Saturday, December 5, 2009

REVIEW: The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

The Other Queen is Philippa Gregory's take on the much written of Mary Queen of Scots. This book picks up shortly after Queen Mary crosses into England and becomes the prisoner of Queen Elizabeth. It alternates viewpoints between Queen Mary and her "hosts" Bess and George Talbot-Countess and Earl of Shrewsbury. I like books that alternate viewpoints as long as the transition between viewpoints is one that can be easily followed. No problem on that front in this book. The characters each had a distinct voice and the chapters were short enough that the story was pretty easy to follow.

The story covers the various plots to free Queen Mary and either restore her to her throne or in some plots, overthrow Elizabeth and take the throne of England. I was familiar with the story already from reading Mary Queen of Scots and the Isles by Margaret George (a huge but very intriguing take on Mary Q0fS). I think the story itself was interesting enough but I have to say I did not like Gregory's Queen Mary at all. In this novel she was vain, self absorbed and did not care at all who was sacrificed in her bid to realize her ambitions. There was a lot of "I am so beautiful and charming, nobody can resist me" going on in this book that just made me cringe.

What redeemed the book for me was the viewpoints of Bess and George. I could be more sympathetic to Bess, the unwilling hostess who had to endure the great expense of having the Queen around while she constantly put the household in danger through her plots and also having to endure her husband becoming hopelessly besotted with the Queen. George also was an interesting character in that he valued honor above all and given the ultimate choice supported Elizabeth, but was really torn throughout the novel.

Again, this is not the best PG book I have ever read but it was entertaining enough for me. I would be interested in reading more on Bess of Hardwick.

If the FTC is wondering: This book is from my own personal library

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