Tuesday, 7 October 2008

The Other Queen - Philippa Gregory

I have been a fan of Philippa Gregory's since the Other Boleyn Girl. I have also read The Boleyn Inheritance and The Queen's Fool all of which I enjoyed. I was therefore very excited when I received advance notice of this title I have always thought that Mary Queen of Scots was one of the most enigmatic and tragic queens. However, I was so disappointed in this novel. It is told through three voices, that of Mary herself, one of her em prisoners in England the Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife the Countess, who is also known as Bess of Hardwick. I can't decide as to whether Philippa Gregory has decided to dumb down, or whether, it is that using the narrative device of 3 characters in the first person, that causes that feeling. Gone are the rich historical details that immerse us in the history of the period. We are left with 3 not very sympathetic characters and frankly I was bored. With the characterisation, although we hear what they think and say, we never seem to scratch the surface. I can find no sympathy for George who just comes across as a fool. Mary comes over as a lying, sulky, manipulative young woman and Bess comes over as only thinking of her silver and gold plate stolen from the Catholic Church and her household finances. We are told why they act this way but we never feel it, we are somehow disengaged.

It has made me reserve Mary S Lovell's biography of Bess of Hardwick as I am sure she must be a more interesting character than portrayed in The Other Queen. Watch out for a review soon.

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