Title: The White Queen
Author: Philippa Gregory
Release Date: August 18, 2009
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the publisher’s website:
Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.
The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown. From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores this most famous unsolved mystery of English history, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills.
I love Philippa Gregory. I don’t think all her book are perfect (indeed, I haven’t read any of her pre-Tudor novels and I found The Other Queen [review] to be quite disappointing). I sometimes take issue with the prejudices she exhibits with regards to certain characters within her novels. But if you have read her books, you cannot deny that she really is a master of the historical fiction genre. She makes history comes alive, makes the characters seem like they are real, and makes the settings as vivid as ever.
I’ve been taking more and more of an interest in the Wars of the Roses, so when I heard Gregory’s next project was a trilogy about this very subject, I was very excited. I’ve read a lot about Elizabeth Woodville lately, and most of it has been bad. Her sheer ambition makes her a difficult character to sympathize with. However, in The White Queen, Gregory accomplishes what I thought was impossible –she made Elizabeth Woodville a sensitive and sympathetic character. Gregory never dials down Elizabeth’s ambition; in many ways, she is as despicable as history has judged her. But Gregory gives her a voice and a personality; despite her flaws, I actually did like her. That’s a hard thing to do and it really emphasizes how talented of a writer Philippa Gregory is.
I knew most of the history going into The White Queen. It is understandable, then, that I found myself surprised by the sheer suspense I felt. I knew what was going to happen, yet Gregory’s superb writing style still managed to keep me on the edge, to keep me desperately reading so I could find out what would happen! I also appreciated her unique interpretation of the plight of the princes in the Tower, and what happened to them.
As you can tell, I was a really big fan of The White Queen and simply cannot wait for the next two books in the series. This book proves that Gregory really is one of the best historical fiction writers out there, and that she can write competently about more than just the Tudors. I imagine this book will be controversial because of some of the liberties Gregory took with history, but it honestly didn’t bother me. There is a solid Author’s Note at the back of the book explaining the history behind the novel, as well as a bibliography. Still, if you are particular about authors sticking to the facts, you might be annoyed with this book.
I highly recommend The White Queen to…well, pretty much everyone! If you’re a fan of historical fiction, but haven’t read any Philippa Gregory, this is a great place to start. If you aren’t familiar with historical fiction, this novel will show you why people enjoy the genre so much. And if you’re a fan of Philippa’s, as I am, definitely pick up this book. Trust me, it’s a good one.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book to review!