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Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses
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Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  1,245 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews
To contemporaries, the Wars of the Roses were known collectively as a "cousins war." The series of dynastic conflicts that tore apart the ruling Plantagenet family in fifteenth-century England was truly a domestic drama, as fraught and intimate as any family feud before or since. While the battles themselves were fought by men, a handful of powerful women would prove just ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published February 26th 2013 by Basic Books
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When you watched "The White Queen", did you think:

"Hmm, it seems kind of weird that a devout Christian woman would be practicing witchcraft. It also seems weird that this witchcraft defines several historical events."

"Wow, Elizabeth Woodville's French manicure is better than mine!"

"Is that a zipper????"

If so, you were in good company. Luckily, Sarah Gristwood has released "Blood Sisters", a wonderful book that combats all things Gregory and should be required reading if you're interested in the
Although the bickering between the Houses of York and Lancaster (now known as the Wars of the Roses) was heavily a “man’s world”; there were strong female players lurking in the shadows and controlling some strings. Sarah Gristwood explores the links between Margaret of Anjou, Cecily Neville, Margaret Beaufort, Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York, Anne Neville, and Margaret of Burgundy (Margaret of York) in “Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses”.

“Blood Sisters” is not merely
Read ARC via netgalley.

I’m not sure when the current popular fascination with the Tudors began. Was it simply the Showtime series with the glorious Jonathan Rhys-Myers? Or was it Phillippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl? I’m not sure. But it does seem like this book, at least in its release, is an answer to Gregory’s fiction surrounding the Tudor and Pre-Tudor women.
Blood Sisters takes an in-depth look at the royal women who were involved in the Cousin’s War (aka The War of the Roses), a dif
Sarah u
‘Blood Sisters’ by author Sarah Gristwood aims to tell readers the true story of the Cousin’s Wars- the Wars of the Roses- from the point of view of the women involved. Her seven case studies are Marguerite of Anjou, the Lancastrian queen; Elizabeth Woodville, the Yorkist queen; Cecily Nevill, the would-be Yorkist queen and Elizabeth Woodville’s mother in law; Margaret of Burgundy, Cecily’s youngest daughter who made an illustrious marriage to a duke; Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII’s mother; Anne ...more
So the women of the Wars of the Roses -- more specifically, Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville (Wydville) have always held great interest for me. A couple of thoughts:

1) This book is clearly meant as a popular history, not an academic one. It's meant for audiences who have some, but not necessarily in-depth, knowledge of late medieval England. I had an easier time keeping the names straight in Gristwood's work than I did in the first Wars of the Roses book I read (another popular history,
Feb 28, 2013 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sarah Gristwood aims to tell us the story of the women who played a role in the Wars of the Roses, but produces no new material with which to do this. Inevitably therefore, the reader is left with a familiar story of the male protagonists, peppered with minute-and usually inconsequential-detail about the female characters. It is the nature of the source material that limits Gristwood, and she admirably tries to make some intelligent observations. The difficulty with this book is that for a reade ...more
Athena Ninlil
This book provides enormous detail into a period that has become as the period that followed, a sensationalist one. The author brilliantly deconstructs in the first sections the myths that every woman was out to out-do the other and they were all natural rivals pit against a medieval cat-fight. By their sorrows, by their experiences, they were all brought together at one point.

The only thing that I had a problem were these words that were associated when speaking of Margaret Beaufort and her onl
Abigail Hartman
Confession: I read this book in the strangest order possible. Oh, I started at the beginning and read to the end; I just somehow missed about four chapters out of the middle on the first go-round. Somehow my bookmark was moved from early in Part IV to the start of Part V, which meant I skipped 60 pages of Richard III's rule and went straight to the aftermath of Bosworth. I'm not even sure how I managed to not realize that, but I guess it's what I get for reading on an airplane. (In my defense, I ...more
Paula Connelly
I was given this book as a gift and I must admit I would not have read it otherwise. This is because the author contributed to a documentary associated with Philippa Gregory's "White Queen" and both these programmes were, to be blunt, dreadful.

Just a few pages into the book I very nearly gave up on it. There seemed to be too many references to Shakespeare for my liking and I wasn't enjoying the style of writing either. I persevered and I'm pleased that I did, because it really wasn't such a bad
Jan 28, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Women such as Marguerite of Anjou,, Margaret of Burgundy and Margaret of Beaufort recruited armies, arranged marriages and supported political factions. They also gave alms to charity and even played a large role in supporting universities and scholarship. These important women of the Middle Ages certainly didn't let any grass grow under their feet! The women of the Wars of the Roses have often been regarded as unimportant, but Blood Sisters does them justice.

This book also evokes the splendid p
Such a good read!!! It is definitely a must read or anyone looking to know about the women behind the War of the Roses.
Mike Clarke
Sarah Gristwood's book is a bumper biography that will doubtless appeal to the value-conscious history reader. Its seven women figured in English history around the end of the middle ages, during the Wars of the Roses. Cecily Neville, the Yorkist matriarch; Marguerite of Anjou, 'Captain Margaret', the fearless but ultimately doomed fighting wife of Henry VI; Margaret Beaufort, the mother of the Tudor dynasty; Anne Neville, luckless wife of a despised king; Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter El ...more
May 12, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Wow; what a fantastic book! I've read quite a bit about the "Wars of the Roses", but as is typical of the times, the story was centered around the men in the story. It's too bad; because there were some incredibly complex, strong, independent women supporting these men. These women schemed, manipulated, sacrificed, protected their children, triumphed and failed. All seven of the women profiled in this book deserve our respect; they lived in a time when men controlled politics, but these women di ...more
Mar 01, 2014 Malapata rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historia
Blood Sisters nos presenta una historia de la Guerra de las Dos Rosas, que agitó Inglaterra en la segunda mitad del siglo XV, poniendo el énfasis en sus protagonistas femeninas. Este punto de vista, que pudiera parecer intersante en un primer momento, acaba siendo un lastre. No porque las mujeres no jugaran un papel importante en ciertos momentos de la contienda, sino por la forma de tratar el tema por parte de Gristwood.

Así, cuando las mujeres juegan un papel activo en la contienda como al inic
Jun 23, 2014 Dorothy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I highly and enthusiastically recommend "Blood Sisters" by Sarah Gristwood. A fascinating and compelling account of the War of the Roses from the vantage point of the mothers, sisters, daughters and wives who also played central and catalytic roles. The life of the medieval woman was hard and terribly often, terribly short. Womanhood began early...Margaret Beaufort gave birth to the future Henry VII when she was just 14. She never bore a child or was known to be pregnant again. Elizabeth Woodvil ...more
This took a surprising amount of time for me to get through. I mean, I wasn't expecting to blaze through it, but I ended up putting it down for long periods of time in between chapters and having to be reminded it existed, which doesn't really bode well for its compelling nature? But it is interesting.

I've always been interested in the Wars of the Roses. Blood Sisters goes through the history from Henry VI to Henry VIII via the women involved in the wars: Marguerite of Anjou, Cecily Neville, Mar
Jo Barton
Feb 26, 2013 Jo Barton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The War of the Roses shook the very foundations of England, when cousin armed against cousin, fought for power in a domestic drama on a grand scale. The ruling Plantagenets had two warring factions; the House of Lancaster and the House of York, both had equal and valid claims to the English throne as descendants of Edward III. Taking their symbols as red and white roses, the royal houses of Lancaster and York not only divided their family, but also alienated England.

Generally overlooked by their
Ambrosia Sullivan
Feb 15, 2013 Ambrosia Sullivan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another one of my War of the Roses read I enjoyed Blood Sisters because it dealt with the women of the family. Most historians focus on the obvious part of the War of the Roses the men of the York and Lancaster families. However women like Marguerite of Anjou, Margaret of Burgundy and Margaret Beaufort were strong and powerful women who rose Armies!

You can tell that this book has been well researched and the history is all correct, while bringing to mind the pomp and pageants of the time period.
I enjoyed that the women finally got some respect. Much of what is written about these women centers around their husbands and/or children, but in this book, the men take a back seat. In those times, these women might have been reliant on their husbands (and fathers) for their standing, but most appeared to make their own path in life, aside from their spouse. Margaret Beaufort maneuvered (and possibly risked) the most to put her sole child on the throne. Marguerite of Anjou also fought for her ...more
Jan 28, 2013 Lorin rated it it was amazing
I must admit that I never ever wanted to explore the period dubbed "war of the roses" and I really don't know why but I suppose it was because I just loved the Tudor era from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I. However, now that I have read a few historical fiction pieces on the "war of the roses" era, I am becoming more and more informed on the characters that shaped this time and beginning to want to know more on each of them. This book by Sarah Gristwood was wonderful. It gave you a real appreciation ...more
Jul 05, 2013 Jaclyn rated it really liked it
After reading The Kingmakers Daughter and before The White Princess comes out from Phillipa Gregory I came across this book at my library. This book is from the women's prospective during the Wars of the Roses as it is known and less known as the Cousins War. As we all know in the 1400s women's opinion did not matter as much as mans and their lives were rarely documented. Sarah Gristwood took what she could find and tried to give us, readers, what it would be like to live in that era. She follow ...more
Aug 02, 2015 Jarrah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, woman-author
If your major source of knowledge about the Wars of the Roses was either Shakespeare's plays, Philippa Gregory novels, or modern TV shows like The Tudors, you will gain a much richer and more nuanced background by reading Sarah Gristwood's Blood Sisters.

Gristwood's book weaves together the stories of the key women players in the events before, during and after the wars. It's a fascinating challenge to our conventional understandings of women being largely disempowered at the time.

At the same t
I thought this was a very good overview of the women in the Cousins' War. These biographies are becoming increasingly popular, I think, since the release of "The White Queen" TV series. This particular book follows a chronological narrative (rather than laying out each individual biography) of the time period. The women's lives are shown as being interwoven and closely knit, as they were, and the reality of this time period having actual blood kin fighting one another is clearly laid out.

Jan 27, 2013 Tinika rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, history
Sarah Gristwold writes a biography featuring seven women of the 15th Century. (Cecily Neville, her daughter Mararet of Burgundy, her daughters-in-law Elizabeth Woodville and Anne Neville, her grand-daughter Elizabeth of York, plus Margaret Beaufort and Marguerite of Anjou) Though I have read fictionalized accounts of most of these women and have a general knowledge of the Cousins' War, it was interesting to read what the historical record reveals. Fortune's Wheel is an apt symbol for these women ...more
Oct 24, 2013 Eileen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What's not to like about English history! This book is very well written, keeps to the facts without the needless speculation some histories contain. Gristwood profiles the women of the War of The Roses to perfection. This was a time when women were usually relegated to the background, especially when there were so many very strong men in the picture. However those strong men had equally strong women supporting them as wives, mothers, and other kinship connections. This book follows their storie ...more
Karen Floyd
A thorough and well-balanced attempt at re-creating the lives of the Yorkist and Lancastrian royal women. Gristwood has done an admirable job of piecing their stories together from state papers, private correspondence, and unreliable historians. Many of these "historians" were writing after the fact and for the winning side, and promoting their patrons' version of events. We will probably never know, for example, whether or not Anne Neville wanted to marry Richard III or what really happened to ...more
Mar 12, 2015 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was eagerly looking forward to reading this book, but there are just so many flaws. The worst, by far, is the repeated referencing of Thomas More, who lived during the highest points of the Tudor era. The author admits, multiple times, that he is a dubious source due to his distance from pre-Tudor events, then quotes him again and again. Non-fiction with a bias is not really non-fiction. The writing is both choppy and ponderous, which impairs readability. Also, the repeated use of Shakespeare' ...more
Dec 07, 2013 Marilyn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the British monarchy, or the Wars of the Roses in particular.
I love Sarah Gristwood's style of writing, she has the ability to bring history alive, and leave you with a better understanding of the monarchs she focuses on. Chose to read this book, first because I so enjoyed her book, Arbella: England's Lost Queen. Once more, she delivers with Blood Sisters: The Women Behind The Wars of the Roses. I think that this book was as always, very well researched, and a friendly read for fans of historical fiction, as she made it quite easy to follow despite the fa ...more

Gristwood manages to cover the War of the Roses in manner that makes it actually possible to track the events and people of the insanely complicated English civil war. She digs up some new material, paying close attention to invoices and receipts, which, as any snooping spouse knows, can be very revealing.

However, despite her theme of This-Time-Its-All-About-The-Women, the men of the time period still dominate the text, and she doesn’t bring some of her focal characters forward as much as she s
Oct 20, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good book about the women involved in the "War of the Roses". History comes alive when seen not in terms of battles, dates and such. These are women who were wives, mothers, daughters, pawns many times, but many times also controlling the game. History, written by men, mostly discounts the involvement of the women. It is refreshing to read a book that brings their role to the forefront.
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Sarah Gristwood attended Oxford and then worked as a journalist specializing in the arts and women's issues. She has contributed to The Times, Guardian, Independent, and Evening Standard.
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