Very rarely do I come across books that are simultaneously a long read and a quick one as well. But it would seem that Philippa Gregory has a talent to write such novels. This time, I read her novel The Queen’s Fool, which takes place after her other novel The Boleyn Inheritance (but was written before). It follows the quick succession of each of King Henry VIII’s children to the English throne: Prince Edward, (Lady Jane Grey…bonus!), Princess Mary, and Princess Elizabeth. But, it is told from the perspective of a young Jewish convert and visionary, Hannah Green. As such, the reader more-so follows her life as it touches the royals’ and as she comes of age during a tumultuous time in England’s history.
I thoroughly enjoyed the plot, the characters, everything about it really, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the book’s structure (which is probably my only complaint). While I loved the fact that Gregory introduced each part with the date of the setting, some parts were so long that I wish it would have been broken up into other sub-chapters. I think it would have helped the flow slightly and made me feel like I was actually getting through the book.
I suppose while on the topic of complaints I might as well go ahead and offer my one slight critique of the protagonist, Hannah Green aka Hannah the Fool. Throughout the majority of the book, she is an independent, learned, witty young woman–honestly, she strikes me as fairly feminist. At one point, she even leaves her (very recently married) husband because he is unfaithful to her and even though I shipped Hannah and Daniel, I definitely was rooting for her, saying, “You go girl, go be independent and stick to your guns, that cheater!” So, even though I love a happy, romantic ending, it felt like somewhat of a let down for her to pull a “Yes, I’ll be your wife and mother of your children,” moment at the end of the book when she’s finally reunited with Daniel.
Other than those two details, I really enjoyed the book. I liked how Gregory gave life to both Queen Mary Princess Elizabeth. I feel like even though Elizabeth is remembered for bringing peace to England, both sisters are remembered more for their more gruesome moments–i.e. Mary’s burning protestants and subsequent moniker of “Bloody Mary,” and Elizabeth’s debacle with cousin Mary Stuart. Instead, I felt like I got to know a different side to each of these two queens. I even felt sorry for Mary–she seemed like she was really trying her best, but had miserable luck–and couldn’t help but be annoyed with Elizabeth’s manipulative, power hungry, boy-crazy antics–’nuff said.
Hannah, meanwhile, was a fun character to read about. I feel like so rarely do we actually read stories of (mostly) independent women of that time. Instead, it’s all the drama of the kings and their courts (I’m looking at you, The Other Boleyn Girl and Reign). But with this novel, Gregory allows for the development of a young girl during the transition between the rules of King Henry VIII’s children and explores some of the political and social themes of the time, such as the inquisition of non-Catholics and general unrest in England at the time.
Overall, if you like either historical fiction and/or slightly girly drama and romance, I would definitely recommend this book for you. It’s a relatively easy and definitely engaging read!
That’s all I have for this week–as always, feel free to leave me suggestions for other books to check out. Even though I know I said that Pride and Prejudice Zombies was too weird for me, I found Janet Mullany’s Jane and the Damned in the back of my closet and I’m honestly intrigued, so look out for my post about it next week!