Touchstone, August 2009Historical Fiction
Summary in a sentence:
Elizabeth Woodville, a beautiful and ambitious woman, catches the eye of a newly crowned boy king, secretly marries him, and ascends to royalty while fighting for her family's success.
It's been awhile since I've read any of Gregory's books and I was excited to dive into her new novel. When I read historical fiction whose history I am unfamiliar with, I usually prep myself by doing a little light research to brush up on who's who and what's what. I did not do any such preparations this time, because I realized I could use my unfortunate ignorance on the subject to my advantage: this book would read more like a fictitious story whose ending will not unfold to me until the last second. And that's mostly what happened.
Unfortunately, Ms. Gregory became slightly heavy-handed with her repetition and symbolic concepts. At times, I could almost imagine the lovely author taking the book out of my hands during said symbolic passages, which were repeated quite frequently, and thunking me over the head with her words. "See? Do you see what's going to happen here? I gave you a hint!" she says with each thwack over my head.
Other than the qualm with repetition, I thought this was an entertaining read. I enjoyed learning about Elizabeth Woodville, a queen who was largely unknown to me before I read this novel. Another aspect of the book that others sometimes have a problem with is the inclusion of witchcraft. This aspect of the novel did not really bother me since this is, after all, fiction rather than an historical account of the Wars of the Roses. Some liberties can be taken. But how far is too far? Gregory herself admits that "There is more fiction in this novel than in my previous ones," and that "Elizabeth Woodville was indeed a descendent of the dukes of Burgundy, who cherished the tradition that they were descended from Melusina, the water goddess." I thought that the touches of medieval magic and witchcraft simply added interest to the narrative.
Gregory includes an author's note and an extensive bibliography on the subjects covered in the novel for further reading.
This is not my favorite Gregory novel, but I still enjoyed the read. I stayed up late last night to finish it!
Rating: 3/5 stars
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