Thursday, December 16, 2010
Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
Book: Innocent Traitor
Author: Alison Weir
Recommended To: Anyone who loves, or even just likes, Tudor period historical fiction.
Innocent Traitor was my 51st book of the year and it was excellent. I hadn't read anything by Alison Weir before and this book was a really great first read for this author. This book is about the Lady Jane Grey who was condemned to die at 16 for ascending the throne for 9 short days. Weir puts her own spin on the book, of course, and writes that Jane in fact did not want the throne but was forced to take the crown by her parents and the all powerful Northumberland after the death of King Edward. Unfortunately you find out early on - the first few pages - that Jane has been condemned to die for taking the throne over the rightful heir, the eventual Queen Mary.
This book was enchanting - I really loved the attention to detail that Weir put into this novel. Weir tells this story from many different points of view, including Lady Jane, her mother, Queen Mary, and Jane's childhood nurse. There are few if any male viewpoints and it is a very strongly dominated female cast of characters.
I especially liked the discussion of why it was so important in the 16th century to have the "right" monarch on the throne. If you haven't read much about the Tudor period and are interested in historical fiction then you should know that the religious battles are fascinating. Weir is essentially documenting the birth of Protestantism and I loved how she focused on the differences between Protestants and Catholics and how divisive some of those differences were in England in 1550.
In modern day, I think it is difficult for Americans to imagine that English citizens were forced to convert over and over again to either Catholicism or Protestantism merely on the whim on the monarch in power or else risk being burned for heresy. Weir does an excellent job of creating palpable tension in this novel over the religious fight. There was a real sense of danger about this book and was one of the more realistic historical fictions novels I've read in a while.
I gave this book a B+ because of its outstanding attention to detail and Weir's ability to craft a truly enlightening story of the life and extraordinarily short reign of Lady Jane Grey. This book certainly made me an Alison Weir convert and I recommend it to anyone with even the slightest interest in Tudor England.