A Reader's Respite finally got around to reading C.W. Gortner's much-hyped novel, The Last Queen, a couple of weeks ago. Now for those of you who missed this one, The Last Queen is a fictional look at Juana, the so-called Mad Queen of Castile.
History has pidgeon-holed this third daughter of the famed Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella as nuttier than the proverbial fruitcake, but like all historical people and events from the 16th Century, there's a lot of room for interpretation here.
After all, being madly in love with her bad-boy of a husband, Phillip of Flanders, and jealous enough to cut off his latest paramour's hair with a sharp pair of scissors doesn't necessarily mean Juana was insane. It meant she had attitude.
But allegedly keeping Phillip's corpse nearby after he kicked the bucket so that she could periodically open the casket and embrace him? Well, if that particular historical rumor is true, Juana might indeed have benefited from some meds.
But in this novel, Gortner thankfully plunges far deeper into Juana's life, taking the reader from her childhood, her marriage and through her ultimate struggle with her own father for control of the kingdom that rightfully belonged to her.
If you don't have a good grasp on Spanish history, this is a fascinating place to begin. Gortner's work is accessible, yet detailed enough to lend it authority. His research is quite thorough and there is an impressive bibliography available for those who become hooked on this time period (easy to do!).
We'd recommend this one in a heartbeat.
If you didn't get a chance to read this novel the first time it made it's trip through the blogosphere, you do now. A Reader's Respite happens to have a copy that we'd like to give away. Leave us a comment if you'd like to enter and then check back here on October 1st to see if you won! (International peeps are welcome to enter!)