Book Review: The Wars of the Roses – Alison Weir [TSS]

Title: The Wars of the Roses
Author: Alison Weir
ISBN: 9780345404336
Pages: 496
Release Date: June 25, 1996
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

In this history, Alison Weir recounts the events and people behind what she describes as “the first Wars of the Roses”, which covers the origins of one of England’s bloodiest civil wars and traces its path through the reign of Edward IV.

Review:

The Wars of the Roses, also called The Cousins’ War, is a fascinating time in English history.  However, it is also extremely confusing.  It was so turbulent, with so many kings, queens, and claimants to the throne, that it’s very difficult to keep a chronology in mind.  Most books, whether historical fiction or non-fiction, that deal with the Wars of the Roses focus on a single person, and as a result, it becomes difficult to place them into the proper context of the overall conflict.  As a result, I decided to seek out a comprehensive history of the origins and early years of the Wars of the Roses to understand this bloody conflict.

Alison Weir’s book The Wars of the Roses was exactly what I needed to gain a solid understanding of the foundations of The Cousins’ War.  Weir is of the opinion that the conflict began with the horrendous reign of Richard II (historians disagree over this – that’s how confusing the Wars of the Roses are), and she makes a good case for her views.  Weir also does an excellent job putting a human face on the historical figures in this narrative.  She focuses on the people involved and how they brought about the larger events of the conflict.

This book only focuses on the “first” Wars of the Roses, through the Battle of Tewkesbury and the murder of King Henry VI.  It does not cover the reign of Richard III, nor the historical mystery of the princes in the tower.  This was covered in Weir’s book The Princes in the Tower, and after what I’d heard about that book, I’ll admit I was hesitant about reading this one.  According to many readers, Weir is judgmental and very biased, almost emotional, in her hatred of Richard III.  She loses the objectivity of a historian, and as a result, that book is not her best work.  However, I am happy to say this is not the case with The Wars of the Roses.  While some of Weir’s biases do come through – it’s clear she is not a fan of Elizabeth Wydeville, for example – I felt that she did a commendable job delivering the information and allowing the reader to make up their own minds about the people and history.

If you’re looking for an impeccably researched and well-written broad history of the Wars of the Roses, this is definitely the book to pick up.  Weir discusses the history without letting the subject matter become the least bit dry, and as a result, it is engaging from beginning to end.  It provides a solid foundation and an easily understood narrative arc to explain this complicated and difficult period of English history.

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Comments

  1. I like Alison Weir. Granted I’ve only read her fiction. Still. Her books are on subjects I find fascinating, like The War Of Roses. Anyways to cut to the point, this book sounds engaging and like a good refresher to pick up.

  2. I like Alison Weir. Granted I’ve only read her fiction. Still. Her books are on subjects I find fascinating, like The War Of Roses. Anyways to cut to the point, this book sounds engaging and like a good refresher to pick up.

  3. I love to launch into a historical book after a good review. Thank you for this…it’s going on my “to read” list.

  4. I love to launch into a historical book after a good review. Thank you for this…it’s going on my “to read” list.

  5. When I read The Cousins War by Phillipa Gregory and other contributors, I was astounded at how hard it was to keep it all straight! You are so right when you say that there was so much going on, and so many players, that even attempting to read about it was confusing. I am excited to hear about this book and your reaction to it because I do really want to read this one and get an idea of what was going on without all the confusion. It sounds like this is the book for me, and I really appreciate your very thoughtful and detailed review of it. This one goes on the Christmas wish list!

  6. When I read The Cousins War by Phillipa Gregory and other contributors, I was astounded at how hard it was to keep it all straight! You are so right when you say that there was so much going on, and so many players, that even attempting to read about it was confusing. I am excited to hear about this book and your reaction to it because I do really want to read this one and get an idea of what was going on without all the confusion. It sounds like this is the book for me, and I really appreciate your very thoughtful and detailed review of it. This one goes on the Christmas wish list!

  7. I have cover lust! And your review has snagged me but good. This is going on my TBR list right now.

    Thanks, Swapna. Happy Sunday!

  8. I have cover lust! And your review has snagged me but good. This is going on my TBR list right now.

    Thanks, Swapna. Happy Sunday!

  9. Really happy you enjoyed this one, Swapna! I have also stayed away from her book on The Princes in the Tower for the reasons you mention. I think Weir is really uneven in some respects, with some books a lot more than others, but her good histories are actually good. :)

  10. Really happy you enjoyed this one, Swapna! I have also stayed away from her book on The Princes in the Tower for the reasons you mention. I think Weir is really uneven in some respects, with some books a lot more than others, but her good histories are actually good. :)

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