October 09, 2011

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

I've read some of Philippa Gregory's other works and enjoyed them. That being said, this is not one of my favorites of hers.

Catalina, the Infanta of Spain, was born to be Princess of Wales and Queen of England. She believes it is her duty and right by birth. When she finally reaches of age, she makes the journey to England where she is married to Arthur, future King of England. After Arthur's untimely death however, she has to find a way to reclaim her place and try to betroth herself to his younger brother, King Henry VIII. Through this she has to stand courageous and face down her opposers and those in the royal family who do not wish her to become a part of it, namely the King's mother.

Since these characters are all based on real people it is hard to say whether or not they are accurate. We have accounts in history but the vast majority of this book is speculation on what they may have thought or did. Catalina is pretty full of herself despite being the protagonist to choose for and you can't help but wonder if she could have had an easier happier life if she would have just put down her ambition. Arthur, her first husband, seemed to be a nice thoughtful man and it makes for a not so nice comparison to his brother Henry. Henry is described as a very selfish person and while history leads us to believe it is true, it is still hard to conceive that his brother could be so different.

Since most of this book did happen in history it stands to reason that it is a very accurate representation of the historical events. I don't know too much about English history, but I would imagine that if it were too different from what actually happened, there would be more criticisms of the books. For the parts that can't be verified, I thought Gregory did a great job at expressing what these characters wanted or needed in their life. I do have to say that I wasn't thrilled with the way she bounced around in viewpoints though. The whole book is filled with italicized sections that are supposed to be Catalina's personal thoughts and I found them hard to read and they disrupted the flow of the book. The book too moved very slowly and considering that a large part of Catalina's time was spent with Henry, it was only reflected as less than half of the book while the main parts were dedicated to her childhood and her time with Arthur. While these are important parts it just felt like it took forever to get to the main premise of the book.

Not the best but not terrible. I much prefer some of Gregory's other books over this one.

The Constant Princess
copyright 2005
390 pages

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