Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Book Review: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The White Queen: A Noveltells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, a young woman whose husband died during the wars between the Lancaster and York houses for the throne of England. Left with two small boys and virtually no property, she appeals directly to the new York king, Edward IV. Her beauty and charm captivate him and they eventually marry in secret. What follows is her stormy history of ups and downs, fighting to retain the throne, and to place her son upon that throne.

The White Queen: A Novel (Cousins' War)

Things I Liked:
This book was full of interesting history. I know next to nothing about the wars of the roses or anything from this time period. I really thought the action parts were well done and the suspense definitely kept me on my toes (probably because I didn't know what happened). The sections of the book where they are threatened by traitors and rebellions kept my attention. Elizabeth was often hard to read, but sometimes she felt very real and I could understand what she was thinking and feeling. I particularly loved the part where she sees war first hand and is disgusted with it.

Things I Didn't Like:
All that said, I thought the book was way too long. The amount of information was simply overwhelming. Huge sections of the book were just plain dull. There were too many plots, too much information, and too many people to keep track of (many of them with the same names or with multiple names). I am sure a true historical fiction fan would enjoy it more, but I just struggled through it, mostly so I could know what happened. I was a little disappointed with the ending not being satisfying. I also wish she'd included a family tree for those actually alive in the book!

There are so many English royalty historical fiction books out there, I couldn't begin to name them all (and I haven't read that many), but Philippa Gregory has written a lot more
Read the comments on this post for more historical fiction reads
Some younger, non-royal, medieval stuff I enjoyed:
Catherine, Called Birdyand The Midwife's Apprenticeby Karen Cushman

s-factor: !

mrg-factor: XX
mostly implied situations

v-factor: ->->
wars - what do you expect?

Overall rating: **

Do you like to know the history behind historical fiction books or do you prefer to find out while you're reading?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage,
I will get a very small percentage


  1. I agree with your dislikes. I really struggled to finish this one; I was so excited to read it at first. I felt that much of the narrative was very repetitive. Too bad...I did find the subject matter to be interesting and would like to try another book on the same topic.

  2. I am a HUGE historical fiction fan but generally find Ms. Gregory to be too stuck in the detials to make her stories exciting. I totally agree with your review.

  3. You're probably starting to pick that I'm an historical fiction fan (grins): that was one of the elements that first hooked me into Thornspell. The author has an amazing grasp of the background historical period to her Fantasy story, but it's so finely woven in that it's almost invisible to the reader.

    Like Amused, I'm not a big fan of Ms Gregory, not just because she gets bogged in the detail but also because I feel that many of her characters read as too modern in their ideas and attitudes. This is a fine art, of course, keeping the characters interesting and sympathetic to modern readers while still being true to the historical period, but I feel that the top writers do pull it off. ("Catherine, Called Birdy" falls into this category for me.)

    In terms of Elizabeth Woodville's story, I believe that Rosemary Jarman did it better in "The King's Grey Mare" (1973), which is still in print.

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  5. Bookshelf Monstrosity, I'm glad I'm not the only one. I actually was kind of interested in the time period, but she really turned me off!

    Amused, I thought Gregory was one of the better ones - I guess I might have just started with the wrong one.

    Andie, I'm glad I have you guys to set me up with excellent historical fiction. I'd like to pick up something else about Elizabeth, but I might need a break for a while :)


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