Book Review: The Red Queen – Philippa Gregory

Title: The Red Queen: A Novel (The Cousins’ War)
Author: Philippa Gregory
ISBN: 9781416563723
Pages: 400
Release Date: August 3, 2010
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

In her second novel in her trilogy about the Wars of the Roses, Philippa Gregory focuses on Margaret Beaufort, heiress to the House of Lancaster.  Married to Edmund Tudor when she is just 12, Margaret gives birth to her son Henry at 13.  From a very young age, Margaret is convinced that she is destined to become the mother of the king, and devotes her life to ensuring that will happen, at any price.

Review:

I really enjoyed the first book in the Cousins’s War trilogy, The White Queen, which focused on Elizabeth Woodville, so I was really looking forward to The Red Queen.  I love seeing the same time period from different points of view, and Gregory masterfully accomplished that with this novel.  We get to see the same events that Elizabeth narrated, but from Margaret’s rather stingy point of view.

I really did not like Margaret Beaufort.  This was no fault of Gregory’s though; in fact, I don’t think readers really were supposed to like her.  She’s portrayed as ruthless and ambitious, stopping at nothing to ensure that her son Henry Tudor gains the throne of England.  She is also incredibly self-righteous and has a pretty ridiculous sense of entitlement.  She believes that she is blessed by God, and that God wants Henry on the throne.  She sees Henry, not as a loving mother, but as a pawn to achieve her ambitions.  At one point, she actually says:

“My son was born only to fulfill my destiny, and if he cannot do that, I don’t know what use we are to each other.”

What a kind and generous mother Margaret must have been, driving her son to the throne to satisfy her own ambitions from day one.

Considering my strong feelings about Margaret, it’s a testament to the talent of Philippa Gregory that I enjoyed this book so much.  Usually, if I don’t like or at least sympathize with a main character, I don’t really care for the book.  But in this case, I found Margaret simply fascinating.  Her ruthlessness and utter disregard for anyone else captivated me.  I could not put this book down and thoroughly enjoyed every moment I spent with it.  While I didn’t like her as a person, I appreciated how smart she was and how she was able to manipulate those around her to satisfy her aims. 

As with all Philippa Gregory novels, The Red Queen is impeccably researched and is incredibly informative.  Gregory relates historical details in an easily digestible way, and they really add to the story.  If you’re planning on reading this novel without having read The White Queen, you shouldn’t have a problem.  As companion novels, they cover the same time period, so reading them in a different order won’t really ruin anything, especially if you are already familiar with the history.

The Red Queen was an absorbing novel, and I’m really sorry that it’s over.  Gregory’s third novel in this trilogy is not going to be about Elizabeth of York, as everyone (including Gregory herself, initially) assumed, but will be about Elizabeth Woodville’s mother, Jacquetta.  I’m not sure how that will play out, but I have faith in Gregory’s vision and can’t wait to read it.

Comments

  1. Keep hearing good stuff about this book. Greggory has disappointed me in the past, so I am glad that she is back to her old form.

  2. Keep hearing good stuff about this book. Greggory has disappointed me in the past, so I am glad that she is back to her old form.

  3. I need to get going on this series — I have the first two …I’m thinking of trying the audios.

  4. I need to get going on this series — I have the first two …I’m thinking of trying the audios.

  5. I have been on the fence about reading this one because I didn’t really enjoy The White Queen very much. It sounds like because this book goes in a different direction with the story, and has such an unlikable protagonist, it might be a little more interesting to me. Thanks for your thoughts on the book, I might just have to try it!

  6. I have been on the fence about reading this one because I didn’t really enjoy The White Queen very much. It sounds like because this book goes in a different direction with the story, and has such an unlikable protagonist, it might be a little more interesting to me. Thanks for your thoughts on the book, I might just have to try it!

  7. I just started reading this but am only about 100 pages into so I haven’t really decided yet what I think of it. Margaret is already irritating the heck out of me though!!

  8. I just started reading this but am only about 100 pages into so I haven’t really decided yet what I think of it. Margaret is already irritating the heck out of me though!!

  9. Here’s another big series I haven’t even started. I think I need to since everyone seems to love it.

  10. Here’s another big series I haven’t even started. I think I need to since everyone seems to love it.

  11. This series is going to be a big hit. I can see that this early because I know that it has a very exciting and interesting story. Can’t wait to read that book.

  12. This series is going to be a big hit. I can see that this early because I know that it has a very exciting and interesting story. Can’t wait to read that book.

  13. I love historical fiction but so often I am disappointed. I think I will check this series out, though.

  14. I love historical fiction but so often I am disappointed. I think I will check this series out, though.

  15. I’m reading this one now…one thing I really appreciate is that Gregory decided to take these historically hated women and give us their point of view.

    Carey

  16. I’m reading this one now…one thing I really appreciate is that Gregory decided to take these historically hated women and give us their point of view.

    Carey

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