Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lisa's Review: The Other Queen


This dazzling novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory presents a new and unique view of one of history's most intriguing, romantic, and maddening heroines. Biographers often neglect the captive years of Mary, Queen of Scots, who trusted Queen Elizabeth's promise of sanctuary when she fled from rebels in Scotland and then found herself imprisoned as the "guest" of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and his indomitable wife, Bess of Hardwick.

The newly married couple welcome the doomed queen into their home, certain that serving as her hosts and jailers will bring them an advantage in the cutthroat world of the Elizabethan court. To their horror, they find that the task will bankrupt them, and as their home becomes the epicenter of intrigue and rebellion against Elizabeth, their loyalty to each other and to their sovereign comes into question. If Mary succeeds in seducing the earl into her own web of treachery and treason, or if the great spymaster William Cecil links them to the growing conspiracy to free Mary from her illegal imprisonment, they will all face the headsman.

Philippa Gregory uses new research and her passion for historical accuracy to place a well-known heroine in a completely new tale full of suspense, passion, and political intrigue. For years, readers have clamored for Gregory to tell Mary's story, and The Other Queen is the result of her determination to present a novel worthy of this extraordinary heroine.

Other than my review of The Other Boleyn Girl movie and Julie's Review of the book, this is my first experience with Philippa Gregory. The Other Queen focuses on the first three years of Mary Stuart's captivity in England and it was definitely interesting. The research seemed to be well done and the little digging I did on my own, seemed to match up. Frankly, if anything there wasn't true, I wouldn't be able to poke any holes, so I have to trust her research.

The novel is well written. It is told from the point of view of the three main characters, George, his wife Bess, and Queen Mary. George is an earl given what he believes to be the honorable task of hosting the Queen until she is restored to her throne in Scotland. He is soon mistaken as he becomes infatuated with the beautiful young queen . Bess, is a shrewd "business woman" or, you know, golddigger, who sees the keeping of the queen as an opportunity to advance her fortunes as well as those of her children. She is soon mistaken because Mary is a queen and expects to be treated as such. Mary is portrayed as an arrogant beauty, who believes that her claims to the thrones of France, Scotland, and England makes her untouchable.

I believe Ms. Gregory made a mistake choosing to write about this point in Mary's story. A lot of backstory has to get filled in with excessive exposition. The first three years of Mary's captivity are filled with plots to free her, one of which came close to succeeding, however, characters are hardly, if ever a part of the action and the story certainly suffers for it. With fifteen years of captivity left when the book ends, the story is wrapped up all to neatly and Mary's march to execution was relayed in dream sequence. Seriously? Hmm, definitely not what I was expecting.

All in all, I didn't hate this book, mostly I wasn't sure what to expect, so my reaction is mostly ambivalent.

Final Take: 3/5


Julie February 1, 2009 at 9:35 PM  

This is in my TBR list and it seems like it doesn't live up to her other ones, yet I'll read it at some point in the next couple months.

I'm still going to pimp The Other Boleyn Girl to you though. :)

Lisa February 1, 2009 at 9:46 PM  

I know. I still remember the movie, so it'll take me a while to get there.

Julie February 1, 2009 at 9:49 PM  

I know. The book truly blows the movie out of the water. The movie is the book "sugar free". The book is so much more about Mary than Anne which is what I loved about it.

Marg February 6, 2009 at 10:09 PM  

I was disappointed in this one as well, and totally agree that she chose the wrong part of the Mary's story to write about.

Nina February 12, 2009 at 2:08 AM  

I love Philippa Gregory, but I do have to say that while her work is based on truth, a lot of it is far from being historically correct.

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