If you happened to catch author Liz Fremantle's debut effort last year (Queen's Gambit) then you likely already know why historical fiction fans wereIf you happened to catch author Liz Fremantle's debut effort last year (Queen's Gambit) then you likely already know why historical fiction fans were thrilled to welcome her fresh voice into the genre. Sharp, witty, and full of ironic observations, Fremantle proved she was most assuredly a far cut above the standard, ho-hum historical fiction fare usually bogging down the bookstore shelves today.
So her when her follow up effort, SISTERS OF TREASON, recently arrived in stores, it generated buzz. Sisters of Treason returns to the Tudor era, a period one might legitimately question whether there was anything left worth writing about following the excruciating Tudor-mania that swept the genre over the past decade. Once again, Fremantle is full of delightful surprise. She alights upon the tragic Grey sisters.
Refresher: On July 10, 1553, following the death of England's young and sickly King Edward VI (the only son of Henry VIII), a teenaged Lady Jane Grey was unwittingly raised to the throne via the machinations of her father and father-in-law in an ill-advised power grab. It didn't work out too well. Henry VIII's eldest daughter Mary promptly marched into London, deposed her young cousin Jane, and later lopped off her head. Mary would become known to history as Bloody Mary for her tendency to burn those who didn't toe her Catholic line. End refresher.
So that was the end of poor Jane Grey and many historical fiction novels have been written this tragic figure who lost her head piously clutching her Protestant Bible to the very end. And yet.....did you know that our sweet Jane happened to have two younger sisters? And if you're analytic mind is fast at work, it's already figured out that if tragic Jane Grey had a legitimate claim to the throne of merry ol' England, so too did her younger sisters Katherine and Mary Grey. And this is the fascinating Tudor story that cunning Fremantle presents in Sisters of Treason.
Welcome to a most un-glamorous royal court. Mary reigns with a paranoid suspicious eye trained directly on the two sisters Jane Grey left behind. Keeping her friends close but her enemies closer, the sisters are kept in the Queen's court where the smallest misstep or misinterpretation of a word meant treason. As the years of Mary's reign continued, her suspicions grew with her along with her failed marriage and lack of a royal heir ("...royal blood and a functioning womb is all most care about in a princess"). The Grey sister's relationship with Mary's successor, the legendary Queen Elizabeth I, fared little better.
Fremantle chooses to tell the sister's tale using three viewpoints: Katherine, Mary, and a female court painter, Levina Teerlinc (an interesting choice given that historically, little is known about this fascinating woman other than she is known to have painted a surviving portrait of Katherine Grey) who acts as a surrogate mother to the girls at court. Paying strict homage to historical documents and making interpretations only where she is free to do so, Fremantle presents a vivid portrait of two sisters with Tudor blood running through their veins only to spend their entire life being horribly punished for it.
Ultimately, both Katherine and Mary lived short, unhappy lives, making this well-written story something of a tragedy. Fremantle admirably tries to discover moments of joy they might found in an otherwise bleak existence through no fault of their own, but the reality is that both girls only lived long enough to become women who never experienced a normal life: the events that populate or mark a normal woman's life were - for both of the Grey sisters - so marred with hatred from the reigning Queen that any experience of normal happiness would have proved impossible. In an era when noble birth was the only way a person might experience comfort or luxury, the Grey sisters, I suspect, might have happily traded places with the lowliest of servants in the castle.
Well-written, well-researched historical fiction. Recommended for historical fiction aficionados....more
Short book a friend downloaded via Kindle Unlimited. Atrocious, unhistorical claims about Monroe's housekeeper who, as anyone with Google knows, didn'Short book a friend downloaded via Kindle Unlimited. Atrocious, unhistorical claims about Monroe's housekeeper who, as anyone with Google knows, didn't LIVE IN with anyone (eyeroll). Author creates fake Amazon account to write her own 5 star reviews. Claims to have multiple advanced degrees (untrue, another computer check) and uses commas like a weapon, or at least like someone who does not have multiple university degrees. Responds personally to negative reviews with an email calling the reviewer the C-word...see Amazon reviews for further information if that's something that interests you.
Author also tries to pen questionable erotica and then writes 5 star reviews for herself on Amazon for those books, as well. Wheee! Read if you dare....more
So by now you've heard what happens when reviewers pan this author's work. Yes, the one in question was tracked down via Facebook and assaulted with aSo by now you've heard what happens when reviewers pan this author's work. Yes, the one in question was tracked down via Facebook and assaulted with a wine bottle over the head. He was arrested, released on bail, and the case is awaiting trial in Scotland. The author is pleading mental illness (see his blog post here if you care to) of course, which may or may not be an insult to those who suffer from varying forms of mental illness every day and still manage not to assault people who make them upset.
The bigger issue is the increasing number of writers -- I'm going to use that term instead of authors because there IS a difference...anyone can write a few words down and self publish, this does not make you a true author -- who feel completely justified in taking action against art criticism. Criticism in the arts, be it professional in a high circulation publication like the NYT or amateur around the water cooler on a Monday morning, has been around forever and goes hand-in-hand with creating a piece of art (or words on a piece of paper, whatever) and putting it out there for the public to read. For those who don't want criticism, they have the very real option of not releasing their work. That, my friends, is called keeping a diary. They even make them with little locks on them.
The more incidents like this that occur, the more amateur writers seem to become emboldened. Supported by bigger names in the writing community (Anne Rice, ahem), they feel confident that via intimidation, harassment, and now stalking they can stifle any voices that "hurt" their feelings.
It remains to be seen how many critics, professional and amateurs alike, will cave into these tactics. I, for one, utterly refuse.
For the majority of the professional authors (note again the difference) who daily deal with a stream of both positive and negative criticism of their work with grace and aplomb, my hat goes off to you. You are the true professionals. Keep on writing. To the writers who think they are even close to being on that professional level....news flash: you're not even close. Watch how the true professionals deal with criticism. Learn from them. Hone your craft. And a few - very few - of you might someday actually become authors....more
Remember your college Greek mythology classes? If your memory is a little fuzzy, it will all come flooding back to you when you read Margaret George'sRemember your college Greek mythology classes? If your memory is a little fuzzy, it will all come flooding back to you when you read Margaret George's Helen of Troy. Ms. George recreates the story from Helen's point of view and beginning with Helen's childhood, she paints a fairly vivid picture of Helen's family, her home of Sparta, and the circumstances that led to her sad marriage to Menelaus. When Paris enters the picture, as I'm sure you remember, it's pretty much game-over and the beautiful Helen is spirited off to Troy, leading to the infamous Trojan War.
Peripheral characters make the novel quite enjoyable: Priam, Agamemnon, Cytemnestra, Odysseus and Hector, amongst others, all make a good showing and are quite developed, character-wise, for a novel this length. (I'm sure 638 pages seems like a lot, but for the legend this encompasses, Ms. George had to condense quite a bit here.)
Now for my reaction: I never quite developed any sympathy for Helen and Paris. Their utter selfishness came across as irritating, as opposed to uncontrollable fate. I continually felt the need to give Helen a slap and tell her to "buck up." Paris came across as immature - not a man to fall in love with, but a boy who feels entitled to whatever he wants, at any cost. The supporting cast is delightful, however, and made the story worth a read.
This isn't a so-called "heavy read" by any means. It rather strikes me as something that might be classified as a summer beach novel. Fun, but not serious historical fiction. ...more