Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Philippa Gregory's The White Queen

I've always liked Elizabeth Woodville, warts and all. I never expect her to be portrayed perfectly, mostly because a good deal of what she did herself was so imperfect. So it was with trepidation that I approached Philippa Gregory's take on this most enigmatic woman, The White Queen. Would she be portrayed as a she-wolf, a witch, a misunderstood wife/mother, or something altogether new? The answer is yes to all of these...and a good amount of no as well.

Following EW from the time of her first meeting with Edward IV until the eve of Henry Tudor's invasion into England, Gregory speedily runs through the major events of an unbelievable life: the initial attraction, the secretive marriage, the births of so many girls before a son is finally achieved, the backstabbing among brothers and cousins. Indeed, so much had happened to EW in the first 100 pages I was curious as to how the following 300 pages would be filled. The fact is, there is an incredible amount of intrigue and happenstance that was literally raced through, and someone unfamiliar with the time period might be confused by the lack of details. And told from Woodville's point of view, most of the events are so one-sided as to leave one thinking everything was black and white. Perhaps this particular issue will be resolved in future books that will flesh out the characters more fully. I do believe that a lot of repetition (sometimes within paragraphs) could have been edited out and more detail of surrounding circumstances given instead.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy this novel; it's more to say that maybe more could have been done to make EW seem less one dimensional. Of course she was ambitious and of course she foisted her family into the spotlight, and I think Gregory did an admirable job of making EW seem like a good mother (something I'm not so sure is entirely accurate...). The magical element was less disturbing to me than I'd feared it would be, woven well into the story and used just enough to make it seem plausible. The problem I have with it is that EW's story is so good, so vibrant by itself that the addition of magic/witchcraft was really unnecessary. I also am not a fan of the present tense and I feel it did absolutely nothing to make me feel more "into" the story in this case; indeed, all it did for me was call attention to itself.

All that said, however, this is still an entertaining take on Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner who ensnared a king and used her wiles to influence history. It is basically historically accurate (yeah! a plus in my book) and it reads easily. I'm curious to see where Gregory is going to take us and hoping that she'll give us more details in the getting there. A good first novel in an intended series that actually rates 3.5 stars from me.


No comments: