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Review: The Other Queen, by Philippa Gregory

The Other Queen is the story of Mary, Queen of Scots, during a specific period in her life—the time that she spent in the home of George Talbot and his wife, Bess, at Tutbury Castle. It was a period fraught with political turmoil and the threat of another civil war, as Mary attempted to regain her throne. The story is told from the point of view of all three characters.

I have to say straight away that this was not one of Philippa Gregory’s best—a shame, since I was looking forward to reading it. Part of the problem is that I more or less have a preconceived idea of what Mary was like. Therefore, I was a little dismayed by the way that Mary is portrayed in the book; she’s arrogant. And that’s another problem I had with the book; I feel as though it might have been better had Mary not narrated part of the story herself. Even George and Bess are pretty wooden characters with no distinctive voices of their own; I flipped from one section to the next and thought that the same person was speaking!

Another part of this novel’s problem is that it fictionalizes one of the most boring periods in Mary’s life. Really, couldn’t she have fictionalized the Gunpowder Plot or the murder of David Rizzio? Instead, we get pages and pages about how queenly Mary is, how hard Bess worked to get where she is, Cecil is evil, ad nauseum. Essentially, if you read the first 100 pages or so, you’ve read the entire book. I feel as though Philippa Gregory is just following a formula here, one that doesn’t entirely work for this novel. It’s especially disappointing considering I’ve enjoyed so much of Gregory’s work in the past. A much better novel about Mary’s life is Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles, by Margaret George, and a wonderful work of nonfiction about Mary is Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, by Alison Weir.

Also reviewed by: Devourer of Books, S. Krishna Books, Literate Housewife Review, Tanzanite's Shelf, The Tome Traveller, The Literate Housewife Review, BCF Reviews, Books I Done Read, The Burton Review, Tiny Little Reading Room


Serena said…
Hmm. So this is not the best time of Mary's life to examine. Maybe i will skip this one.
Kristen M. said…
I second the recommendation on the Margaret George book. I'm sad that I lent mine out years ago and never got it back. I've been wanting to re-read it lately.
Linda said…
Well, it seems the more reviews I read on this book, the less inclined I am to read it. Thanks for your honesty.
Bookfool said…
I've yet to read a positive review of The Other Queen, but I still have lots of old Gregory books on my shelf, so that's good. No need to rush out for the new one. Thanks for the review!
Michele said…
This one is in my pile, I just haven't gotten around to it due to all the "so-so" reviews. I agree about Margaret George, too.

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