She did not realise, when her father claimed the throne and her brother won it, that a price must always be paid for power, and it will be paid by her as well as the rest of us.
The White Queen
This is one of my most recent reads, so I’m sharing my thoughts on the first book in The Cousin’s War series by Philippa Gregory. Here’s what you need to know.
It’s historical fiction.
I didn’t think I liked historical fiction, but apparently I do. Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen is the second novel I’ve read in this genre lately, and I was pleasantly surprised by my interest in the story. And by pleasantly surprised, I mean I haven’t been able to put these books down!
You’ll be hooked at the beginning of the tale.
The story begins in the spring of 1464 with Elizabeth Woodville. A widow and mother of two young sons, Elizabeth is concerned for her claim to her land, as it means both money and ownership for her. Elizabeth’s late husband was loyal to the Lancastrians, as was the rest of her family, but Edward IV of York has taken the throne. In her inner monologue, she calls this boy of York to be a false king, but in order to secure her lands, she must turn the eye of Edward.
She does just that. Edward is smitten with Elizabeth, to say the least. He and Elizabeth marry in secret with only Elizabeth’s mother, her lady-in-waiting, a page, and a priest present. Edward leaves to return to his duties as king and tells Elizabeth he will call for her in a few weeks. Anthony, one of Elizabeth’s brothers, discovers their secret and berates his sister for having succumbed to being misled. He believes Edward will deny the marriage, leaving Elizabeth’s reputation ruined.
But it is Anthony who writes to his sister that Edward has announced he cannot make plans to marry the French princess that Court is pressuring him to wed because he is already married. Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, a man known as the Kingmaker for having had quite a hand in helping Edward ascend the throne, stands amazed (not in a good way!) at Edward’s rash choice of marriage. Regardless of anyone’s thoughts, Elizabeth and her family are brought to court, and she is crowned Queen of England. This beginning (yes, this is only about 80 pages into this 400 page book) got me hooked.
Then Gregory gives you other reasons to keep reading.
Elizabeth’s character is well-developed, and her thoughts seem to become even more vivid over the course of the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed Gregory’s portrayal of this beautiful, brilliant, and cunning woman. Elizabeth rules with dignity alongside her husband Edward. They fight to keep their position, and Elizabeth’s ambition to protect her family matches that of any other rival.
I was constantly flipping pages as fast as I could because I didn’t know who the next turncoat would be or what unexpected decision someone would make or how events would turn overnight. Gregory took historical facts and made them come alive. This certainly isn’t textbook reading full of facts devoid of feelings, but rather a narrative that sheds light on history as it dances in and out of the emotions of those involved.
This also isn’t a read you can think about something else while you read, zone back in two pages later, and not really miss a beat. This tale is chalked full of meaningful details, to the point that if you miss one initially, you might miss its significance later. Gregory’s prose is beautifully crafted, making The White Queen a thought-provoking but interesting read. Emphasis on the interesting bit here. Perhaps I’ve judged historical fiction wrong in the past, but sometimes I think it can be quite dull. Yet to me, TWQ was anything but!
Gregory pays attention to detail and not in the boring, when-is-this-paragraph-going-to-end kind of way but in the interesting, I-definitely-wouldn’t-have-known-that kind of way. There are just the right amount of bits of fantasy interspersed in the book, too. If you’re into fantasy, you’ll love it, and if you’re not, you won’t mind it because the fact that Elizabeth descended from a water goddess is, indeed, folklore.
Basically this book is great, I was enthralled, and I can’t wait to continue the series.