read by Bianca Amato
I didn't realize there was going to be a sixth book in Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War series, about the royal women of the War of the Roses. This book is about Margaret Pole, a first cousin of Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII and the subject of the fifth book in the series. The White Princess. Margaret Beaufort, Henry's mother and the subject of the second book in the series, The Red Queen, is also a character in this book.
Despite its length (597 pages in print), and Gregory's ongoing problems with frequent and unnecessary repetition of the full names and titles of characters in conversations (which would not happen in real life), as well as "She shrugs" and "He nods" and variations thereof, I liked this book better than the last two in the series. Margaret Pole is much more interesting than either Elizabeth of York or Anne Neville (The Kingmaker's Daughter, book four), who were rather passive characters.
Because Margaret Pole lived such a long life (1473-1541), her life also intersects with Henry VIII and his first three wives. She's especially loyal to Catherine of Aragon and her daughter, Mary Tudor. Margaret is also a devout Catholic who, along with her three surviving sons, is upset with Henry VIII for his persecution of the Church. Along with the fact she has royal blood and her sons are potential rivals for the throne, Margaret has more than enough in her life to arouse the suspicions of the king. She manages to do so, more or less, for her first 65 years.
Gregory's four-page author's note at the end of the book explains some suppositions for her fiction and purports an interesting theory about Henry VIII's degeneration and the loss of so many Tudor babies. I was also surprised to learn that Margaret Pole was beatified as a martyr for the Catholic Church.
The print version also includes an eight-page bibliography of five-plus pages, two maps, and two family trees, one at the book's beginning dated 1499 (where the story begins) and another at the end dated 1541 (when the story ends). I wish the latter had gone ahead and included post 1541 death dates for those still alive when Margaret was executed. I would have liked to have known how long her three surviving children lived beyond her death, without having to look them up.
The audiobook doesn't have the bibliography, maps, or charts, although they could have been easily added as a PDF file. The story is told in first-person by Margaret, and is read by South African actress and audiobook veteran Bianca Amato, who also does an excellent job creating a voice for Margaret that ages as she does.
© Amanda Pape - 2014
[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]