty of contemporary evidence for Gregory to draw on when writing her Tudor series of books, there was (and is) far less for the Plantagenet period, meaning that she has had to take far more liberties when telling Elizabeth's story (as she readily admits in her author's note). I admit that I have little personal knowledge of the time period, having only briefly covered it in primary school, so I am unable to state whether the book contains any glaring errors, but to me it feels right. After all this is a novel and not a text book and there's nothing that actually shouts at me that it's wrong.

All in all, I found this an enjoyable read, albeit one with a few flaws. I enjoyed the writing style and enjoyed the glimpse into the life of a little known, but historically important woman. This is a book that I am happy to give four stars out of five and recommend to a wide range of different readers. If romance is your thing, then this contains romance, and of course if you enjoy historical novels then you'll enjoy this. As to the age range, well although there is murder and sex, there are no graphical descriptions and I would be happy for a thirteen year to read this (if it's their type of thing).
4 people found this helpful
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on 10 February 2014
I loved this book...cannot praise it highly enough. I love historical novels where I can learn something about the past and ones where a tale is cleverly woven into facts. This is the first book I have read by Philippa Gregory and it will not be the last! I knew very little about the Wars of the Roses but learnt such a lot and was able to fix it into my mental timeline. Gregory has a wonderful way of delivering well researched facts and just when you thought you couldn't remember the links and characters with their relationships to each other, she pens a chapter which is a summary of the characters and events so beautifully executed that it is barely noticeable. Telling the tale from Elizabeth Woodville's position in history is unique and fascinating. I understand there are other novels written from the woman's point of view and I am definitely on their trail! Points against the book?...None from me! I loved it.....I broke one of my rules with this book. I claim not to watch a film or dramatization before I have read the book..I did watch the TV version first and although I enjoyed it, the book is so much better.
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on 11 November 2017
I can't believe this series managed to slide past me! Wow... So, god knows why, I've only just seen the T.V adaption. Now I want to read all the books! Phillippa Greggory has literature to an art, bringing every detail to life, so much so that your not just seeing it but living it. And yet, considering the period and subject matter she has written it in such way that most will beable to understand and learn a good slice of history. I now want to read all of her works! Credit to Phillipa.
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on 1 July 2013
Having never read any Philippa Gregory novels I am so glad I decided to download this one. I started watching the televised version and could not understand who and how everyone fit into the history of the Plantagenets. As soon as I started to read the White Queen things started to fall into some sort of order and having found a timeline of past Kings and Queens I was able to enjoy the story. Whilst I have difficulty accepting the authors explanations of what went on in this era , especially daily life, the witchcraft/magic, what went on when in Sanctuary,conversations/relationships between characters I found the story very plausible.
Despite my reservations to reading a historical novel, once I had accepted the characters as being characters in a novel, not factual historical characters (despite being based and researched on actual historical figures)I enjoyed the story. Its funny I have no issues with historical dramas on TV but have never been tempted with a historical novel of this type before, I have always stayed clear and referred to NON FICTION Historical books. We will never know the full story of this era for definite as there are lots of various viewpoints out there but putting this aside this is a very enjoyable read and I now find myself more knowledgeable of English History and the Plantagenet line with a renewed interest in the history of our country, so I am now going to start on the follow up, ...The Red Queen and expect to read more from this author in the future,but will still refer to my old non fiction history book to reinforce who all the characters are based on
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on 19 May 2017
Excellent book - as usual from Philippa Gregory. She is a wonderful writer and I always enjoy her books and this one is no exception. This is an earlier period than I usually read but still fascinating. I would highly recommend it. This is the first book I have bought on Kindle to use on my tablet and it is fabulous! Why didn't I do this before?? It is so easy to order and retrieve. Fabulous service as always by Amazon.
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on 28 August 2013
I read this book as I was inspired by the TV series The White Queen and wanted to find out more. Philippa Gregory has a way of writing that puts you, the reader, at the heart of the action. I was there! This book follows ups and downs of the trials of war and covers the love and life of Elizabeth Woodville.
This book puts you there with Elizabeth as a young widow, secret bride to the king, going onto to be a great manipulator at court. I empathised with Elizabeth during her stays in sanctuary, rejoiced with her on regaining her freedom and the throne and then saddened at the loss of her husband and children.
I read this book after reding lady of the rivers ( about her mother Jacquetta) which weaves in beautifully with this story.

These books ( in this series) are telling the story of the cousins war (war of the roses) but from very different points of view. Read them all!

An easy read, but compelling, I couldn't put the kindle down! Very enjoyable!
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on 30 June 2013
I am finding this very disappointing, and pleased that the Kindle price was so cheap, and that I did not follow my initial idea of downloading all 3 of the books; I generally like to follow trilogies through, but I certainly won't bother with the others in this series.
This is repetitive in style; maybe an attempt to offer some mysticism, but doesn't work for me; in the present tense which again does not come off,as there is also the 'all seeing' narrator where events are described when she is not present; the fact that the same lack of depth is applied to all events evidences the wooden nature of this writing; two dimensional ( even one-dimensional)characters, unexplained changes of character , and really just sequences of actions, with uninspiring dialogue.
I usually enjoy historical novels that incorporate fact with author interpretation and 'fiction' : I know that Philipa Gregory is popular and well thought of;this is my first experience of her writing and I am surpised at just how bad I found it to be.
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on 12 December 2017
A story about the War of the Roses but from the stand point of the women. As someone that did not previously know a great deal about this time in history, I found the story really interesting. I will be reading the other books that follow on from it. Took 1 star off as I didn't find it quite as good as The Other Boleyn girl or the other books around Henry VIII's wives.
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VINE VOICEon 12 December 2013
I know I'm late to the party reading the historical fiction of Phillipa Gregory but after walking past the print edition of her books numerous times in supermarkets and coming across them on Amazon I decided to give the first book in the Cousins series a try. It didn't disappoint and was filled with political intrigue. It's a long book some 13 hours on Kindle I think and I did fall asleep reading it at times and it took longer to read than my usual fare but none of those things is bad.

The book engaged me, held my interest and left me wanting more. It set the historical scene well but didn't dwell on the details. I was moved to sorrow and relief as the plot twisted and turned, I will no doubt read the next one.
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on 10 August 2013
A marvelous book! I new nothing of this part of History, and I fee it has given me a lot of insight. I will look forward to reading more from this author. who paints very realistic characters which you either love, hate and polarising the reader with expertise. One of the main themes I feel which comes out of this book, is it's depiction of women being treated like "goods & chattels", also it had to be a male that could take the throne, and if I am correct, there there did not appear to be a Queen in "Britain" since Boudica, around 60 - 61 Ad., who appeared to be one to reckon with. Being a Man, I found this an eye opener, and I think more men should read this book, as let,s face it 3 of the longest and most influentially reigning Monarchs were women. This book is thoroughly enjoyable from page 1. Gregory is a master in Her Class, and I would recommend any book she has written. Philippa you are a star!!
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