Thursday, 25 November 2010

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

I'm reading a book for fun, amongst all the books I 'have to read', the above historical novel, The White Queen. I've enjoyed books like The Other Boleyn Girl but I prefer real histories normally, like Alison Weir's book about Katherine Swynford (though I adored Anya Seton's Katherine - at least part of the inspiration for Weir's project). Nevertheless, I'm really enjoying it. I am tutting at the writing though, she is a bit repetitive in places, using very similar phrases and sentences, and the language is sometimes a bit contrived. It's so difficult to suggest medieval sensibilities and language without alienating the modern reader. Anyway, Elizabeth Woodville achieved something unique at the time - a commoner who married a king, even if a Yorkist pretender who took the throne while the existing king, Henry VI, was insane and incapacitated and had a wife and an heir (though there were real doubts about the boy's parentage!). Edward IV spent half his reign teetering on the throne with the help of Warwick, 'the Kingmaker', and I think it would have been nice to see a more complex picture of this complicated and clever man. From Elizabeth's point of view, I suppose, he is just a monster. The story is told mostly from a first person POV, Elizabeth's, but has an omniscient third person POV for the battles. It's all told in the present...which I know is a bit of a trend at the moment. It's a good read, and I have romped through it, but it doesn't entirely do it for me. The romance is too fairy tale, and the history isn't authoritative - little is actually known about Woodville's early life and the marriage. Still, a great read and I will probably read The Red Queen when it comes out.
This course hasn't made us read too much, I've enjoyed studying the two books about writing we have been set, and I have room to do more. The 'Fantastic Fiction for Children' module for next semester has set a book a week, and they are excellent reads. I've read some already, though I haven't read them 'as a writer' as suggested by Francine Prose. So I'm working on one of my assignments, the discussion of writing by Freud and Kafka. Back to work!

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