Friday, February 27, 2015

461 (2015 #18). Queen Isabella

by Alison Weir,
read by Lisette Lecat

I had previously read five of Alison Weir's books about the British monarchy, four of which are fiction, so when I saw this was available in audiobook format, I had to select it for my library's collection.

Subtitled "Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England,"  the book is about Isabella of France (1295-1358), the wife of England's (probably bisexual) King Edward II.  Frustrated (along with much of England) with the king's promotion of his "favorites," she and Roger Mortimer (who became her lover) overthrew Edward II.  They put her son Edward III on the throne, with Isabella ruling as regent on his behalf.  Unfortunately she and Mortimer became unpopular, partly because of Isabella's greed. When her son Edward came of age, he executed Mortimer, but Isabella lived out the rest of her natural life in peace.  I found much to admire in this queen.

However, Weir is a bit of an apologist for Isabella in this book.  While I knew little about this queen before reading the book, and would agree she has gotten a bad rap in history, Weir seems to go to great effort to rehabilitate her "She-Wolf of France" reputation.  Much of that reputation is based on theories that she and Mortimer had her husband murdered, but Weir presents theories that he did not even die naturally, but lived out his life as a hermit.  There's not a lot of primary source material from that era, other than Isabella's account books - which do provide an excellent record of her movements and travel, as well as interesting detail about life in those days.

Unlike a lot of other nonfiction audiobooks I've tried, I found it pretty easy to follow this one.  I think that's due to the narrator, Lisette Lecat, a native of South Africa, who lived in Spain, France, and England, where she worked as an actress, voiceover artist, journalist and translator.  She now lives in the USA, narrates audiobooks, and writes plays.  Lecat read the book slowly enough that I found I did not have to stop and repeat sections as often as I usually do with nonfiction audiobooks.

Nevertheless, I'd recommend a print copy of the book in addition to or instead of the audiobook, to have access to the many illustrations (most color plates), genealogical tables, extensive end notes and bibliography, and the index.

© Amanda Pape - 2015

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my university and local public libraries respectively.]

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