The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
Series: Cousins’ War #1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Dates Read: February 28 – March 16, 2019
Synopsis: Elizabeth Woodville, of the House of Lancaster, is widowed when her husband is killed in battle. Aided and abetted by the raw ambition and witchcraft skills of her mother Jacquetta, Elizabeth seduces and marries, in secret, reigning king Edward IV, of the family of the white rose, the House of York. As long as there are other claimants to Edward’s throne, the profound rivalries between the two families will never be laid to rest. Violent conflict, shocking betrayal and murder dominate Elizabeth’s life as Queen of England, passionate wife of Edward and devoted mother of their children. (from the author’s website)
I read this for Romanceopoly – Memory Lane: Read a historical fiction novel.
It goes a lot slower than the show, which I think threw me off a bit, but I understand that television often has to fit more into a smaller space. After a while, the first-person POV got on my nerves, and I think that’s connected to another problem I had with the book: there isn’t enough variation in the sentence structure for me. There’s too much: “I did this. I went here. I think this. I was worried. I am angry.” I also didn’t like how it jumps over several years at a time from chapter to chapter. It makes the novel as a whole seem somewhat incoherent. Perhaps the fault lies with the first-person narration — if Elizabeth isn’t present for certain events of the book, how can they be narrated, except when she is told of them herself? After a while, reading this book felt repetitious, like I was reading the same stuff over and over, or at least variations on the same thing: Edward’s off to battle trying to defend the throne, Elizabeth waits and deals with crap at home, ad infinitum.
I understand that there is some legitimate tie to accusations of witchcraft with Jacquetta and Elizabeth, but I have the same issue here as I did with The White Princess. When you portray a historical figure a certain way, presenting something as fact when it actually isn’t (or is at least debatable), you lose credibility as a writer for me. Doing that discredits the real people when you’re bringing them to new readers who may not have known who they were prior to reading the book. Doing so will discolor their perceptions.
I’m interested in this period as it is, but I think Gregory could have done a little better to make the story more immersive. There are lots of names thrown in, but that just bogs down the story. I do, however, like how Elizabeth is hopeful at the end that once Richard wins at Bosworth Field, the York rule will continue, even though we can see from history that she is wrong. It forces home that this is her perspective, and she’s not omniscient.
Interest Value: 2/5
The longer I read this book, the more I wanted to be done with it. Maybe it’s because I already knew what would happen — not just from the show but from history, as well — but I felt rather bored reading this. There are lots of historical events and figures in this novel. I don’t fault Gregory for that. What I do fault her for, however, is making at all boring when it absolutely isn’t. This was a wild period in history, and power changed hands all the time. Game of Thrones is based on the Wars of the Roses for Pete’s sake. It’s way more interesting to read about that what’s presented in this book. This one’s better than The White Princess, but I’m not sure I’ll give Gregory another shot. It’s a shame because I actually own several of her books because they came in a set for pretty cheap. But fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…
- “In the meantime, like many a woman with a husband dead and a father defeated, I have to piece my life together like a patchwork of scraps.” (4)
- “I don’t propose to sell myself at all,” I say. “I am not a yard of ribbon. I am not a leg of ham. I am not for sale to anyone.” (21)
- “I am a woman who makes things happen, and I am not defeated yet.” (26)
- “Perhaps we will not be great people, chosen by God, but just happy.” (143)