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Review: Wideacre, by Philippa Gregory

Its too bad that some readers can't get past the sex in this book, and take a look at what Wideacre really is: a brilliant debut novel by a woman who has really written some fine historical fiction. It seems that those who have read Philippa Gregory's later works (a la The Other Boleyn Girl) are disappointed by the way she wrote this novel. While it is true that The Other Boleyn Girl is a finer book, Wideacre is commendable as well.

I for one found this to be an insightful and intriguing book. The heroine is much different that most heroines are: every reader hates her. I don't think that Philippa Gregory meant for Beatrice Lacey to be likeable. Yet no one within the novel seems to understand the real heart and soul of Beatrice, the young woman who will do anything to keep control of her beloved home. However, things seem to go very wrong, and in the end Beatrice finds herself asking, "is it all worth it?" I found myself asking the same question right from the get-go. Is Wideacre worth all the plotting and scheming that Beatrice does? As the book's cover has stated, there's a fine amount of death and incest, but they aren't the point of the book. At least three people in the book are the victims of murder, and Beatrice seems to show no shame or remorse with regards to death- even her father, who she loved as the Squire of Wideacre.

Wideacre isn't your typical romance novel; the main characters have a lot more personality and drive than those which appear in other books. Beatrice Lacey, despite her vile deeds, is an admirable (though certainly not commendable) woman

I was astounded at the way in which she very coolly was able to set traps for and lie to anyone who stood in her way. Although she loves her brother, he is only a prawn in the game she plays. In some ways I felt sorry for John MacAndrew and Celia Lacey, both also pawns in the game that Beatrice feels she must play in order to secure Wideacre for her children, Richard and Julia. It thought it was amazing how Beatrice let everything go to pieces around her in the end, even though she thought she was still in control. The book ends with a frightening climax, in which a character from her past comes back for revenge.

Philippa Gregory draws the world of late- 18th century with a fine eye for detail, never missing the things that are most important. I highly recommend this book, though I warn that it is not for the weak at heart. Wideacre is not your typical romance novel, and should not be treated as such.

Comments

Laura said…
I agree that Gregory is great at painting a detailed picture of the time periods of her books. I have only read The Other Boleyn Girl (and am currently reading The Queen's Fool), but the imagery has been my favorite part of both books!
I've heard a lot about Philippa Gregory lately, but I haven't ever actually read one of her books. This review made me want to go out and try one. I've added you to my reader, so I can check in regularly. :o)
Wow, how interesting - I'd never heard of this book. I thought she was just all about the Tudors. Thanks for the review!
I used to read Gregory long time back. Lately none. I suppose I should read a few more!
Nicole said…
I read this one awhile back along with the other Wideacre books (it's terrible, I don't remember the names). I thoroughly enjoyed all of them.

Philippa Gregory is one of my favorite authors. I think I've read all of her books!
Katherine said…
I've read nearly every book Gregory's written. She's done more than just the Tudors, though: she wrote a couple of books set in the reign of James I, and a book set in colonial America. But she definitely does the Tudors best. I'm wondering when she'll write a book about Katherine Parr--or Jane Seymour. Or Bloody Mary. The possibilities are endless.
Teddy Rose said…
I loved The Other Boleyn Girl and enjoyed The Boleyn Inheritance. I have many of her books on my TBR. I'm not sure if I wou;d enjoy this one or not, but I added it to my TBR with your recommendation. I do love her attention to detail and may even enjoy it just for that.
Danielle said…
I spotted several of Greogory's books (are there sequels to this?) at a library sale I just went to. I saw them on the shelf and thought about grabbing them all, but in the end I left them there. Now I could kick myself! I will have to give one of her books a try (I've not yet read any of them), but I love books rich in historical detail!
Linda said…
I LOVE Philippa Gregory's books. Wideacre is the one I'm reading right now! Oddly enough I read Meridon first---and it was a great book so naturally I had to read Wideacre. So far it's really intriguing & quite different. I love the unpredictability. The main Character Beatrice is a real change of pace.
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Gillian said…
I think you'll find that the brother is a pawn (lowly chess piece, often sacrificed) not a prawn (shellfish).

This book is just plain dreadful. The writing is completely unconvincing - every new, awful idea Beatrice comes up with is completely unbelievable, a well as distastefully outrageous. The sex is revolting - but I would have been prepared to read that, if the plot were convincing. I just don't believe in her motivation, and find the whole thing unsatisfactory. Sorry - one of the worst books I've read this year.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs Stepford said…
I wasn't really sure what to think of this book to be honest. Sure, it was just SO shocking that I had to read it, but mostly in disbelief rather than the fact that I really enjoyed it.

It left me feeling rather uncomfortable, and I thought about it for quite a while afterwards. Not many books can shock you on such a level as this,
Jane Cox said…
I loved this book. I have read a great deal of Phillips Gregory's books and found that they were starting to get repetitive and boring, with a decline in the writing. I picked this up to see how her career had started. I know it's kind of a trashy book, but I could not put it down. It had the same appeal as V.C. Andrews novels once had, but with much better writing and well-developed characters. I am surprised most of the people I've spoken with about Philippa Gregory's novels have not read this, and in most cases have not even heard of it. I enjoyed the entire trilogy, but felt that Wideacre was the best.

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