Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"The neglected Infanta was about to become the most courted woman in England, the Queen, the bride of the most handsome, the most kingly ruler in Christendom."

2.5 out of 5 stars

If I'd read this compilation (or the individual novels) about twenty years ago, before I'd studied and read so much concerning Tudor history, I probably would've enjoyed it more. As it is, I just know too much and have too many suppositions and theories of my own; whenever I came upon points of contention, I would say to myself, "Ah, so she went with this version of that event. Okay, so she used this birth date rather than the later one." And so on. So while I can appreciate that Plaidy was an excellent author insofar as creating believable characters and a compelling narrative, her biases ruined the overall experience as they made for rather one-sided characters, especially when it came to Henry VIII. Yes, he was a bastard, there's no doubt about that, but Plaidy's version was almost a caricature--his behavior and personality was just so over-the-top, it was cartoonish. And of course Plaidy went with the standard (at the time) portrayal of "mad" Juana, Katharine's sister, a woman whose image was thoroughly tarnished and maligned by those who purported to love her, who is now becoming somewhat rehabilitated.  Not to mention Plaidy had a habit of repeating either information (in what is probably one of the earliest examples of the "As you know, Bob" exposition, I'm guessing), dialogue, or, the most egregious, descriptions. I stopped counting after about the tenth use of "piggy" to describe Henry's eyes. In a way, I believe Jean Plaidy was the Philippa Gregory of her time: she was able to introduce many exciting historical eras and personages to readers using what reference materials were available to her, for which she deserves the lauds she receives, but it's quite obvious she infused her novels with biases and suppositions, possibly her own, possibly those of the sources on which she relied. Either way, while it makes for an entertaining read for those not in the know, for those in the know, reading her books can be disappointing and frustrating, which overwhelms their entertainment value.

Read from February 17-March 17, 2014
Reviewed March 17, 2014

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