Thursday, August 11, 2011

Philippa Gregory's Tudor Series

Book I: The Constant Princess

Score: 4/5
Featured Historical Figures: Catherine of Aragon, Henry Tudor VII & VIII, Arthur Tudor, Ferdinand of Aragon, Isabella of Castile, Mary Tudor, William Compton
I could attribute much of my historical fiction mania to Philippa Gregory but not necessarily with this book. I thoroughly enjoyed The Constant Princess but I must admit, this is not the book I started the series with - which is highly unusual for me! I typically will not read out of chronological order. I started Gregory's Tudor series with... you guessed it, The Other Boleyn Girl, after which I started The Constant Princess. I think it worked out pretty well.
The Constant Princess is a great background book for the series and it offers a great story but part of the reason I enjoyed it as much as I did is because I didn't start with it. I had already become familiar with most of the main characters in the later books so with this novel I was able to look deeper into the lives Gregory gave them. I think I'm going to compare it to this and leave it at that: Reading The Other Boleyn Girl was like climbing a tree and reading The Constant Princess was like being on top of that tree and looking off into the horizon (where for some reason, I'm picturing an oozing, fiery sunset) over an expanse of land covered with other trees, streams and tangents.

Book II: The Other Boleyn Girl
Score: 4/5
Featured Historical Figures: Henry Tudor VIII, Mary Boleyn, Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth Tudor, Jane Seymour
The book that started it all! Now a major motion picture! The Other Boleyn Girl was my first read of Gregory's Tudor series. This book is the one that compelled me to seek out the rest of the Tudor novels and following that, everything written by Philippa Gregory. This is the story of Mary Boleyn, sister to Anne and seemingly, the great turning point of King Henry the VIII.
One thing I'd like to point out about Gregory is that she does take some liberties with the historical integrity of her plot line (but that's the point of fiction, right?!) and although everything might not be 100% accurate, I have found it to be very entertaining. I think the tale of Anne Boleyn is a common one, especially with the various movies and shows on television today, but I never really get tired of it. At the end of the day, all I'm looking for is a good story and strong writing - all of which can be found here.

Book III: The Boleyn Inheritance
Score: 4.5/5
Featured Historical Figures: Henry Tudor VIII, Katherine Howard, Anne of Cleves, Jane Boleyn (Lady Rochford), Thomas Culpeper, Catherine Carey, Mary Boleyn
The Boleyn Inheritance is the story of Henry VIII's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, and his fifth, Katherine Howard. I believe this book is one of Gregory's best and it is not lacking in suspense or intrigue. This book is written from the perspective of three narrators, the two queens listed above and Lady Rochford who is also known as Jane Boleyn (Parker). Each of the narrators are mere flies in a great political web and the more they shake around, the tighter they are bound.
Katherine is a child married, who doesn't fully understand how treacherous the waters of court can be. Anne of Cleves isn't a character I've come across very often in my reading but she seems clever in her own way and manages to stay clear of much of the goings on at court. Lady Rochford is just playing the game, trying to grab onto any lands and titles she can hold on her own, whatever the price. One thing I really enjoy when reading in this time period is how much you learn. Of course, you always have to keep in mind the fact and the fiction but a great product of this genre isn't only finding out about the people but the places and architecture, as well. After finishing this novel, I was very curious about The Tower of London and I think any person interested in history would be well-served to do some research on it and the other structures featured in these stories.

Book IV: The Queen's Fool
Score: 4.75/5
Featured Historical Figures: Mary Tudor, Elizabeth Tudor, Robert Dudley
The Queen's Fool is a favorite of mine in the Tudor series despite the whole story being told around a fictional character. Through the eyes of very likeable protagonist, Hannah Green, Gregory sets Mary Tudor in a sympathetic light, makes a villain of Elizabeth I and she does it extremely well.
This was actually my first book with Elizabeth I as a main character and I'm not going to lie - she was annoying and pretty much detestable in Gregory's portrayal. If you're a fan of Elizabeth I, I hope you don't take it to heart. I think the book still has a lot to offer. I was very attached to Hannah and I enjoyed following her as she grew up in Tudor England despite how irksome either Queen was.
The biggest problem and greatest asset within The Queen's Fool is the debatable quality of the history woven into the fiction. Gregory daringly offers a different interpretation of events within this best-selling novel, which may be refreshing to some but leave a sour taste for others. Personally, I enjoy thinking about the possibilities of history instead of just being told what happened.

Book V: The Virgin's Lover
Score: 3/5
Featured Historical Figures: Elizabeth Tudor, Robert Dudley

Book VI: The Other Queen
Score: 3.5/5
Featured Historical Figures: Mary Stuart, Elizabeth Tudor

The Wise Woman
Score: 3.5/5
Featured Historical Figures: None specifically, but story takes place during reign of Henry VIII

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

Score: 3/5

Featured Historical Figures: Sofonisba Anguissola, Michaelangelo Buonarotti, Phillip II of Spain

The Creation of Eve is a story from the perspective of Sofonisba Anguissola, a female painter of Renaissance Italy. I didn't expect much from this novel since I had never heard of Sofonisba nor had I read anything else by the author. While I enjoyed being introduced to a person in history who isn't widely known, I feel that there could of been more to this story.

The Creation of Eve is a well-written light read and when I turned the last page I didn't feel disappointed but I can't say I felt completely fulfilled, either. I believe part of Cullen's intent with this story was to write about someone different and I appreciate that. I mean, really, how many people ever heard of a female painter in the Renaissance who studied with Michelangelo? I also really liked the inclusion of a little history of the coca leaf but that's just me - I have a thing for plants. There were some really unique details in this book and for those alone I recommend giving this a read.

Other reads I'm looking forward to by Lynn Cullen: