Book Review: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

queen The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Simon & Schuster, May 2013 (first published 2008)

 Synopsis- Internationally bestselling author Philippa Gregory brings the tumult and intrigue of The Wars of the Roses to vivid life through the women of the House of Lancaster and the House of York, beginning with the story of Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen. A woman who won the love of a king and ascended to royalty by virtue of her beauty, Elizabeth fought tenaciously for the success of her family — her daughter who would one day unite the warring dynasties, and her two sons whose eventual fate has confounded historians for centuries: the Princes in the Tower. An active player in the power struggles that surrounded her, she made hard and courageous choices, always trying to protect those whom she loved. Informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills, Philippa Gregory gives an unforgettable voice to an extraordinary woman at the heart of a devastating conflict.

Review- The White Queen is the first in the Cousins’ War series set in England during the 1400’s. The deadly feud known as the Wars of the Roses, where brothers turn on each other in a fight for the throne. A noblewoman, Elizabeth Woodville stands in the middle of the road flagging down the King of England, Edward. She’s a mother of two and widower who hopes to attain her inheritance rights by approaching the King directly. Instantly taken with Elizabeth, Edward attempts to seduce her. He is well known for his promiscuity and for having women fall into his bed at his beck and call. So when Elizabeth denies him his attraction for her intensifies and he asks for her hand in marriage. They wed in secret as Edward goes off to war with his promise that if he is to survive she will become the Queen of England.

With her reputation on the line, her brother Anthony fears she will be disposed of by the King, but her savvy mother is confident that the King will return for her daughter and make her Queen. When Edward returns and announces his marriage to Elizabeth he sends the royal family into a flap. His mother is not happy with his choice and his best friend Hastings who has been grooming him to be King feels betrayed as he had struck up an arrangement to marry Edward into a French family. Elizabeth’s family are now of high status in England and she continues to extend her networks and allies across the country. But as Edward and Elizabeth start a new life together there’s a ripple of uprising with Hastings and his brother at the head. Edward’s brother is out to kill him and take the throne. Over the years Edward fights to remain crowned and Elizabeth must deal with the new life she has made for herself, one that is embodies secrets, danger and the need for survival.

Told in first person viewpoint, I quickly warmed to the heroine in The White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville. She’s a resourceful and strong-willed character who knew right from the beginning what she wanted. Though I wasn’t convinced her feelings for Edward prior to their marriage was truly genuine (even if her attraction was) there’s no doubt she learnt to love him and their marriage strengthened throughout the years as they created a family together. Edward was also a likeable King, one who succumbed to Elizabeth’s charms but was too trusting of his family and allies. His affairs and mistresses certainly didn’t paint him in a good light at times, but this didn’t seem to bother or affect his relationship with Elizabeth for the most part and so didn’t deter from the storyline.

There’s no shortage of adversity or challenges thrown in the path of Elizabeth Woodville and near the end of the story her eldest daughter Elizabeth becomes more of a prominent figure. I believe she becomes the heroine in The White Princess which I would really like to read too.  The plot is full of twists and turns as Gregory skilfully weaves the facts of history into a captivating story with characters that possess just as many weaknesses as they do strengths. This is the first adult historical fiction novel I’ve read of Philippa Gregory’s and now that I’ve got a taste I’d definitely like to explore more of the Cousin’s War series. I believe The White Queen has been turned into a BBC series (this is the TV-tie in edition) so I’ll have to check it out too.

Overall Rating

4/5

“I loved this book!”

The White Queen can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

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