The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? Reviews of Two Books by Philippa Gregory: The Red Queen, and The White Queen

One reason I am a fan of Philippa Gregory is that she takes history and makes it accessible. I say this as someone who majored in history in college. Sure, I can find my way through a straight history book, and much of the nonfiction I read is exactly that: history. But authors who fictionalize history well often fill in the blanks for us with dialogue and what they imagine to be likely actions where the historical record contains gaps. Philippa Gregory is a master at this, and she also focuses on female figures who are considered secondary or tertiary by mainstream historians.

In “The White Queen” and “The Red Queen,” Gregory examines two significant women from the War of the Roses, in which England’s Lancaster and York houses of the Plantagenet family fought for 30 years in the mid-1400s. In The White Queen, Gregory writes from the point of view of the beautiful Elizabeth Woodville, the young widow who captured the heart of York’s King Edward IV. Woodville was also the mother of the two young princes whose disappearance from the Tower of London has perplexed historians for centuries. Gregory provides a plausible scenario to account for the boys.

Both women were ambitious but, as portrayed by Gregory, Margaret Beaufort was consumed by her ambitions. And, because she was not married to a king or in a direct line herself, her insistence that her son would become king of England seemed absurd at times. Gregory paints Beaufort as particularly serious and even grim, only satisfied once Henry VII was on the throne.

Gregory is a solid writer whose pacing sometimes gets bogged down in repetition or portrayal of worried characters. She’s also a damned fine storyteller, and the War of the Roses is a damned fine story. I recommend both of these books, with a slight preference for The White Queen.

Regarding animals, there wasn’t much. Gregory doesn’t go for that kind of thing as a rule. There is a brief pig slaughter description in The White Queen, and a bit of horses-in-battle stuff in The Red Queen. But I am declaring both books MOSTLY SAFE for animal lovers. Enjoy!


January 31, 2011 - Posted by | biography, Book Reviews, families, historical fiction, history, Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

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