Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Book Review: The White Queen, by Philippa Gregory

After six novels about the courts of King Henry VIII and his royal heirs (all books which I devoured, starting with The Other Boleyn Girl), historical novelist Philippa Gregory may believe she has finally exhausted the story potential of the Tudors. That may be why she has now turned to their Plantagenet predecessors for inspiration. I was a little disappointed when I saw her newest book was about the War of the Roses, but I soon found I had no reason to be. This cousins' war has more than enough dramatic potential (Shakespeare would have agreed), and The White Queen had me spellbound from the start.

I must admit, I knew little of Elizabeth Woodville before I started this book; I knew more about her unfortunate children Edward V and Prince Richard, the legendary Princes in the Tower whose cruel fate remains a mystery. That alone would be fodder for a whole shelf of historical novels, but Gregory combines history, rumor and her own imagination to present a portrait of a determined, ambitious, tragically flawed and remarkable woman.

In The White Queen, Woodville, a widowed commoner whose family supports the Lancaster line of kings, falls in love with Edward IV, the York claimant. Whether she ensnared him with her beauty and wits alone, or her mother's witchcraft is up for debate. Her family, now staunchly in favor of the House of York, sees their fortunes rise through their association with the monarch, but they also make dangerous enemies in those who would claim the same power for themselves. Elizabeth, who believes herself descended from the water goddess Melusina, plots, schemes and dabbles in sorcery as she endeavors to advance her family's interests and protect her loved ones from their enemies. These enemies, as it turns out, are not only in the Lancaster camp, but closer to home as well.

The White Queen is the first in a planned trilogy. The second, The Red Queen, is rumored to be about Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII, and the third, The White Princess will most likely be about Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Woodville's daughter and the mother of Henry VIII. I for one am excited at the prospect of more great Gregory in the future!

You can find The White Queen in the Leisure Reading section on the main floor of the library. Also, keep checking this section over the next few days--I happen to know we have more exciting books coming very, very soon!

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