The White Queen opens in 1464, on the day that Elizabeth Woodville meets Edward IV, the man who has just recently been crowned King of England. In the attempt to gain back the lands she lost when her husband died, Elizabeth catches the eye of the young king, and becomes Queen of England herself—and eventually, the mother of kings and queens of England.
I have mixed feelings about this book.
Here’s what I didn’t like so much:
--The fact that the book is written in the present tense. Gregory started writing this way sometime around The Boleyn Inheritance, and it gets on my nerves sometimes because I feel that using the present tense for historical fiction is so limiting.
--The water imagery got to be a bit much-too-much at times. It was beautiful at first, but the fact that Elizabeth kept talking about her ancestress, the water goddess/nymph Melusina, began to get tired after a while.
--Although Gregory is great in general at describing the events of the time periods of which she writes, she’s not so good as describing how people actually lived—as with her previous novels, there’s very little about what her characters wear, eat, or do in their free time. It’s the little bits and pieces that make characters come to life, make them three-dimensional.
--Reading Sharon Kay Penman has seemingly made me pro-Richard III for life, so I was a little disappointed by Gregory’s vilification of him in the book (though of course, when the story is told from the point of view of Elizabeth Woodville, of course Richard would be portrayed in a negative light).
--About halfway through the book, Gregory switches from 1st person POV to 3rd, in order to talk about some of the decisive battles of the Wars. I can understand her intent, but it was jarring to me to go back and forth.
However, I think The White Queen is a vast improvement over Gregory’s previous book, The Other Queen. Elizabeth is much more of a three-dimensional character, as are the other people that populate the novel. I was also a lot more engaged by the story—mostly because the story of the War of the Roses is more interesting than that of Mary, Queen of Scot’s captivity! Elizabeth generally has a bad rep, but here she comes across as a sympathetic woman, strong and courageous at a time when the times moved against her. Gregory uses her imagination a lot more in this novel, because there’s so much less documentation to work from. I think it’s a good thing that Gregory has moved away from writing about the Tudors (at least for the time being); the Plantagenets are a breath of breath air on Gregory’s writing, which was in the process of getting stale.
Also reviewed by: The Literate Housewife Review, Books 'N Border Collies, S Krishna's Books, Tanzanite's Shelf, Peeking Between the Pages, Devourer of Books, Shh I'm Reading, The Tome Traveller's Weblog, Books i Done Read