Saturday, September 13, 2014

Book Review: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

This was an engrossing and breezy read. The novel is narrated in first person and tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of Edward IV, in her prime years. For someone like me who has only limited knowledge of English history, this novel also provides an intriguing glimpse into the bloody period of English dynastic rule that was marked by internecine power struggles between the House of York and the House of Lancaster in 15th century England, more commonly known as the “Wars of the Roses”. The period covered by the novel is from Spring 1464 to April 1485.

Driven by ambition, lust for wealth and power and perhaps even loyalty for the love of her life, this queen assumes it her duty and obligation to manipulate, cajole and coerce all those around her, including her own kinsmen and children, to get at what she wants at all costs – preserving the ultimate honor and privilege, the throne, for posterity. Scheming, plotting and even witchcraft are her natural means, especially after her royal husband’s untimely death. Viewed from another perspective though, she is the shining beacon of wisdom, foresight and self-preservation in peaceful times and, in times of turmoil, she becomes a bedrock of bravery, tenacity and resilience. She seems to possess all the necessary qualities for success. But I have to admit that I do not like her calculating character.

While the novel was unquestionably an engaging read, I had a little problem with the first-person narrative and the use of present tense throughout, which I found incongruous for an ancient character and ancient settings.

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