March 17, 2013
The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory
The White Queen is the first book written in the Cousin's War series by Phillipa Gregory, but the second book chronologically. Therefore, I read The Lady of the Rivers first, since it was the first chronologically, and I suggest doing the same, as it makes this book easier to understand.
Elizabeth, daughter of Jacquetta, is a widow down on her luck when she waits for the King to ride by her family's home. He, of course, has to stop because of her beauty, and after a whirlwind romance, she finds herself Queen. During her reign, there is much fighting as the great houses of the time want to have their own family on the throne, and Edward, her husband, is considered an usurper by some. Elizabeth does her best to play the intrigue, and bear sons as heirs for her husband. But when her husband grows ill, everything changes for her.
Elizabeth is a much more compelling character than her mother Jacquetta was. You can really see her ambition in this book, even though she didn't start out with a whole lot of ambition. But she'll fight for her kids, and that makes her pretty formidable. Her mother, Jacquetta, is in a little bit of this book, and I think she was written better here than in the book that was all about her. Although she kind of had the evil witch thing going on. In fact, there is a lot about witchcraft in this book that I think had more to do with the fiction side of things; at least it's not something that could be proven as historical fact. The Kings were pretty much all the same. They liked women and power and while Edward was described as having loved Elizabeth, that didn't stop him from exploring every female body available.
Since this spans a good many years, you would think that there would be signs of Elizabeth growing. But I didn't see that. In fact, she stayed the same character for the whole time, with no growth or signs of aging, which was a little unrealistic to me. And there was a lot of tedium about war and different people, and since there are so many players in the Cousin's War, it's hard to keep track of them. Especially since everybody uses the same names for their children. Gregory attempts to alleviate this a little with the use of House names, but it only goes so far. If you are familiar with this period of history you might be ok, but for those of us that aren't, it's easy to get lost. The book was well written though and kept my interest mostly. Although I'm not sure of how accurate it is historically, I'd hazard a guess that Gregory mostly stayed true to the history, and in doing so told the story of a Queen who isn't talked about much. The thing I didn't enjoy about this book though was that it just drug on and on, and spent a lot of time on events that weren't that important.
I can't say that this is as good as some of her other books, but it was entertaining and an average read. She still writes better than a lot of other authors, but her spark from the first few books seems to be dwindling.
The White Queen