Saturday, October 16, 2010

178 (2010 #43). The White Queen

by Philippa Gregory,
read by Susan Lyons

Prolific historical fiction writer Gregory has started a new series called "The Cousins' War," about the Plantagenets and set during the Wars of the Roses.  The White Queen here is commoner Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of Edward IV of the House of York (the white roses).  Elizabeth is supposedly a descendant of water goddess Melusina through her mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg/Burgundy, and the two of them do a little cursing and conjuring throughout the book to fulfill the accusations of witchcraft.  The story covers the period from when Elizabeth first meets and marries Edward in spring 1464, to April 1485, two years after his death.

As is the case with all of Gregory's historical fiction (I read all six books set in the Tudor era), the book is based mostly in fact, with Gregory speculating where the historical record is missing or unclear.  She comes up with an interesting theory concerning the Princes in the Tower (Elizabeth and Edward's two sons held prisoner by Edward's brother Richard III).  I did not know a lot about this era in English history, so once again Gregory's books have had the positive effect of interesting me enough to read other sources (many are listed in the bibliography in the print version) to learn more.

However, the book does suffer from wordiness - it could be shorter by about 100 of its 408 pages with the elimination of unnecessary repetitions.  Gregory is also plagued by the overuse of certain words - it seemed like every chapter was full of "She nods." "He shrugs."  This repetition is especially annoying in the audiobook, although Australian actress Susan Lyons does an excellent job as Elizabeth, who narrates most of the story.  The audiobook includes Gregory's afterword explaining what is real and what is fiction, but lacks the bibliography, map, and pedigree chart in the print version.

© Amanda Pape - 2010

[This audiobook and hardbound copy were borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]

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