• 2010 Reading List

    What I've read this year:

    "The Other Queen" by Phillipa Gregory (Rating: C)

    "The Welsh Girl" by Peter Ho Davies (Rating: A)

    "Mistress of the Sun" by Sandra Gulland (Rating: A)

Book Review: “The Other Queen”

I recently finished reading “The Other Queen” by Phillipa Gregory. Last year, I kept a list of the books I’d read conveniently available in the margins for those of you who care about that sort of thing. This year, I’m uping the ante, with…wait for it…a rating system! Impressive, I know! 🙂 Let’s keep in mind that opinions on books are like food reviews. This is entirely subjective, and easily disagreed upon. Something that I love can be utter garbage in your eyes.  Keeping this in mind, here are my thoughts on “The Other Queen.”

I have read almost every book Phillipa Gregory has written. I enjoy historical fiction immensely, and her novels tend to be a good combo of light-hearted story telling and historical accuracy. This was the first book by her that has truly disappointed me. Overall, I’m giving it a C-, which may actually be generous. Had she been an author who was unknown to me, I probably wouldn’t have finished the book. I kept reading, though, waiting for the story to pick-up. Unfortunately, it never did.

This book should be incredibly interesting. It is the story of Mary Queen of Scots, and her life has enough drama for multiple novels. She was crowned Queen of Scotland at the age of 9 months, married at the age of 16 and crowned Queen of France shortly thereafter.When her French husband died, she returned to Scotland and married her 2nd husband, Lord Darnley. Eventually, he was found dead after an explosion at his home, and many rumors circulated that Mary was part of the plot to kill him. She then married the Earl of Bothwell, who was the likeliest suspect in the death of her previous husband. It is possible that she was forced to marry him, but we really don’t know.

Mary was soon  forced to give up her throne to her 1 year old son, and flee to England, seeking protection from Queen Elizabeth. After arriving in England, she was held captive for close to 20 years. Eventually, Mary was executed after being caught plotting to have Queen Elizabeth murdered so that she could take the throne of England.

This has all of the makings of a great story, however, in this novel, Gregory’s story-telling is weak and fragmented. The story is told from the perspective of Mary, and her ‘keepers,’ George & Bess Talbot. The chapters rotate from one character’s narration to another. The reader is unable to get immersed in the story because of the constant change in perspective. Also, Mary is incredibly whiny (which could very well be accurate, but is annoying nonetheless).

It seems like Phillipa Gregory focused more on switching from one character to another, rather than writing a compelling and engrossing story. Overall, it was a disappointment. However, given the fact that I’ve read many other of her novels, and enjoyed them, I will be reading “The White Queen” soon, and hoping that she redeems herself in that one!

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