Saturday, November 19, 2011

Julie's Review: The Other Queen

Summary: For years Philippa Gregory’s readers have been asking her to write a novel about Mary Queen of Scots—a request she now fulfills with a tale as engrossing as any she has ever written. A heroine everyone recognizes but few truly know, Mary Queen of Scots is remembered mostly for her death on the scaffold than for her turbulent, romantic life. In The Other Queen, Philippa Gregory resurrects Mary and her world by way of a chapter from her life that is all but forgotten: Mary’s long imprisonment as a “guest” of the Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife, Bess of Hardwick. With the earl and his wife, whose fortune and marriage are jeopardized by the extraordinary woman under their charge, Gregory has found the perfect means for understanding Mary herself, a queen who will lie, seduce, plot, and sacrifice the lives of thousands in her quest to regain her Scots throne—and to take over Queen Elizabeth’s.

Review: The Other Queen is not Ms. Gregory's strongest novel. Honestly, if it wasn't for the 2011 TBR Challenge I probably would have put it down or skimmed the remainder of the book. I will start by saying that is very unlike me and especially with her novels. Typically, they captivate me from beginning to end.

Part of it had to do with the fact that there were not any truly likable characters. I admired Bess but I wouldn't trust her and sure as heck wouldn't count on her to have my back in time of strife. While I did try to like Mary Queen of Scots I just couldn't do it. As beautiful as she was on the exterior, she was a horrible individual in her soul. She thought she was untouchable and divine.I guess back then the royals hadn't learned that they were human just like the rest of us.

You pretty much guess from the beginning of the novel that the Earl and Lady of Shrewsbury housing the Queen of Scots isn't going to turn out well for them. Not only does it pretty much bankrupt them but well it seems that her charms are irresistible for men. I found the Earl to be weak minded and while he thought he rules the house, you knew it was Bess. He states several times how loyal he is to Queen Elizabeth but honestly in the end, the only one truly loyal to the Queen of England was Bess. Although in the end there was something in it for her.

Some might not like Queen Elizabeth and I guess she's not a truly likable person, but she ruled the only way she knew how, by fear. She surrounded herself with people who had their own agendas and at times didn't truly serve the Queen. I guess not much has changed in politics, Monarchy or Democracy.

I would not recommend this to be your first Philippa Gregory novel unless you want to read about Mary Queen of Scots. Even then this only captures three years of her life.

I am looking forward to starting to read her Cousin's War books soon though. The Lady of the Rivers: A Novel (The Cousins' War), The Red Queen: A Novel (The Cousin's War) and The White Queen: A Novel (Cousins' War).

Final Take: 3/5

Lisa reviewed it too!



Farin November 22, 2011 at 3:37 PM  

I feel like Philippa Gregory kind of lost her edge after The Constant Princess. I tried to read The White Queen and got about halfway through before I abandoned it---I was so frustrated by the writing and the story in general. I haven't read something of hers since.

Julie November 23, 2011 at 8:12 AM  

I'll have to let you know what I think of the Cousin's War when I eventually get to it.

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