This book came as a bit of a surprise to me. I came across it at a local grocery store when I was perusing the bookshelves, and I bought both it and The Kingmaker’s Daughter, with the new Starz series covers::
I already own The Lady of the Rivers, which is the first book I read in this series, even though it’s technically the third book; in this case, I don’t think it matters much which book you read first, it’s all the same story give or take twenty or thirty years, told from different perspectives. The Lady of the Rivers is told through the eyes of Jacquetta (Woodville) the Duchess of Bedford, the mother of the narrator in The White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, who becomes the Queen of England; so in a way, I read them in the correct order, chronologically.
You guys, from what I’ve experienced of Philippa Gregory’s writing in those two books, you can’t put them down! When I read The Lady of the Rivers, first as an audiobook, it was in my ear constantly, and when I read The White Queen this week when I was home sick, I read the whole thing, in one sitting. The thing about these books, is it brings history to life. I’m honestly not sure what parts are fact and fiction, though I assume all the major moving parts are facts: the battles and their outcomes, the marriages, the people ‘favored’ by the court. You’ve got to read them for yourselves!
I must mention: I started The Red Queen (book #2 in the series) as an audiobook, and I hated it. I can’t even remember if I finished it – I think I did. The main character of that book, Margaret Beaufort, is detestable. I couldn’t stand her to the point it almost made the book unreadable. If it wasn’t an audiobook, I probably would have stopped reading near the beginning. Ick.
I love that you get to see it all through other people’s eyes. Margaret Beaufort from The Red Queen is a scheming crazy woman who wants to see her son on the throne and strives from the moment of his birth to get him there, automatically putting her at odds with the characters in The White Queen, who are of the house of York, while Margaret is of Lancaster. Elizabeth Woodville falls desperately in love with the bachelor king on the side of the road and they marry in secret, elevating all of her family to the highest rankings in England. It’s all very complicated and political, but once you’re reading, Gregory makes it really easy to catch on to and shows you the motivations of the monarchy to give out favors – neither too little or too much. You can bet I knew nothing about English monarchy before I read these books. Still don’t, really, just a about a few throne changes in the mid 1400s!
The White Queen follows, as I mentioned, Elizabeth Woodville, from a lonely widow living with her parents, to Queen of England in only a few short weeks. The King, Edward _____ fell instantly in love with her, and though he tried to forget her (because she was of too low a rank to be considered for his wife, politically), he found he could not, and married her in secret. Although King Edward elevated Elizabeth to queendom, that doesn’t mean everyone was happy about it, and they had to make both their ‘friends’ and enemies happy very quickly once she took the throne. The peace didn’t last long, however, as Edward had many rivals to the throne who commanded armies – including the wife of the King Edward overthrew to claim the throne, Margaret of Anjou, former Queen of England. The politics become complex then, as the present queens mother was the former queens most trusted lady in waiting during her reign, but it never becomes an integral part of the plot in this book. It’s amazing how quickly you come to care for the characters in this novel. The meeting of the King in the road by Elizabeth and her two boys is the opening of the book, and already I was rooting for her with more emotion than some books draw from me at their climax. If it’s not Gregory’s writing itself that draws you in, it must be her obvious love of her subjects, because you can’t put these books down! I’m very excited to see the new Starz series based on these books.
The White Queen is definitely worth a try, just for that chance that you might fall in love with it, as I have; then you will have found another fantastic author’s body of work to read your way through. That’s never a bad thing!
The White Princess is the ‘next’ book in the cousin’s war series, and was published this month. I will be picking it up right away, if you’re curious ;-)
Consequently, I own The Other Boleyn Girl, which I’ve found out is the second book in another of Gregory’s series’. Looks like I’ll have to get my hands on the rest of those as well! I’ve read that the order of them doesn’t matter much for those books either, anyone else have an opinion before I dive in?