Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

Book:   The Red Queen

Author:  Philippa Gregory

Grade:  B -

Recommended To: Phil Greggs and Historical Fiction fans, Women. 

With this blog, I really try to space out my reviews of of certain genres so that this blog doesn't become about any one thing.  But, after reading the horrible Paris Vendetta last week, I really needed something that I knew was going to be excellent and that I knew would rekindle "reading for fun."

So, The Red Queen was the obvious choice for a sure thing read.  Generally, I liked this book though I don't at all believe that it is Philippa Gregory's best work.   In a sense, this book is the opposite of the The White Queen which chronicles the story of Elizabeth Woodville the powerful York Queen.   The Red Queen is a bit misleading because Margaret Beaufort is the mother of King Henry Tudor VII and never actually becomes queen, but the story is about her life as an extremely "pious" woman who works tirelessly to get her son on the throne.

This story overlapped quite a bit with The White Queen and centered on the exact same wars, time period and rumors that surrounded the women.  Even though this is the second book in the series, because of the overlap, these books can probably be read in either order.

I think the character of Margaret Beaufort felt flat in this book.  Elizabeth Woodville was a strong character.  She had dimension and even though the White Queen had some mystical elements that could have been unbelievable the story felt passionate.

The Red Queen in contrast made me feel like Margaret Beaufort had no depth.  She had her son at a young age and he was third in the Lancaster Line to take the throne of England.  Then, she devotes her life to putting him on the throne, but large chunks of time pass in the novel where nothing happens at all. (I'm sure this is historical, it takes time to raise armies and start a war). But, Margaret experienced little growth throughout the novel.  She reveres herself as a saint, but although she prays for almost half of the novel, she is far from saintly.   It felt like Gregory was repeating herself - she didn't delve enough into the character of a woman who could work so passionately and tirelessly to aid her son's rise to power.

Plus, Margaret Beaufort isn't that likable of a historical figure and instead of bringing out her good qualities, and let's face it she had to have some good qualities, Gregory just stuck to the surface.

Overall though, this was an enjoyable read.  It went very quickly because this is one of Gregory's shorter novels and for some reason the publisher used at least a size 16 font when printing the book.  Philippa Gregory fans will love this book and will certainly look forward to where she is taking this Plantagenet series after this book.  I can't wait to see what she comes up with about Henry Tudor VII's reign.

Happy Reading!!

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