Provided a pretty interesting brief background on each queen/queen consort of England. Had a few mistakes, such as an error in Katherine of Aragon's b...moreProvided a pretty interesting brief background on each queen/queen consort of England. Had a few mistakes, such as an error in Katherine of Aragon's birth date and listing Mary II as Charles I's daughter when she was his granddaughter.(less)
Jane Austen may be the author of easily one of the most popular novels of all time, but how much to her readers actually know about her? In my case, n...moreJane Austen may be the author of easily one of the most popular novels of all time, but how much to her readers actually know about her? In my case, not much. Sure, I knew a few things about her, such as that fact that she never married, and....well, that's it.
After finishing 'Jane Austen,' this is in no way true anymore. Catherine Reef's book, while favoring a younger audience, is extremely well written, interesting, and very informative. The book covers Jane's entire life and almost every aspect of it: her upbringing, schooling, parents, siblings, young love, sickness, and of course, her writing. All of her novels are summarized rather extensively; I initially thought this was an unnecessary part to the story, but the author lets the summarizations connect to Jane's life and the modern movie adaptions are also visited.
Now we all know that every single one of Jane Austen’s six novels focus on young women whose economic and social future depends on the fortune they marry into. While this simple plot may sound trivial and petty to us, this was probably the number one worry of females in this era. Historically, women typically did not inherit anything from their parents, except maybe a small sum of money, so they had to look to potential husbands to assure their futures. The richer the man, the better. If women could not find a husband, they were written off as spinsters and became financial burdens to the family members that had to support them for the rest of their lives. Jane Austen experienced these troubles firsthand; though she received several offers of marriage in her youth, she never married and was passed around from her parents and brothers until her death. The fact that she was still able to inject so much humor and wit into her stories puts her miles above what the typical 'spinster' would have done. She obviously loved her family very much, particularly her fellow unmarried sister Cassandra.
Faults? I can only think of one: the pictures included don't really have anything to do with the page they are placed on. You may be reading a section about Jane's writing, and here's a picture of her brother talking about his political career. Sometimes the pictures even served as minor 'spoilers,' alluding to things that hadn't been mentioned yet in the text. Maybe this is only because I'm reading an early version of the book, hopefully this is cleared up during publication!
I'd give Jane Austen somewhere between 4.5 and 5 stars. Like I said before, it was an extremely interesting read and I learned a lot...so much so, that I was able to use some of this knowledge in a paper I wrote for my Theories of Literature class. Recommended if you like biographies, history, and obviously, the wonderful works of Jane Austen.(less)
A month or two back, I read a FABULOUS book called Sex with the Queen. It was seriously one of the best books I've read this year. Needless to say, I...moreA month or two back, I read a FABULOUS book called Sex with the Queen. It was seriously one of the best books I've read this year. Needless to say, I was excited to pick up it's predecessor, Sex with Kings. I consequently got my hopes raised too high (story of my life).
This book takes on the view of the woman who more than likely had the most influence over some of the most powerful men in the world: the mistresses. We learn about everything pertaining to them: their privileges, relationship with the king (and the queen, for that matter), their incomes, bastards, husbands, and their fate. The common denominator among the majority of European mistresses over the years: bitchiness. Some of these women were pure evil! (Is it weird that I used three colons in this paragraph? Sorry, just the ex-journalism student in me..)
However....like I said, I was severely disappointed by this book. My biggest problem is the author's creepy fascination with the French. I'd safely bet that more than half the book deals with some sort of French monarch. I couldn't keep the fourteen different Louis' and their Madames de Wherever in line. Not nearly enough English monarchs, or the Tudors for that matter! Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard were mentioned in passing. I will say that if you like 17th century England, you will find plenty of Charles II smut (and Barbara, Lady Castlemaine....so sick of her now). You will read about Charles and the various Louis' about fifteen different times....there's no real variety. The set up is very messy; it's not chronological, and gets confusing real fast.
So what do I rate it? A sad 2.5 stars. It was somewhat entertaining at times, yet for the most part....just..blah. That's seriously the best word I can think of. Blah. Do not fear, however! Just pick up Sex with the Queen, which will more than likely delight you, as it did me.(less)
The number one thing that I learned from Cleopatra: A Life was this: I had deceived myself in thinking I knew anything about her before reading this book. Stacy Schiff digs deep into the life of one of the most well-known, yet misunderstood women in history. Most of us know her as the Egyptian queen who had affairs/children with both Caesar and Mark Antony, the two most powerful men of their age. She herself was much, much more than that.
Cleopatra was a fabulously rich woman. In contemporary terms, her net worth would be around $95.8 billion dollars. She was worth more than three Queen Elizabeth IIs. Amazingly, she also lived in a culture were women were greatly empowered. A woman in first century B.C. could choose her own husband, own property, grant their own divorces, operate businesses, and serve as priests. As much as one third of Egypt was controlled by female hands.
There are many other things that stick out to me about Cleopatra's life. The biggest was her incestuous family ties. Her grandparents were uncle and niece, her parents were brother and sister, and Cleopatra herself was married to both of her brothers. I question how there were no physical or mental deformations! Another interesting point pertains to her beauty. Third century A.D. records call her "strikingly exquisite" in appearance, while those of the Middle Ages say she was "famous for nothing but her beauty." Shakespeare raves about her looks. However, her contemporaries, those who actually knew and saw her, say nothing about her beauty. In fact, her appearance was called "not remarkable." Quite different from what most of us have heard about her!
Stacy Schiff wrote an extremely entertaining book full of fun, interesting facts. I loved her sarcastic voice and the humor she injected into the characters. I will say that it seems to drag on forever at the end. The story began to focus too much on Mark Antony and the military, which quickly lost my interest. I skimmed the last 100 pages. That being said, I'd rate it 3.5 stars; the plethora of amazing facts was overshadowed by the fact that I felt I had to force myself to even finish it.(less)
I think I have found a new favorite book. In the follow-up book to Sex with Kings, we get a whirlwind tale through 900 years of European royalty, all...more I think I have found a new favorite book. In the follow-up book to Sex with Kings, we get a whirlwind tale through 900 years of European royalty, all told through the eyes of the queen’s bedroom. From Eleanor of Aquitaine to Princess Diana, from England to France to Germany to Russia, we go into the secret lives of some of the most famous women in history. This book isn’t only about the love lives of queens (though it’s hard to think otherwise with the huge red SEX on the cover and a bare butt). The first third of the book is actually about what a queen/princess’ life really was like. Very few of these women’s lives were fairy tales. Most were pawned off to other countries to eradicate men’s debts or problems, lived in a foreign country, and had acquired difficult husbands. So, as a woman, I of course have a problem with some things. The King was allowed to have as many mistresses as he desired; in fact, it was ideal that he didn’t love his wife. She was only there to produce heirs. On the other hand, if the Queen had even one lover, she could possibly be divorced, or both she and her lover could be imprisoned, tortured, or executed. Some of these women went through lovers like I go through underwear. It was shocking at the number of men Catherine the Great bedded, even well into old age. Another woman of many lovers was Princess Diana, of whom the author is definitely NOT a fan of. Princess Di was always put in a bad light in this book, yet it is slightly refreshing after her rise to almost sainthood status after death. One of the biggest points that I found was I need to expand myself out of English history a bit. There are definitely some interesting people and events elsewhere, especially in France. Affairs, beheadings, and general royalty-related drama are not just a specialization of sixteenth century England! The stories are never too long, always short, sweet, and to the point. The only ones that are truly long are Anne Boleyn’s and Catherine the Great’s stories (but they’re both good ones!). Eleanor Herman definitely has a sense of humor and a knack for making history interesting. I’d recommend this book to people who aren’t even history buffs like me. Parts of it read like a gossip column and I read bits of it out loud to my roommates who got a kick out of it. Definitely recommend, especially for females. 5 stars! (less)