We definitely aren’t troubled with the lack of information available surrounding Queen Elizabeth I as the material is abundant and bountiful. Yet, mucWe definitely aren’t troubled with the lack of information available surrounding Queen Elizabeth I as the material is abundant and bountiful. Yet, much of what has been said of her persona is pure propaganda especially of her later years, starting with the Spanish Armada. John Guy, a popular historian and author, attempts to show Elizabeth as she truly was in the latter part of her reign in, “Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years”.
As in most of Guy’s other history works; “Elizabeth” is not a straight-forward chronological biography. Rather, Guy portraits this monarch on a subject-by-subject chapter break, attempting to deconstruct Elizabeth’s actions and thereby show who she “really was”. Unfortunately, Guy isn’t as successful in this as one would hope. The text and dates of events jump back-and-forth which makes it difficult both to retain the facts and to see the big picture juxtaposition. This also results in Guy presenting too much information and going off on various tangents instead of streamlining the material.
It is very evident; however, that Guy underwent a hefty investigation and research project. Guy procured some hidden documents which have not been previously discussed, thereby, helping to debunk myths or offer new angles to well-known Elizabethan events. Yet, Guy isn’t overly biased and is quite objective in his presentation.
The noticeable flaw in “Elizabeth” is the lack of genuinely showing a new view of Elizabeth which is Guy’s aim. The pages ‘tell’ events but they don’t really ‘show’ Elizabeth so the reader will not get to know her better or in a new way. Guy falls short of the main point to penning “Elizabeth”.
“Elizabeth” increases in reader value at the halfway point as Guy cuts down the intricacies of Elizabeth’s politic reactions and includes document excerpts which allow the reader to dive deeper than the usual propaganda. Overall, the pages are still more in the vein of Elizabethan government versus displaying Elizabeth herself; but it is stronger than the earlier pages perhaps meaning that Guy finds his groove.
With that being said, Guy still falls victim to weaknesses such as scrambling to fill space (which ends up being repetitive). For example, in between discussions when Guy is a loss for information or for a proper transition; he repeatedly returns to the argument that Elizabeth tried to fight the physical aging process and hide it from the public. Although this is maybe true, the constant empty and superficial (no pun intended) mentioning of it becomes tedious and doesn’t add to the text. We got it, Guy. No reason to revisit it constantly merely because you don’t know what to say.
The conclusion of “Elizabeth” focuses on Elizabeth’s last days both in political and personal terms. Guy does well with closing the circle of Elizabeth’s aftermath and allowing the reader to see Elizabeth’s impact. This is followed by an Epilogue which is more in the realm of an essay arguing why Elizabeth was the way she was and how this bled into the reign of James I. Guy’s basics are well-explained and backed by evidence even though he lets personal opinions flow into this section. Therefore, the Epilogue is compelling and interesting but some readers may take it with a grain of salt.
“Elizabeth” includes three sections of photo color plates plus notes although these are not thoroughly annotated. It should be noted that there is an editing flaw (misspelled word) on page 368.
Guy’s “Elizabeth” is a well-detailed look at the later years of Elizabeth’s reign pointedly discussing political maneuvers while exposing some rare documents and debunking some myths. However, Guy’s aim to reveal a new or lesser-discussed version of Elizabeth falls short and thus “Elizabeth” isn’t what Guy set it up to be. “Elizabeth” is a decent read and is recommended for Tudor and Elizabeth fans but it doesn’t really reveal any new information and is not a life-changing piece. ...more
Tudor-period aficionados are quite familiar with the machinations of Thomas Seymour and the juicy rumors/drama surrounding his advances towards ElizabTudor-period aficionados are quite familiar with the machinations of Thomas Seymour and the juicy rumors/drama surrounding his advances towards Elizabeth Tudor (the future Queen Elizabeth I). Some have gone as far as to say that Elizabeth had bore a child with Thomas. These episodes aren’t, however, a major focus of her life with many books mentioning them but moving onwards quickly. Elizabeth Norton attempts to highlight these affairs in, “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth I, Thomas Seymour, and the Making of a Virgin Queen”.
The premise of “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” is solid with its aim to focus on the interactions between Elizabeth and Thomas but sadly the execution is poor. Is Norton’s attempt to debunk myths? Perhaps it is to look at the psychological effects these events left on Elizabeth? Maybe it is merely a historical recall. Whatever it is that Norton was trying to achieve; it is missing from “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” as the text lacks a thesis, seems pointless, and is “all over the place”.
Norton’s work voids any consistency with a roller coaster-text which at some points is well-researched while other times (most of the time) reads like a historical fiction novel. “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” barely focuses on Elizabeth and Thomas and is more of a light dual-biography of the two figures during concurrent times. In fact, much of the book highlights the political maneuverings of Thomas Seymour versus their relationship at all. Basically, “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” is not what it claims to be.
There is also a major issue with Norton’s prose which is highly fluffy and bluntly: a whole lot of filler crap. Norton is flowery and illustrative to the point that it often feels like nothing is being said at all as she just describes fictional details. Many reviews complain about Norton’s books being stylized in this manner and “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” is no exception. Not much will be learned by the reader and Norton should instead pen historical fiction (she would perform rather well).
Elaborating further on this, “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” is rife with speculation, assumptions, exaggerations, and “would have” and “could have” –statements. Not to mention, an overabundance of descriptions of thoughts and feelings which have no solid backing sources. Norton’s “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” sorely lacks any credibility of academic value.
On the other hand, these traits cause the pace to be quite fast making the book easy-to-read and very light resulting in a perfect introduction to those new to the topic or YA readers. Educated readers will be highly irritated, however.
The only time “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” feels memorable is during the discussion of the rumors surrounding Elizabeth giving birth to Thomas’s child. Norton attempts to mesh out myths and rumors and explain merits (or lack thereof). Sadly, this section is very brief and Norton moves on quickly. If “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” had more of this, then the text would be better tri-fold.
The final quarter of “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” is noticeably stronger than the former portions of the book. Norton dives deep into Seymour’s behaviors and actions truly giving the reader a sense of his erratic nature and downfall. The problem is precisely this, though: the book becomes a Seymour biography so that the concept of presenting Thomas and Elizabeth is lost (although this makes the text useful for those seeking information regarding Seymour).
The conclusion wraps up with an epilogue concerning the outcomes of key figures and aims to heighten Elizabeth sentimentally (although it fails to firmly do so). Norton also offers some notes and bibliography.
“The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” encompasses a unique subject but Norton fails to execute it properly. The text is light, fluffy, and basically overfilled with “hot air” and speculation. Gathering from reviews of Norton’s other works; this is her speed and style. “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” is only recommended for an introduction to the topic in a non-academic way (pop history) or if wanting a quick, filler read (which is how I will personally go into reading other works from the author). Otherwise, “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” can be skipped.
**Please note: My rating for “The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor” is more of a 1.5 but is rounded up to 2** ...more
There are hundreds (probably more like thousands) of books/texts/writings available focusing on the lives of major Tudor-era figures. However, these ‘There are hundreds (probably more like thousands) of books/texts/writings available focusing on the lives of major Tudor-era figures. However, these ‘celebrities’ were a minority in the population so what about the common, everyday folk? What were their lives like? Ruth Goodman visits (and lives!) the lives of people just like you and me during the Tudor period in, “How to Be a Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Tudor Life”.
Ruth Goodman is n expert when it comes to historical accuracy and reenactment and has a personal interest in the Tudor period. Goodman thereby crafts “How to Be a Tudor” into a unique piece combining elements of an academic text, memoir, how-to guide, and a “day in the life of...” personalization literally focusing on the full day of civilian life in Tudor England (although royalty and peerage is still occasionally addressed). Initially, all of this meshing of styles feels clunky and ill-conceived and therefore isn’t smooth. “How to Be a Tudor” can be somewhat difficult to follow at this stage as Goodman doesn’t seem to know the best ways to transition her writing.
As “How to Be a Tudor” progresses, either the reader gets used to Goodman’s style or she becomes more confident (probably a mixture of both); resulting in a stronger and more compelling read. Although “How to Be a Tudor” is still ‘different’, it becomes so in a good way and the reader is intrigued to continue on. Goodman clearly encompasses a wealth of information which also includes first-hand experience of her having tried Tudor ways of life which debunks myths, clarifies facts, and teaches the reader; therefore bringing many new lights to the topic.
Goodman infuses the text with light humor here and there which keeps the pace moving and fresh while also highlighting examples and case studies of the lives of “nobodies” (wonder what these individuals were to think if they knew that they just received their 15 minutes of fame?). However, there is an issue with some light repetition with Goodman revisiting some facts from one section to another.
Even though Goodman makes “How to Be a Tudor” accessible and easy-to-understand; there is a lot of material and details which can become overwhelming. It is suggested to take some reader “breather” breaks in order to retain and grasp all of the information. Goodman’s success lies in not running off on tangents with all of the material and keeping on path with her thesis.
Although informative, the conclusion of “How to Be a Tudor” feels open-ended and somewhat anti-climatic. A summary would have done well to make the book more memorable and rounded.
Sadly, Goodman doesn’t include notes or citations which can question credibility but several pages of sources are available. “How to Be a Tudor” also includes three sections of photo plates.
“How to Be a Tudor” has a rocky start but this smoothes out into an informative and unique book which definitely opens up the Tudor times in a way which isn’t always evident in historical texts, teaching the reader a bountiful of information. Although not necessarily the best “flowing” text; “How to Be a Tudor” is an excellent reference piece and engages the reader in its own way. “How to Be a Tudor” is recommended for all readers interested in the Tudor period. ...more
Those active in the Tudor online community are probably familiar with Barb Alexander’s “The Tudor Tutor” in which she presents Tudor history lessons iThose active in the Tudor online community are probably familiar with Barb Alexander’s “The Tudor Tutor” in which she presents Tudor history lessons in a sassy and witty way making it ‘fun’ and accessible. Alexander offers her knowledge for the first time in print-form in, “The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Dynasty”.
“The Tudor Tutor” is a slim volume offering a quick overview of the main topics in Tudor history. Imagine Alexander’s angle as bullet points or a play off her blog/site but written in a more narrative way. The pace flows easily and quickly, resulting in a fast read. “The Tudor Tutor” can be described as a “history-beach read”.
Alexander infuses “The Tudor Tutor” with humor and charm which is the reason behind her internet fame resulting in a few chuckles from the reader. There are some evident moments, however, where it is obvious that Alexander tries too hard to be funny which can be tiresome. Certainly do not expect an in-depth scholarly read with “The Tudor Tutor”. It teaches history but not in a credible, academic way.
Elaborating on this lack of depth, “The Tutor Tudor” is a ‘fun’ read but it doesn’t present any new information or offer any new angles to those familiar with the topic. Alexander’s work is best suited for those seeing a quick doctor’s office book inducing a few smiles. “The Tutor Tudor” is very much a blog in print form. Don’t misunderstand – it is not bad- it simply is very light so one has to merely take it for what it is.
Illustrator Lisa Graves adds some entertainment to “The Tudor Tutor” with colorful, hand-drawn illustrations. Although these are accurately based on historical paintings; even these have a hint of humor/snark (an occasional side glance or smirk on a figure’s face) which supplements Alexander’s text appropriately plus solidifies the information discussed with the reader.
Alexander does have the flaw of sometimes “crossing the line” with her descriptions, meaning that during her attempts to be comedic, Alexander can be offensive to those historical figures discussed or is biased in nature (against them). This isn’t overly harsh but still appears slightly childish. On the other hand, Alexander often ends paragraphs with questions which encourage readers to interpret the reading and encourages after -thoughts and personal research.
Despite my complaints, “The Tudor Tutor” is certainly entertaining and is a “cute” way to learn history. Plus, Alexander never claims to be an expert, doesn’t act elitist, and isn’t called a professional. Some other authors in the same realm (I’m talking about you, Susan Bordo) whom pen humorous history takes claim to be experts when they are FAR from it. Alexander doesn’t go down that path, keeping humility and not displaying any attitude or airs. Well done, Alexander!
“The Tudor Tutor” ends strongly with a somewhat lesser-discussed factoid (Stuart vs. Stewart spelling) which leaves on a memorable note. Alexander also offers a timeline of Tudor dynasty events and a light list of sources for further reading.
“The Tudor Tutor” is a humorous and indeed ‘cheeky’ look at the Tudor reign. Although light and not academic; it is a good introduction to those new to the topic or would fit well as a supplement to an exhibit. However, it is not necessarily suggested for those well-versed on the topic unless one is searching for a laugh. Again, don’t misunderstand my complaints: “The Tudor Tutor” is a fun ‘guide’. I am merely saying that is all it is so don’t expect anything more. ...more
Although letter writing may seem like a thing of the past (I still write letters!); the practice was just emerging in the fifteenth century. Letters wAlthough letter writing may seem like a thing of the past (I still write letters!); the practice was just emerging in the fifteenth century. Letters written during this period give us an intricate look into the way of life as these words dictated local, political, and even international affairs versus just the nuances of personal life. The Pastons, a family living in England during the ‘Wars of the Roses’; wrote and kept a plethora of letters which are still extant today giving us an open window into both the family’s and England’s affairs. Editor Richard Barber gathers and presents these writings in, “The Pastons: A Family in the Wars of the Roses”.
“The Pastons” focuses on the content of the family’s letters presented in a pseudo-narrative strain whereby some letters are offered in full, others are quoted, and meanwhile they are explained or set into context. Therefore, Barber doesn’t simply offer a string of letters but instead provides illuminating reading which actually has a lively flow and pace.
The letters chosen by Barber initially highlight familiar and estate affairs versus that of political events but these are not boring and bring a vivid picture of the way of life. The reader will almost feel as though conversing with the Pastons, themselves. This then flows into more eventful letters describing quarrels, battles, law suits, and civil unrest in England. Not only did the Paston family lead eventful lives but they were also involved first-hand with the turmoil taking place in England.
“The Pastons” is perfect for both history lovers and HF fans of the period as the letters are accurate and factual primary sources which are ideal for fact checking but Barber also implores a narrative arc which makes “The Pastons” feel almost like a novel. The work is thus very accessible and easy-to-read versus being overly heady.
Adding some meat to the skeleton “The Pastons” is Barber’s inclination towards detective work and thereby meticulously debunking some hearsay reports. This truly adds to the essence of the work and results in an even heartier read.
The concluding focus of “The Pastons” is well-rounded with letters on various topics from love letters (so romantic!) to disease and politics. The actual ending, however, is quite abrupt. Fortunately, this is met with a pleasing Epilogue explaining the future of the family during subsequent reigns and a brief discussion of the discovery of the letters.
“The Pastons” is not an exhaustive look at the family or letters but it serves as an excellent introduction as well as a resource for the period. “The Pastons” is much recommended for history or even HF fans with an interest in the Wars of the Roses or of the Paston family (for they are often mentioned in texts on the period). ...more
There are many key notes occurring during the Tudor Dynasty: from the Battle of Bosworth to Henry VIII’s wives to the Spanish Armada. Although on a smThere are many key notes occurring during the Tudor Dynasty: from the Battle of Bosworth to Henry VIII’s wives to the Spanish Armada. Although on a smaller scale; there were also some other notable events such as rebellions and uprisings amongst the citizens of England (does the ‘Pilgrimage of Grace’ ring a bell?). Anthony Fletcher and Diarmaid MacCulloch take a look at these in, “Tudor Rebellions” (revised 5th Edition).
“Tudor Rebellions” begins with a chronology of events, a “Who’s Who” of key figures, and maps of the paths of the rebellions. These maps are definitely noteworthy as I have read hundreds of Tudor history books and don’t particularly recall such maps of the rebellions elsewhere. This flows into a psychological and sociological look into the setup of Tudor societies, what motivated them, and how/why the social classes were managed. Although a little bit dry for those not interested in such topics; Fletcher and MacCulloch’s writing is still accessible.
Following is a chronological description of the rebellions which took place. Each of these is assessed in strong detail per the events, people involved, where they occurred, doctrines produced, any legal complexities, etc. It is clear that the authors conducted abundant research and again, I have not seen such a presentation focusing solely on the rebellions elsewhere. Not to mention, “Tudor Rebellions” differs by focusing more on the side of the citizens and protestors versus that of the government illuminating a whole new perspective and outlook.
Each rebellion is followed by an analysis exploring various theories of the causes of these uprisings. The problem with this is that “Tudor Rebellions” reads like a college case study at this point. Fletcher and MacCulloch too often quote others and simply paraphrase previous studies versus offering their own input. This breaks up the work and slows the pace.
“Tudor Rebellions” provides a vast amount of information and detail in a small space. Although that is a good thing for those seeking facts about the period; it can also be overwhelming and requires small breaks in order to take it all in and absorb the material. It isn’t that “Tudor Rebellions” isn’t easy-to-read per se; but it isn’t super fast, either. It is somewhat deceiving based purely on length.
The third part of “Tudor Rebellions” attempts to explain why rebellions occurred logistically and economically in terms of high and low politics. Sadly, the thesis is lost, the argument is weak and the section is seemingly pointless in the text as it would make absolutely no difference on impact if it was absent.
Luckily, “Tudor Rebellions” is then refueled by part four which features 24 primary documents ranging from articles to letters written by both key figures and rebels which provide a delightful insight into these historical events. The only issue with these supplements are the spelling (kept in its original) which makes reading slightly difficult. Fletcher and MacCulloch then provide some notes and a list of sources, as well.
“Tudor Rebellions” is a great piece for an isolated look at the rebellions which took place during the Tudor dynasty. The coverage is informative and provides more depth than other books which merely mention these events. The text is somewhat slow; but it is certainly recommended for all readers who are interested in the Tudor times (but more so for those with some preexisting knowledge on the topic versus novice readers). ...more
Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of Margaret Tudor (one-time Queen of Scotland) is a woman whom often pops up in Tudor and Stuart history (especially aLady Margaret Douglas, daughter of Margaret Tudor (one-time Queen of Scotland) is a woman whom often pops up in Tudor and Stuart history (especially as her son married Mary, Queen of Scots). Douglas was always omnipresent even if sort of lurking in shadows. Despite this appearance, she has yet to be discussed on her own merit. Alison Weir pens the first full-biography of this formidable lady in, “The Last Tudor Princess: The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas”.
“The Last Tudor Princess” noticeably begins on a stronger note than Weir’s recent works which have been notably thin and flimsy. In “The Last Tudor Princess”, Weir returns somewhat to her roots of meticulously detailed writing, sleuth work, presenting new and fresh angles, and debunking myths. Although Margaret doesn’t come fully to life; a lot is revealed which will definitely present the reader with new information even for those familiar with the history setting.
That being said, as per usual Weir bravado, “The Last Tudor Princess” often strays from streamlining Margaret and instead describes events surrounding her (versus Margaret directly). This is coupled with speculative statements and assumptions which weaken some of the credibility and provides false images. For example, p. 48 states, “Already members of Anne’s household were being interrogated as to the conduct of their mistress, and Margaret must have been one of those questioned, although no sources name her” -- Must have? Doesn’t seem likely, then! Why mention this at all?!
“The Lost Tudor Princess” also suffers from a slow over-analyzing of minor details such as logistics, spending, and gifts received. Although the research/information gathered is impressive; the pace is slackened and this does not help reveal Margaret at all. Some readers may be inclined to skim large chunks of text.
A noticeable flaw to those familiar with the material is Weir’s staunch presentation of information as facts when not fully argued in the notes. Weir often offers factual claims of material that is debated as inconclusive amongst other authors and historians. Readers new to the material will take this as hard-proof when it is not the case.
On a positive note, the pace quickens and the text is quite exciting and informative as the book progresses and Weir explains the involvement of Mary, Queen of Scots with Margaret’s son, Lord Darnley. However, this is still more of a discussion of events and circumstances than Margaret, herself. Weir supplements this absence with many letters and documents personally written by Margaret which haven’t been observed in other texts. This certainly adds some meat to “The Last Tudor Princess”.
The conclusion of “The Last Tudor Princess” is decently memorable and is a sufficient round-up of the material. Although Margaret’s inner psyche wasn’t every truly revealed; Weir does eulogize her on the final pages.
The text is also supplemented by compelling appendices discussing the portraiture of Margaret and poems copied by her into the Devonshire Manuscript (the other poems specifically written by her are discussed elsewhere in the book). This is followed by a well-detailed list of key figures from the time period down to priests, household attendants, servants, etc; which is useful for anyone interested in the period. Weir also includes a bibliography, notes, and a section of color plates (which include more photos than most history books – this is a good thing!).
Even though “The Lost Tudor Princess” suffers from flaws and doesn’t necessarily reveal Margaret Douglas completely; it certainly brings to the forefront a woman whom is always mentioned but never completely in the spot light. The text reveals new information and is clearly well-researched. Plus, “The Lost Tudor Princess” is Weir’s best work from most recent years making it worth reading on two counts. “The Lost Tudor Princess” is suggested for all readers interested in Tudor and Stuart politics as much can be learned from the text. Just don’t expect a biography solely on Margaret and you then you won’t be disappointed.
**Note: This would be more of a 3.5 but rounding up to 4 in comparison to recent Weir works**
Although the name Hans Holbein may not be one that every ‘Average Joe’ is familiar with; the chances are that one has seen the artist’s work (probablyAlthough the name Hans Holbein may not be one that every ‘Average Joe’ is familiar with; the chances are that one has seen the artist’s work (probably a la the famous painting of King Henry VIII). Stephanie Buck, Jochen Sander, and other collaborators come together to produce, “Hans Holbein the Younger: Painter at the Court of Henry VIII” to accompany the Hans Holbein exhibit at The Hague in 2003.
Even though “Hans Holbein the Younger” is an exhibit accompaniment; it stands on its own as a fine art coffee table book. The text begins with a foreword describing the exhibit which then flows into a brief biography of Hans Holbein written by Stephanie Buck. This biography is limited in scope and not in-depth but this is due to the lack of source material available versus inadequate research. Despite this lack of conclusive material; an introduction to Holbein is strongly founded.
“Hans Hobein the Younger” proceeds to focus on the “Darmstadt Madonna” which is considered to be Holbein’s masterpiece. Jochen Sander explores the inspirations, materials used, post-haste investigations into the techniques implored, etc. The text is easy-to-understand and accessible while also providing the reader experienced in art with jargon familiar to the field.
The main section of “Hans Holbein the Younger” highlights the catalog of Holbein’s work by showcasing 40 works. The glossy pages feature the works themselves, a caption of the size of the piece, materials used, date created, and current owner. This in itself provides sufficient viewer material for browsing in terms of a coffee table book. However, for though who do not find that to be enough; the accompanying text supplements well by exploring the full arc of each piece from the commissioning individual, to the production of the art, and ending with the current status of the art piece. The highlights are penned by alternating authors making the catalog fresh and without repetition but yet it is cohesive and seamless in structure.
The appeal of the catalog discussion is that not only does the reader learn of Holbein’s technique in each painting but also benefits from exploring the background of the subjects; adding value and depth to the painting studies.
“Hans Holbein the Younger” follows the catalog with an appendix including a history of Holbein’s drawings in Windsor Castle, a timeline of events in Holbein’s life sequentially occurring with major English events, biographies for the key figures in Holbein’s time (both the subjects in his paintings and politically in English history), and an extended glossary of key historical terms. These supplements add value and depth to “Hans Holbein the Younger” while also concluding the work on a memorable angle.
Wrapping up “Hans Holbein the Younger” is an enlightening section of annotated notes plus a biography.
“Hans Holbein the Younger” is an excellent coffee table art book which reveals the artist himself while beautifully glorifying some of his works. The book is strongly recommended for those interested in art, Holbein, and the Tudor period in history. ...more
When it comes to maritime exploration during the Tudor era; Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake generally come to mind. However, there were otherWhen it comes to maritime exploration during the Tudor era; Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake generally come to mind. However, there were other figures who set out seeking new trading paths long before these men even stepped foot on a ship. Two of these men, Richard Chancellor and Sir Hugh Willoughby, sought a passage from England to China through the North Pole. Sadly, Willoughby and his crew never returned to England again (Chancellor survived only to die on a later journey). Although this epic event is lesser-known; James Evans highlights this amazing chunk of history in “Tudor Adventurers: An Arctic Voyage of Discovery: The Hunt for the Northeast Passage”.
It must be noted that “Tudor Adventurers” is instantly striking and noteworthy due to its topic at hand. Even most ‘hard-core’ Tudor readers are unfamiliar with Chancellor, Willoughby, and the fates of their ships (the Edward Bonaventure, Bona Esperanza, and Bona Confidentia). Bringing a lesser-discussed topic to the foreground is a mighty endeavor by any author which can easily fail because of the absence of information and can instead result in the pumping of pages with filler information. Luckily, Evans successfully makes “Tudor Adventurers” a compelling read versus a flop.
Evans constructs “Tudor Adventurers” in a very narrative style making it extremely accessible, readable, and exciting even for those not generally interested in naval-exploration topics. The prose is beautiful and detailed but with a strong pace all the while being academic and scholarly. Evan’s level of research is clear, yet he could also pen a lovely HF novel.
On the other hand, this almost story-like way of writing results in “Tudor Adventurers” being filled with some speculation and assurances of individual thoughts/feelings which are stated as tough they are facts. This isn’t overly done but is still apparent. Also related is a slight lack of annotations, quotes, etc. A little more of this would be welcomed.
Although Evans is great with keeping reader attention and truly bringing out the nuances of the history; there is an issue with choppiness. Chronologically, Evans jumps back-and-forth in an attempt to relate the lives of key figures to each other and events. This results in reader confusion and also some tangents within the text. Another minor but bothersome issue with structure is the short chapters. This breaks up flow and reader concentration adding to the slight disjointed feel.
One of the strongest suits of Evan’s authorship is his ability to bring “Tudor Adventurers” alive. The reader isn’t just scanning a history recap but is actually ‘living’ it which makes the facts more understandable and memorable. This is wonderful for a lesser-discussed topic in order to encourage further research and reading on the subject.
Another striking highlight of “Tudor Adventurers” is the message in between the lines. Readers will be magnetized by the impressive reality and dangers involved in seafaring exploration and discovering new countries/people in a time without the technology we know of today. It is absolutely amazing and Evans brings this pint home with ease.
Although the final chapters of “Tudor Adventurers” overly focus on side filler information; the concluding chapter is a perfect summary of the topic and its impact leaving a solid ending. This flows into a section of annotated notes plus a bibliography of primary and secondary sources (a quite satisfying list). The book’s color plates are also gratifying with photos of rare portraits and maps.
“Tudor Adventurers” is not without its flaws but it is also exciting, well-written, and brings to life a rather under-discussed subject to Tudor lovers; encouraging further research (not to mention a perfect HF novel or film!). Evans has a wonderful voice which I would certainly read more from. “Tudor Adventurers” is suggested for all readers interested in this time period. ...more
“The Marriage Game” is immediately flooded with red flags and cringe-worthy moments starting the novel on a poor note. As soon as page 10, Weir strike“The Marriage Game” is immediately flooded with red flags and cringe-worthy moments starting the novel on a poor note. As soon as page 10, Weir strikes with historical inaccuracies. Whether this is due to Weir’s own beliefs on the matter or merely taking a historical liberties on the pretext of fiction; it is not of concern. The point is that the general reader will accept this as truth and run with it based on Weir’s fame for penning nonfiction history books.
Even aside from this blatant error, “The Marriage Game” is no better than a YA novel and a boring one, at that. Elizabeth is depicted as a one-dimensional, shallow character; not truly exploring her womanly strengths and weaknesses. Her romance with Robert, her refusal to marry, and the proposals from foreign princes are all portrayed by Weir as nothing more than high school drama. Plus, it is the same thing on each page. Nothing truly ‘happens’ and the plot doesn’t intensify or progress.
Weir over saturates the text of “The Marriage Game” with, “As you know, Bob”-style storytelling in order to set the stage and explain Tudor back stories. This is tedious and slackens the already slow pace of the novel. Also evident is a chunky narrative with clear up-and-down arcs which are too extreme: i.e. slow and exciting then repeat several times.
“The Marriage Game” does have some strong moments such as the scandalous death of Amy Robsart (Dudley’s wife). Although Weir doesn’t pursue this in depth, she explores some of the possible theories providing the reader with historical context. This is also true for other topics in “The Marriage Game” such as the situation with the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots and other political forays. Weir would have done much better composing a novel focusing more on these historical events instead of an entire text on repetitive love and marriage.
The conclusion of “The Marriage Game” feels like a different novel entirely by taking a complete 180-degree turn off the marriage topic and instead focusing on the Spanish Armada. This is strikingly emotional (in comparison to the former portions of the novel) but is noticeably disjointed leaving the love subject unanswered and merely forgotten.
Weir utilized an ‘Author’s Note’ using it to explain some historical liberties, her opinions, and inspirations. Although, I would have preferred deeper explanations for the benefit of those general readers not as familiar with the topic; it is still quite useful.
Sadly, “The Marriage Game” can be summed up as a heavy disappointment: one-dimensional, fluffy, boring, and quite meaningless. It is not only light on the history but also doesn’t really encourage the general reader to engage in further research. “The Marriage Game” is nothing more than mindless entertainment (a fast read) and is only suggested for those unfamiliar with Elizabeth and Tudor England. Those well-read on the matters will gain absolutely nothing from “The Marriage Game” and are better off skipping it. ...more
Although related by blood and residing in bordering countries; the Tudors and Stuarts (Stewarts) were far from chummy. This dramatic relationship bestAlthough related by blood and residing in bordering countries; the Tudors and Stuarts (Stewarts) were far from chummy. This dramatic relationship best-suited for a soap opera is retold by Linda Porter in, “Tudors Versus Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots”.
Having previously read two books by Porter; there are certain characteristics of the author’s writing which I was on the lookout for. As per usual, “Tudors Versus Stewarts” has a slow start which feels too much like establishing background information. This is understandable in beginning a scholarly text but Porter maintains this for approximately 100 pages. Often times, it is like reading an extended foreward.
Furthermore, Porter’s premise for “Tudors Versus Stewarts” is too explain the interactions, emotions, and psychological effects of the countries and monarchies on one another but this is lost in the shuffle. Instead, Porter simply retells the history of both countries during a set time frame and swaps back-and-forth explaining what occurred at the same time. This doesn’t adhere to her thesis, though. Common to Porter, her writing often strays on tangents creating a choppy, disjointed piece.
Although Porter does begin to find her stride and has strong moments (such as the discussion of Perkin Warbeck); she puts on emphasis on non-important areas while fluffing up minor notes, being the opposite of what the reader expects. “Tudors Versus Stewarts” is best described as being “off key”.
In Porter’s other works, she had the habit of making highly speculative or opinionated statements. This is also the case with “Tudors Versus Stewarts”. The text is filled with “Might have”, “Perhaps”, and “Must have” phrases and several admissions of, “We don’t know what happened but…” Several times, Porter concludes that, “There are no records of what was discussed but surely it was…” No Porter, you don’t “surely know” what was discussed with no records! Examples of juvenile comments include saying such as, “Later in life she [Margaret Tudor] simply looks fat” (p 143) and Margaret resenting the “crusty old earl” (p 148). These have no place in an academic piece.
Although there are admittedly some moments that Porter tries to debunk some myths (not well, as her text isn’t really annotated and she quickly moves past her attempts at debunking); on the whole “Tudors Versus Stewarts” is a recap instead of learning anything new. Again, the aim and angle of the book is unique but Porter falls short in execution.
Porter insists on sprinkling the text with mentions of Shakespeare (why are so many recent history authors begetting Shakespeare as a historian?!) and quoting poems/literature. Perhaps this is done to lighten the load but it merely works to downgrade the emphasis of “Tudors Versus Stewarts”.
The second half of “Tudors Versus Stewarts” focuses largely on Scotland. Although this is still simply a retelling and does not meet the thesis; it is a strong source for those interested in an overview of Scottish politics in the 16th century.
“Tudors Versus Stewarts” rushes at the conclusion and ends rather abruptly. Porter’s biases are clear and although she attempts to add importance to the clashing between the Tudors and Stuarts (ending with King James I of England); she failed to do anything other than present a dual biography.
Porter follows the text with an epilogue, list of key figures, notes, and bibliography while the text contains a section of black and white photo plates. It should be noted that I have read many of the secondary sources Porter used which is why the book didn’t offer me new information but this may not be the case with all readers.
Overall, Porter’s piece has a strong motive and thesis but it was not carried out to a proven point. “Tudors versus Stewarts is readable (meaning: not boring) and one will learn of many Scottish and English events but I was merely expecting more. The book is not bad and suggested for those interested in the history but it won’t blow you away. ...more