The Red Queen

The Red Queen

I must confess that I do not much care for anything that has to do with Henry VIII.  Had I known from the beginning that it was a book about his grandmother,  I would have probably not read it, nor bought it.  I have an ingrained aversion toward him and anything related to the Tudors.  It is perhaps their penchant for beheading people, or how they used their power to indulge their whims.  I dislike self-indulgent people very much, especially all powerful self-indulgent people.  I got this book as an electronic version for my Nook, my newest, most beloved toy, while browsing the Best Sellers section on the Barnes and Noble website. I was new to Philippa Gregory’s writing and had not read any of her previous books — this book is part of a trilogy that starts with The White Queen — and immediately I was taken with her style.  She wove the stream of consciousness, journal style first person point of view with a more omniscient third person narrative and managed to slip a lot of historical facts into the narrative.  I did not read the synopsis of the book, I just bought it because I had a new toy and the title was flashy — and I like the color red.


As I said before, I do not care one iota for Henry VIII, and I do not go seeking for books either of historical facts or fiction that deal with that tumultuous era of England.  I do not dislike the English, but I am far more inclined to read about Queen Isabel de Castilla (Isabella of Castile), than I am to read about the Tudors and I dislike Isabel very much (institutionalized Inquisition, anyone?  Sephardi made to convert and then expelled if not cooked in the fires of the Inquisition…?).  However, this book held my attention and I finished it very fast (I think I read it in two nights).  It was not too slow, and it did not overwhelm the reader with minute details about life in the fifteenth century.  It had just enough to make you go through the motions (wince, squirm, giggle, roll your eyes).   It was rather interesting to swim through the thoughts of such an odd character.  Gregory did not make of  Margaret Beaufort a relatable character, nor likable, but she sure made her interesting.  I was fascinated by the calculating mind of this lady.  She had grit, sang-froid, a lot of determination and self-assurance; she was convinced that it was her destiny to be the mother of a king, to be made queen, and she got it.  At what expense, well… you should read the book and find out.    I had a very enjoyable time reading it and I urged my friends to read it.

As far as the accuracy of the book goes, well, it is historical fiction.  That being said, Mrs. Gregory does hold a Ph.D. in history from the  University of Edinburgh.  I am no historian, and most of my knowledge of the Tudors comes from reading Wikipedia entries (how shameful!), remembering my very fast sojourn through medieval literature and history back in the ninth grade (or was it tenth?), and little odd bits that I managed to learn while reading other books.  That being said, I think she does not deviate from the source material too much, nor does she take too many liberties with her characters.  I really loved her rather raw portrayal of Lady Beaufort.  In an era where women were treated like furniture, this little lady managed to make her dreams come true, no matter the costs (and believe me, she was rather ruthless).

This book is for those who do not mind doing a bit of research on their own to see what bits fall under fiction and what fall under fact.  Although, I really wonder if the information that managed to trickle down to us from five centuries ago can be counted as “fact.”  I do not think the Kings and Queens of England would have allowed for the founder of their dynasty to be described as a conniving little witch by historians.

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Economics Student by day, classical singer by night. My hobbies are: painting, drawing, gardening, embroidery, photography, and learning how to play the piano.