Philippa Gregory is one of those authors whom I struggle with, because sometimes I quite enjoying reading her, and sometimes I find her work falls a l...morePhilippa Gregory is one of those authors whom I struggle with, because sometimes I quite enjoying reading her, and sometimes I find her work falls a little flat for me. I think she can tell a good story, but one of the things which gives me difficulty about her, is that she seems to straddle the line between Historical Romance and Historical Fiction and sometimes leans too much towards the romance side for my preference. I often take issue with her female characters whom I rarely find to be particularly likeable.
I had some conflicting feelings about The White Queen. There were elements of it which I did quite enjoy. In some regards it seemed to parallel The Other Boleyn Girl which was one of my favorite of her books thus far. There were a lot of similar elements between those two stories. I also liked the way in which in some ways The White Queen seems almost to foreshadow events within The Other Boleyn Girl.
The other thing which I did enjoy about this book is the way in which Gregory weaved in the mythology, and superstition of the time period in the story. She adds a touch of magic to the book in which the reader can decide if it is real, or if indeed it is all just coincidence.
Yet at the same time in some regards I felt this book almost felt a bit too Fairy Tale like to justify itself as Historical Fiction. One of the biggest difficulties I had with this story was the whole love at first sight occurrence which happened between Elizabeth Gray and Prince Edward. The man who was responsible for the death of her husband, the ruin of her family, rendering her boys both without a father, and without inheritance and yet the moment she first lays eyes upon him she instantly falls madly, and hopelessly in love with him.
I also had problems with Elizabeth herself, who was both the main character and the narrator of the story. As mentioned above, I simply did not like her nor could I ever really bring myself to sympathize her. For the most part I found her father obnoxious, as well as a hypocrite who was quick to judge others for actions she herself had committed. She expects loyalty from others when she herself has no problem in switching sides when it suits her.
The other thing I found bothersome about this book was there seemed to be a lot of redundancy. At various different points throughout the story the author would repeat events which the reader already knew, and there seemed to be no necessity nor any real purpose served in the repeating of them. (less)
There were some things which I really enjoyed about this. As someone who finds the French Revolution fascinating I am always intrigued by books which...moreThere were some things which I really enjoyed about this. As someone who finds the French Revolution fascinating I am always intrigued by books which deal with the subject. I did quite like the way in which this book took a often written about subject and showed a rather different view of things not normally encountered. Rather than focusing upon the revolution itself, and the politics of it, this book was about the way in which the revolution affected the daily lives of the common people, the peasants, not just those within Paris itself, but also those living in the surrounding villages. Those who thought removed from the direct violence of the revolution still felt its impact and felt the consequences of it.
There were some really good detailed descriptions within the book, and the book was well researched. I loved learning of all the superstitions held among the village peasants, and as someone interested in natural healing and midwifery, enjoyed the sections dealing with the narrators mother who was a midwife. Also the chapters dealing with the insane asylum La Salpêtrière were the most fascinating parts of the book. It was most interesting encountering the infamous Jeanne and getting to see things from her point of view, I enjoyed her as a character within the book.
With that being said there are some things I felt were problematic in the book and did not quite sit right with me. There were certain events which occur within the story, that while in themselves could potentially happen, but the way in which they occur within he story somehow did not feel quite believable. At moments the story did have a feel of unreality to it. There was a lack of realism for me. I felt certain events were forced just to move the plot forward.
In addition the narrator of the story remains passive throughout the majority of the book. There is no real sense of her actively taking part in the things which happen to her and around her. Most the time she just seems to be there while events happen, and when things happen to her, she passively endues them until her circumstances change. So she feels sort of disconnected or aloof from the story and what is happening. She rarely feels like she is actively involved in what is going on, but more as if she is just there as a witness to report events to the reader. It might be because of this that I did not feel a sense of realism in the story, because I never really connected with the narrator, because she herself seemed so detached from the things which were happening around her, and to her.
In some of the most significant events which happen in her life, she did not feel as if she was truly present, as if she was taking an active role in them, but as if they were things simply being done to her. Because of this it was hard to really believe in, or feel her emotions, and it gave certain things an almost dream like quality. (less)
As a person who loves the work of Henry James, I could not resist reading a book about his life. Though I have to say that while I will not say I did...moreAs a person who loves the work of Henry James, I could not resist reading a book about his life. Though I have to say that while I will not say I did not enjoy this book, nor will I say that I found it to be badly written, it did have its good points, and elements to it that were interesting I will say it somehow was quite not what I expected it to be. Though I cannot say just what I did expect, there was just something that was missing for me, I did not fully connect with the story, it failed to thoroughly engage me.
A bit ironically I found that this book was rather slow moving for my tastes, and it was difficult for me to get through it. It dragged a bit at points, and was somewhat tedious. I say ironic, because I know that is how a lot of people feel about the writing of James.
One of the things which I most enjoyed about this book was the way in which the stories of James were brought into it, the author demonstrates how different experiences, and people James has known influenced and inspired his writing. It was fun to try and guess which of his stories were being alluded to at certain points in the book. (less)
A sensually written book of beautiful, lyrical, prose that flows off the page and gives the reader a vivid picture. This book is part surreal, part se...moreA sensually written book of beautiful, lyrical, prose that flows off the page and gives the reader a vivid picture. This book is part surreal, part seduction, part historical fiction and part philosophical. It stimulates each of the senses while arousing the mind and being quite thought provoking making the reader question themselves and society and the world we live in.
It is a story that revolves around the very odd and eccentric hero known as Rasero, in addition to the fact that he was born naturally bald, and went through life without every growing hair, his other odd trait is that at the point of organism he is besieged with visions of the future, which torment him throughout his life and leaves him in a state of anxiety about the future of mankind.
In addition he is aquatinted with the great minds of his era, the writers, thinkers, philosophers, artists, scientists. Throughout the book he has encounters with these extraordinary individuals who helped shaped the world they lived in.
This is a book about our past, present and future, and even as the world seems such a vastly different place there is so little which has changed. (less)
I really enjoyed Furnivall's The Russian Concubine so I was quite looking forward to reading the other books in the series. I have to say I found this...moreI really enjoyed Furnivall's The Russian Concubine so I was quite looking forward to reading the other books in the series. I have to say I found this book was not quite as good as Russian Concubine was. In part I think it was because of how much I loved the characters from Russian Concubine which were not within this story. While it was interesting seeing the background on the life of Valencia, Lydia's mother,to try and better understand her character within the Russian Concubine.
I will say one of the reasons I did not enjoy this book as much is because I felt this book focused more on the romance part of the story, and for a large portion of it I did not feel as if very much was actually happening within the story. It was a bit slow moving. Though towards the end it did pick up more and start to become more interesting.
One of the things which I did rather enjoy about this book is the way in which it portrayed the rebellion within Russia and the uprising of the people. I liked the way in which you were able to see things from both points of view and see the flaws and wrong doings on both sides. On the one hand you can see how the people suffered, and the corruption and understand what moved them to such violent and extreme action and on the other hand you can see the innocent people who were harmed because of their actions, and the way in which the innocent were punished for the faults of the guilty.
The characters were complicated and often both sympathetic and dislikable at the same time. They had many different sides of them which motivated their actions, and they struggled with complex feelings that created inner conflicts within them. (less)
All in all I would say this book was an enjoyable read and there were some things about it which I found to be interesting. I did like the way in whic...moreAll in all I would say this book was an enjoyable read and there were some things about it which I found to be interesting. I did like the way in which this book explored the lives of women living in this time period and particularly explored the challenges and struggles of those women who did want to break the mold and wanted more for their lives than what was expected of them and what was allowed to them.
But there were some issues I had with the book.
One of my biggest complaints about the book is characterization. I felt the characters really lacked complexity and depth and were not very well developed. Most of the characters throughout the book are pigeonholed as either obvious good guys or obvious bad guys. They are all very black and white and one dimensional. Joan herself presented a rather frustrating character, for one thing it did not seem as if she ever really grew or developed as the story continued but from the start to the end she remained the same never matured or seem to learn from any of her experiences and so she always acted the same she did as a child in spite of her alleged wisdom and intelligence.
The other thing which bothered me was that while it seemed that the author was trying to portray Joan as being divinely chosen for her role as Pope in which throughout the book some miraculously event would always occur just in time to assist and save Joan from impending dissector. While there is no denying that Joan was gifted and uncommonly intelligent the author made it seem more as if Joan became Pope through shear luck and not because of her own accomplishments and abilities. Joan's lack of common sense, lack of ambition made her come off as not truly having been able to achieve her goals in life through her own cleverness and ability but it was always some outside force that intervened and pushed her forward in life, and without these many convenient acts of chance Joan would not have been able to achieve such accomplishment. In this way the author does detract from remarkable person Joan was supposed to be for in spite of trying to create a portrait of a strong woman it did make her seem almost passive in directing her own fate.
A sweeping epic which details on the early days of the Mafia and their roots in Sicily prior to their growth and popularity in America, and the strugg...moreA sweeping epic which details on the early days of the Mafia and their roots in Sicily prior to their growth and popularity in America, and the struggles of one family to combat against their corruption and save the common people from the clutches of fear and violence which grips them. It is a wonderfully details book that gives the reader an insight on all of the characters, and what drives them, and motivates them, how their mind works, as well as the ways in which their lives come to cross paths.
I thought this book acts as a nice contrast to The Godfather for instead of displaying the mafia in a glorified and romantic vision, Basile exposes a more realistic and harsher reality displaying their cruelty, brutality, violence, and the way in which the common Sicilian people suffered in their hands, and were kept beneath their tyrannical rule.
Though I did think that the suggestion of the role of destiny and how some of the characters may have been moved by unseen forces at times was interesting I feel as if perhaps the author hit the reader of the head a bit too strongly with the point. It did feel at times as if the reader was underestimating the intelligence of the reader, and I think the role of destiny could have been more effectively shown if more subtly was used instead of having everything spelled out.
There were also a few other scenes in which I felt in the authors effort to make a point she pushed the boundaries of believability and went overboard so that it crossed into absurdity.
But these are only minor points of which did not hamper my overall enjoyment of the book and in spite of a lack of finesse at certain moments, I still think that over all it was skillfully written, and worth reading. (less)