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Review: That Lady, by Kate O'Brien


Pages: 378
Original date of publication: 1936
My edition: 1985 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: It’s on the list of Virago Modern Classics
How I acquired my copy: the Philly book Trader, July 2010


That Lady is the story Ana de Mendoza, Princess of Eboli, a Spanish aristocrat in the court of King Phillip. She was involved in a mock duel when she was younger and lost an eye, although she was considered to be one of the great beauties of her day. The novel covers the period of time between October 1576 and June 1592, after the death of Ana’s husband and during the time when she was involved in a major scandal and imprisoned.

Ana had a very close friendship with the King (although she was never his mistress), and it was interesting to me to watch the interactions she has with him and with her lover, Antonio Perez. Although Phillip never actually enters the action for much of the book, he, along with Ana and Antonio are very well-rounded characters. Some of the “villains,” however, are a little too stereotypical for my taste. The intrigue and danger of the Castilian court came across very well, though, and I was interested to see how the story would eventually pan out. The book moves slowly at times, but the historical detail in this book is fantastic.

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