Tuesday, December 29, 2009

REVIEW: The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir

My introduction to the fascinating life of Queen Elizabeth I was Jean Plaidy’s Queen of this Realm. I also really enjoyed The Queen’s Bastard and Virgin: Prelude to the Throne by Robin Maxwell and the Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory and also watched Elizabeth I and Elizabeth the Golden Age starring Cate Blanchett and the television mini-series Elizabeth I starring Helen Mirren so needless to say I am 1) fascinated by this Queen and 2) pretty well versed on the ins and outs of her story. That being said, there wasn’t really much that Weir’s biography could tell me that I didn’t already know. Even so, I found her account of Elizabeth’s life to be interesting and detailed. I especially enjoyed her account of the relationship between Elizabeth and Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. Weir made Elizabeth come alive and definitely left me with a sense of why she was so revered. The way she is described she reminds me of Princess Diana in that she had “common touch” and captured the hearts of her people. That she fended off all outside threats and managed to make her country prosper in a time when women were still looked upon as weak, feeble, and unfit to rule is remarkable.

There were a few things in this account that I didn’t care for. Weir used some passages (speeches and the like) more than once to demonstrate her point which could be a bit confusing. I had a sense of déjà vu a couple of times and rightly so. Also I felt (like many who have reviewed this book on Amazon) that the book was a bit narrow. It just briefly touched on Elizabeth’s childhood, the cultural aspects of the reign and England’s foray into the new world like they didn’t rank as high in importance as her issues with Philip of Spain, Mary Queen of Scots and her numerous courtships. To those truly interested in all facets of Elizabeth and her reign these topics probably would have been of interest also.

Although a little daunting in size, I found it to be a worthwhile read. Some histories tend to be so dry and boring I would rather gouge my eye out with a rusty spoon than continue to read them. This book was definitely not in that category. I would recommend it to anyone who would like to read a detailed account of Elizabeth’s reign but I’m not sure I would tackle this if it is your first foray into Elizabeth’s world. I suggest reading a few other books about this Great Lady (fiction or non-fiction) first.
If the FTC is wondering: This book is from my own personal library

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