The War of the Roses by Dan Jones is a narrative of the titular wars, a notoriously confusing period of British history. All of the participants have sThe War of the Roses by Dan Jones is a narrative of the titular wars, a notoriously confusing period of British history. All of the participants have similar names. Most men are named Richard, Edward, or Henry, when they aren't referred to by their title. (I kept getting "Stafford" and "Suffolk" confused). And, of course, all these Richards, Edwards, and Henrys are all first, second, third, or fourth cousins of one another. Or they are in-laws of each other. Or both cousins AND in-laws. Their fathers and sons are all Richards, Edwards and Henrys too, when THEY aren't being referred to by title. And all of these players have their own motivations, loyalties, factions, agendas, schemes, back stories, and/or personal problems to keep track of - all of which are necessary to understand what is going on. The author tries to keep everything straight, explain who everyone is, and relate what exactly happens. It's a admirable, almost Herculean effort, and he generally succeeds. For the most part, I found it very readable, if a bit dry at times. The different historical figures are not given a whole lot of personality. There is not much discussion or depth of, for an example, how did Henry VI go so wrong? Or what was Richard III thinking, exactly? The author steers clear of any such speculation, which is a dangerous slope for a historian climb, as interesting as it may be.
All in all, it was a pretty good overview. ...more
The Revolt of the Eaglets is a direct sequel to Jean Plaidy's The Plantagenet Prelude. This 1977 entry was part of her never-ending quest to fictionalThe Revolt of the Eaglets is a direct sequel to Jean Plaidy's The Plantagenet Prelude. This 1977 entry was part of her never-ending quest to fictionalize each and every aspect of British history. This novel picks up just after the end of the last one. Thomas a Becket has just been murdered and the marriage of King Henry and Queen Eleanor has fallen apart.
Whereas the previous book was very much Eleanor's story, the Revolt of the Eaglet's is told mostly from Henry's perspective, although various chapters are told from the eyes of other characters from Eleanor, to young Henry, to King Louis of France. Even Berengaria gets a chapter, though this seems to be more of setting up things to come than anything to do with this book.
The prose is straightforward, perhaps a little too straightforward. Many chapters run along the lines of this happened, then this happened, and this is how Henry felt about it. Then this happened. There is quite a bit of repetition. Repetition can be an effective literary technique, but in this instance I found it a bit tiresome. How many times can Henry wish for loving sons? How many times can someone call King Louis a monk? The same points are hit over and over again with the regularity of a hammer.
None of the characters are all that likable, which is somewhat unusual for this author, I find. Her usual tactic is to pick something that the historical personage did NOT get, and make that the one thing they long for above all else, thus creating sympathy. For example, the historical Queen Adelaide did not have any living children. In Plaidy's Victoria in the Wings, what the character of Queen Adelaide wishes for more than anything else is to be a mother. She is doomed by history to be forever unfulfilled.
In this instance, King Henry longs for loving sons above all else, and gets rebels instead. This, however, does not make him sympathetic. Henry continues to be, in Plaidy's depiction, a despicable human being. He is selfish, self-centered, seduces a child, and is really, really whiny. Eleanor is also annoying, but since she spends most of the novel in captivity, her negative traits don't register as much. King Louis continues to be the most likable character. He tries so hard to be a good man and a good king, yet it is never really successful. The cumulative effect is kind of unpleasant.
Nevertheless, this is good read for those seeking a straightforward, matter-of-fact fictional version of early Plantagenet history.
Murder at Maddingley Grange is a comic riff on the Agatha Christie “country house” style murder mystery.
Simon Hannaford is a ne’er-do-well who “borrowMurder at Maddingley Grange is a comic riff on the Agatha Christie “country house” style murder mystery.
Simon Hannaford is a ne’er-do-well who “borrows” his aunt’s empty mansion to hold a “murder mystery game” weekend for paying guests. A variety of people show up to play. Most of the characters are inspired by the stock players of a Christie murder. There is a dragonish mother and her insipid daughter, the aimless young woman and her young man, the not quite happily married couple, the servants, the charming scoundrel.
There is not much plot. The characters meet, drink, eat, talk, drink, eat, talk, drink, eat, talk. They have their own schemes and hidden agendas. There are number of comic set-pieces including an inept lover sneaking about and a pair of bumbling burglars. There is no detective, although there is a detective fiction enthusiast who thinks he’s a good sleuth, and runs around spouting clichés.
I liked aspects of this novel. Laurie was a good character, sweet, obedient, but yearning for more. Gilly, the 1930s-enthusiast, was charming too. The set-up is a fun idea. The very end, when Simon reveals what he was really up to, was clever.
The problem is that nothing much really happens in between. They don’t even attempt to play their game (the rules of which are never explained). This is more bouncing different characters off each other, while eating and sometimes talking about detective fiction, while indulging in a few mild mishaps and misadventures.
It’s not quite a farce. It’s not quite a satire. It’s not quite a screwball. ...more