This is an interesting and useful examination of a pivotal moment in European and English history. It goes into more detail than I recall from Alison...moreThis is an interesting and useful examination of a pivotal moment in European and English history. It goes into more detail than I recall from Alison Weir's The Six Wives of Henry VIII or Henry VIII: The King and His Court. (Though I'd say that these books are useful background.) Tremlett also consults Spanish sources which (as I recall) Weir did not.
More like 3.5 stars. The things that stopped me from giving it four stars are some instances of word confusion (mother instead of father when referring to Henry VIII, Venice a scenario of European politics rather than a center) and its incomplete citation of sources. (It gave sources for direct quotes, but not paraphrases.)
It was interesting to realize that the storyline in The Curse of Chalion was partly based on the life or Isabel, Catherine's mother. (The Spanish-esque-ness of the setting was clear, but I didn't/don't know enough about Isabel to recognize the specifics.) But it was also terribly sad, as the story got rolling, to be unable to escape the recollection that there was going to be a great deal of unhappiness and death before the relative stability and prosperity of Elizabeth I's reign.(less)
I saw this at a bookstore. It looked interesting, so I put it on my to-read list. However, I'd say that the background is more interesting (and well-r...moreI saw this at a bookstore. It looked interesting, so I put it on my to-read list. However, I'd say that the background is more interesting (and well-researched) than the actual subject of the book. If I wanted to read about certain metaphysical topics and obscure aspects of medicine in the Renaissance, I'd definitely take a look at the source list of this book.(less)
This book also addresses other entertainment activities which were related to music, such as dancing, ballet, and masques. It has a number of great qu...moreThis book also addresses other entertainment activities which were related to music, such as dancing, ballet, and masques. It has a number of great quotes and anecdotes from the time periods it discusses. It manages to be a discussion of various aspects of courtly life through its discussion of music. Also, it rather deflates the idea of Henry VIII as great composer. ;)
The one real negative is the illustrations. They are well-chosen and -attributed, but many of them are somewhat muddy-looking. The quality of the printing was not necessarily the best.(less)
Somewhat more economically aware than many books for on this topic for this demographic. It has excellent illustrations (well-ch...moreMaybe more like a 2.5.
Somewhat more economically aware than many books for on this topic for this demographic. It has excellent illustrations (well-chosen, many of them not frequently seen), though for the most part they are not well-identified. (The source collections are listed in the front of the book, and some of the captions identify the artist, which should allow for identification in many cases.)
I wonder about some of the specific facts. For example, the author claims that Catherine de' Medici and Diane de Poitiers eventually became friends; this is very counter to my understanding of that situation. The author does not use footnotes or otherwise identify specific sources, which is another weakness of this book.
For younger readers, I think the What Life Was Like series would be better. For older or more advanced readers, a biography which deals heavily with a specific court, like Alison Weir's biographies, might be better. This could be suitable as an introduction to the topic, though.(less)
The introduction seemed to be long because it could be, and the chapter on the courts of France and Navarre was kind of dull. Some parts of the introd...moreThe introduction seemed to be long because it could be, and the chapter on the courts of France and Navarre was kind of dull. Some parts of the introduction, which discuss the past historiographical study on courts (or lack thereof), are interesting, but I'm not sure how correct it is.(less)
It was a pleasant surprise to receive a hardcover copy of this book, rather than a paperback ARC as for Meltdown Iceland. As the years go by, I buy fe...moreIt was a pleasant surprise to receive a hardcover copy of this book, rather than a paperback ARC as for Meltdown Iceland. As the years go by, I buy fewer hardcover books. Even authors I like have a tendency to recycle themes (or worse, plots), acquire protection from editors, or explore other types of stories which are less interesting to me. (Sometimes, I even outgrow them.) This year, I bought exactly two hardcover books when they were new to the shelves. It just doesn't make sense to buy a hardcover when I could buy 3-4 paperbacks for the same price. So I'd forgotten how pleasant it was to be the first person to open a hardcover book. It's weird, the things that make our neurons fire.
As to the substance of the book itself: it's not bad. It casts light on a person and a time/place in European history that have tended to be understudied, at least in literature for the general reader. It's an interesting study of the typical challenges facing sovereigns in medieval Europe, particularly those faced by a female one.
There are a few points where the author speculated about something but then offered no evidence; however, this mostly occurred with things that were not important to what would be called the main thread of the story if this were fiction. There are also a few places that suggested that the manuscript could have benefited from more attention by a copy editor, or less stet. (Obvious typos, confusing sentences, etc.)
The author cited things that were exact quotes, but not much else. (I prefer Alison Weir-style extensive footnoting in my biographies and other historical works.) I really dislike when I can't tell where something came from without playing guess-and-check with secondary sources.
A final interesting thing: I've been doing a lot of reading lately about the attempts to preserve art and architecture during World War II. One of the things that was not preserved was the Angevin register (the output of the chancery from 1265-1435). Along with all of the other documents of the State Archive of Naples that were judged the most valuable, it was set afire by German troops in 1943. I'm not surprised I hadn't read about this - the books I've been reading tend to focus on visual arts and successes. Nonetheless: depressing. I almost gave this four stars for the difficulty in creating a biography without this source.(less)