A Reader's Respite has a confession to make:
We've never been a huge fan of author Philippa Gregory. While we acknowledge that she is indisputably responsible for the recent resurgence of this fantastic genre, her books have fell flat for us.
The Other Boleyn Girl? We thought it was mediocre at best. The Constant Princess? Meh. The Wideacre Series? Oh good god, the incest in those was enough to turn anyone's stomach. The King's Fool? Didn't make it past page 50. The Virgin's Lover? Ditto.
So with all the hoopla regarding Gregory's latest effort entitled The White Queen (not to mention the copy that landed on our doorstep), we thought we'd better plow through her release from last year, The Other Queen.
Remember all the fuss and muss about that novel? The anticipation of Gregory's tale of Mary Stuart, the Queen of Scots whom Elizabeth I bumped off, was palatable amongst fans everywhere. Historical fiction fanatics couldn't wait to get their hands on this novel. Amazon pre-orders were made, advance copies were devoured and then....
...it fell flat. Even Gregory's die-hard fans didn't seem to like this book. Mary was a boring subject, they claimed. The book, it was said, plodded along and raised no interest or passion on the part of the reader.
Even so, A Reader's Respite valiantly took the plunge and finally read the novel. And we loved it.
Before you throw up your hands, wondering why oh why we have to be so contrary all of the time, give us a chance to tell you why.
Simply put, we loved Mary Stuart's "voice" in this novel. The Scottish queen has confounded historians and novelists alike for many years. For those of you unaware of Mary's basic bio, allow us to give you a brief sketch (if you're familiar with the details, feel free to skip this part):
Mary was the only surviving child of Scottish King James V and Mary of Guise. When James met his maker just days after young Mary's birth, she became the Queen of Scotland at the wise old age of 6 days old. When she was sixteen, this young queen married the dauphin of France and when the old king bit the dust the very next year, Mary became Queen of France, as well.
Her young husband, the new French King, died within the year and Mary returned to Scotland to assume her throne there. She impetuously married Lord Darnley and it's here that things begin to get interesting. She and Darnley didn't exactly get along well and within two years, Darnley found himself blown to kingdom come when the house he was staying in blew up.
Who killed Darnley? Well, now, that's the sixty-four million dollar question, now isn't it? Most believed it was the Earl of Bothwell. Mary turned the kingdom on it's ear when she ran away with (or was abducted?) Bothwell and married him.
Anyhoo, she was run out of her own kingdom and when she escaped to England, her cousin Elizabeth I took this opportunity to imprison Mary where she remained until Elizabeth finally had her head lopped off for treason.
Pretty soap-operatic stuff, eh?
So how does Gregory's take of all this stack up? We thought fabulously. Although The Other Queen focuses on Mary's time in captivity in England, Gregory doesn't cop-out by ignoring Mary's scandal-ridden past. Mary's completely plausible "voice" provides both retrospection and explaination of her sometimes frustrating choices.
So in a nutshell, A Reader's Respite never thought we'd be saying this, but: Kudos, Philippa Gregory. Nice job.
Did you miss reading this one, too? Never fear, A Reader's Respite is giving you another chance to read it. Just leave a comment here and then check back on September 5th to see if you were randomly chosen. International peeps are always welcome to enter!