King Charles II didn’t have much of a private life, as most of his interactions played out in front the public eye. One can compare him to a celebrityKing Charles II didn’t have much of a private life, as most of his interactions played out in front the public eye. One can compare him to a celebrity in this sense. Like most of today’s celebrities, Charles didn’t mind this constant attention and in fact: enjoyed it. Don Jordan and Michael Walsh take a look at the social side of King Charles II and how it affected him in, “The King’s Bed: Sex and Power in the Court of Charles II”.
Co-authors Don Jordan and Michael Walsh are not new to the topic of Charles II (having penned another book on the famous Stuart King); and aimed to feature the social and intimate relationships in the king’s life and how these may have affected the King’s political decisions. At least, that is assumed to be the point of “The King’s Bed” but this is very much lost in translation. To begin, Jordan and Walsh’s introduction includes twelve spelling/printing errors which certainly creates an ‘uh-oh’- reaction and is quite appalling. How did this make it onto book shelves? This elementary start leads into a piece which lacks direction and doesn’t quite fit the synopsis, instead being a summary of Charles’s life bouncing back-and-forth between private and political. For those familiar with Charles II; there is no new information here and thus “The King’s Bed” is not compelling.
Also failing to add to the work is Jordan and Walsh’s writing style. First of all, it is quite clear that chapters are alternated between the authors and were attempted to be meshed together, but, sadly are not. The voices in the text are noticeably different and the pages are rife with repetition making “The King’s Bed” clunky, tedious, and not cohesive. It is admittedly difficult to have two authors pen a work and Jordan and Walsh don’t particularly do it well. However, this may be the fault of a poor editor not bringing the manuscript together smoothly.
“The King’s Bed” also features too many speculative statements or sweeping generalizations along with some historical errors/inaccuracies which blatantly stand out to the eyes of those who regularly read about the topic, making “The King’s Bed” weak and best to be taken with a grain of salt. This absence of strong scholarly prose does, on the contrary, result in an easy-to-read piece which is great for readers new to the topic seeking an underwhelming introduction. If that was the aim of Jordan and Walsh; then they succeeded.
The concluding chapters focus more on what Jordan and Walsh set out to discuss in the first place: the private life and relationship of the King. Repetition and summarizations still run rampant but the text is more streamlined at this point.
The final chapter is quite strong in the sense that it explores Charles’s death and the theories surrounding its cause (the authors even consult a modern-day physician who examined post-mortem notes). This is the first time that Jordan and Walsh are captivating and follow an academic vein. The authors also finally wax poetic on the possible psychological effects of Charles’s relationships and even discuss this with a psychiatrist. Too bad it is too little, too late.
Jordan and Walsh wrap-up “The King’s Bed” with a post-script which interestingly links Charles II to some descendents of today, an appendix about the sexual state of life in the Seventeenth Century, a ‘cast’ of characters, notes (not annotated), and a selective bibliography. “The King’s Bed” also features a section of color plates.
Jordan and Walsh’s “The King’s Bed” is sadly a thin, choppy, repetitive, non-academic piece that doesn’t take the reader on a thrill ride nor does it educate. The work is simply an introduction for those new to the subject and even they will find that the authors miss their thesis mark. I would read from the authors again but only because I try to read everything available regarding Charles II but “The King’s Bed” can otherwise be skipped. ...more
William Cavendish is a name/figure familiar to those well-versed on Stuart England and the court of Charles II. Lesser known in modern times but famouWilliam Cavendish is a name/figure familiar to those well-versed on Stuart England and the court of Charles II. Lesser known in modern times but famous during the era was his wife, Margaret Cavendish. Margaret was an author, Duchess, celebrity, and first woman invited to the Royal Society of London. Author Danielle Dutton features ‘Mad Madge’ (as she was dubbed) in, “Margaret the First”.
Dutton may call “Margaret the First” a ‘novel’ but this must be declared as a false statement. “Margaret the First” can be described as a novella or short story but certainly not a novel as the pages consist of 1-2 page chapter blurbs along with a thin and under-developed plot. The story and characterization both lack growth and depth which makes “Margaret the First” a very quick read but without leaving much of an impact.
Margaret herself also fails to engage the reader in the full sense of the word. Telling her story in a retrospective, almost diary-like way; Dutton abruptly cuts thoughts and merely just mentions events in passing. Yet, this device causes a sort of stream of consciousness flow from Margaret giving the book some essence and spice. Sadly though, the reader doesn’t learn as much about Margaret as anticipated and therefore “Margaret the First” is more of an introduction.
An issue also arises with the setting of “Margaret the First”. Both the environment descriptions and the ‘feel’ are more Victorian than Stuart. This isn’t ‘bad’ per se; it just simple isn’t accurate and doesn’t present the era well.
All complaints aside though; there is something compelling about “Margaret the First” (perhaps the ease of reading) which encourages page turning and provides pleasure. It is definitely a story which could use more flesh on its skeleton but it isn’t terrible. Thin, but not terrible.
In the vein of the Victorian feel, “Margaret the First” causes one to rethink women’s roles which were once (and still are) inhibited. This results in a somewhat philosophical air to Dutton’s writing.
The narrative perspective changes in “Margaret the First” with the section that focuses on the Restoration from first-person to third person, adding depth to the story. The pace at this point steadies versus being over-eager.
The concluding pages of Dutton’s work is slightly off course, choppy, and doesn’t mesh well with the plot but on another hand, this works to emphasize the eccentric nature of Margaret (or at least how she was perceived at the time). The ending is somewhat flat and disappointing not leaving on a powerful note.
Dutton doesn’t dive deep into explaining the historical merits of the story but does provide some sources for further reading/research.
“Margaret the First” is a quick 1-2 day read lacking the depth and development of a novel but introduces Margaret and provides some fodder to chew on. Dutton’s story won’t change your life but is suggested if looking for a fast read with an interest in Stuart England. ...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
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**
For staunch Tudor lovers, the name Margaret Pole is not an unfamiliar one. Yet, even though the Countess of Salisbury was smack-dab in the middle of cFor staunch Tudor lovers, the name Margaret Pole is not an unfamiliar one. Yet, even though the Countess of Salisbury was smack-dab in the middle of courtly drama; she seems to play a side note in most books. Phillippa Gregory brings Pole to the forefront in her latest historical fiction novel, “The King’s Curse”.
Before I even proceed further, I want to make something clear for those who aren’t regular readers of my reviews: I do not think of Gregory as a God nor of her work as the Bible. Her books of the past few years have been fluffy, filled with historical liberties, and with an overabundance of fantasy topics like magic. Don’t even get me started on her obsession with the, “As you know, Bob”- style of writing. To say the least, I have not been impressed. Lo and behold though, ladies and gents, because it appears that PG finally listened to complaints and produced a work which actually isn’t terrible!
“The King’s Curse” begins with Pole characterized as an adult so there is no discrepancy of the strain of growth from childhood to adulthood. Following Pole’s life (both personal and courtly); her feelings and role come alive with a strong portrayal. Readers will actually feel as though they are walking into Margaret’s psyche and not in a dummied down version, either. Margaret is both believable and accessible.
The most stroking trait of “The King’s Curse” is its accuracy which has not been the way to describe PG lately. In this novel, Gregory stuck mostly to the facts with the liberties being more on par with various debated theories historians have proposed versus fluff created in Gregory’s mind. Meaning, the novel is NOT thoroughly accurate but the inaccuracies are based on proposed theories and ideas. The descriptions and speaking style feel mostly authentic and the visuals are rich. Best of all? The “As you know, Bob” style is very limited! It is still present but rarely. I’m telling you: “The King’s Curse” is a million times better than the past few years of Gregory output.
The pace of the plot is also solid and with an exciting heartbeat. Although much of the novel focuses on courtly affairs (the downfall of Henry VIII); the novel is moving and dare I say: a page-turner. All of the other characters are well portrayed with Mary Tudor (future Queen Mary) being a standout. In fact, many of the events are quite vivid and emotionally poignant. No mention of magical crap was even needed to do so (believe it or not, the silly curse is barely mentioned despite the novel’s title).
On the negative end, some of the hatred in “The King’s Curse” towards Anne Boleyn and the frustration with Henry VIII is somewhat over the top. Yes, Margaret was a supporter of Katherine of Aragon and Mary Tudor but the spewing of anger and calling Anne a ‘whore’ numerous times was a bit much. We get it! Margaret didn’t like Anne! Sheesh! On the other hand, this is a sort of refreshing look from the opposition of the Anne camp versus those novels focusing on Anne’s wit and charisma. Regardless, some Anne supporters may be offended or annoyed.
Notably, Gregory intersperses the novel with genealogical charts (instead of singularly just in the beginning of the novel) which illuminate some of the figures featured in the respective chapters. This is definitely unique to “The King’s Curse” (and I couldn’t decide whether I liked it or not).
The final quarter of the “The King’s Curse” suffers from a great decline in the pace and effectiveness as much of the plot is told (with the characters discussing events) versus being ‘lived’. This is tedious, boring, and sadly more like Gregory’s other novels. This flows into an anticlimactic ending which is rushed and not on-par with the lead-up of the entire novel.
On the bright side, Gregory does explain some historical liberties in her ‘Author’s Note’ hopefully showing readers that her writing is not the word of God. Plus, her sources listed are those which Tudor readers are familiar with and mostly support.
Overall, quite shockingly, “The King’s Curse” is unlike Gregory’s recent novels with very little or none of the traits readers have been complaining about. The angle of the story is unique while Margaret Pole is presented as a complex figure inviting further research which is quite a feat coming from Gregory. “The King’s Curse” may not be the best historical fiction novel on the market; but the best from the author in years.
Note: My rating is perhaps more of a 3.5 in terms of HF novels overall (and therefore I would have given it a 3 rating) but because I am taking into consideration PG’s other works and comparing it to those previous works; it is being rated as a 4 ...more
Lady Pamela Hicks may not be a name everyone is familiar with. However, the people she been affiliatedWon this on Goodreads Giveaways. Unedited Copy
Lady Pamela Hicks may not be a name everyone is familiar with. However, the people she been affiliated with (Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, the Vanderbilts, Winston Churchill, Douglas Fairbanks, Gandhi); are certainly recognizable to all. Hicks attempts to reveal her life story to the memoir-loving masses in “Daughter of Empire: My Life as a Mountbatten”.
“Daughter of Empire” immediately jumps into the lives of Hicks’s parents (Lord Louis and Edwinda Mountbatten) foregoing a “proper” introduction to Pamela herself, causing a filter between the reader and a lack of connection. This absence of cling dribbles into the storytelling which is merely a recap of events i.e.: this happened, then this, and then that. Hicks lacks an emotional insight into her psyche and therefore is more of a narrator to her own life than a key player. As a result, “Daughter of Empire” is one dimensional and less-than-captivating.
Speaking of dimensions, “Daughter of Empire” can be described with one word: shallow. Immediately with the first page and continuing onwards is constant namedropping. Hicks’s privileged life is close to sickening and although she doesn’t necessarily seem elitist about it; she has a void of depth and intimacy. It is fine (and even entertaining) that she led an aristocratic and high-society life but she could have at least shared personal feelings and life lessons regarding the people and events. Instead, the memoir follows the pattern of an issue of “Entertainment Weekly” following the latest celebrity.
The writing in terms of sentence structure and grammar is well-written and flows with ease and a fast pace. The problem is with the content and empty stories. Despite all the namedropping, Hicks makes her life seem boring without any substantial thoughts in that pretty little head of hers. One major frustrating point? Instead of reflecting on her temporary relocation to America during World War II (due to Jewish blood); Hicks instead emphasizes how the Vanderbilts didn’t approve of her clothing during this time. REALLY?!
Oftentimes, Hicks is choppy and doesn’t answer questions in chronology (for example: someone is missing and then suddenly that person reappears with no explanation or acknowledgement). “Daughter of Empire” lacks a cohesive sense throughout the memoir both in terms of writing style and content (perhaps indicative of a ghostwriter?) and refuses to fully open up Hicks’s character or life. “Daughter of Empire” reads like a school report versus a personal account. Not to mention, a report concerning the lives of her parents instead of that of her own.
Also, what is the reasoning behind the constant use of the term ‘partying’? The tone/voice does not sound like that of a senior citizen in her 80s looking back at her life. Another complaint: I found Hicks’s habit of including foreign language phrases without translations to be distracting and too assuming that the average reader will have any clue what they mean.
On a positive note, Hicks occasionally includes snippets of diaries or personal letters which adds a certain pizzazz to “Daughter of Empire”. The memoir also improves slightly when Hicks describes her time/work in India during the country’s independence, revealing the political climate and some of her emotions. This still lacks the desired depth but is better than the former achieved.
The ending of “Daughter of Empire” is rather weak and not memorable of Hicks in any way (and again focuses more on parents). Plus, Hicks concludes her tale before she is in her 30s and states that “not much occurred” after that time making the title of her memoir including the word “life” misleading.
The final copy of “Daughter of Empire” will include 24 black and white photos throughout which my copy did not contain.
Overall, “Daughter of Empire” is a shallow and weak report of various events in the life of Pamela Hicks void of emotion and true insight. One will never feel like Hicks reveals her true self nor tells her life story in a compelling way. “Daughter of Empire” is not worth reading, as one can find the same recap of events in a Google search. ...more
As a “fan girl” of King Charles II, it is only natural that I am also fascinated by his mistresses. Although I adore Nell Gwynne as my favorite; the oAs a “fan girl” of King Charles II, it is only natural that I am also fascinated by his mistresses. Although I adore Nell Gwynne as my favorite; the other women are compelling, as well. Marci Jefferson reveals the role of Frances Stuart in her debut novel, “Girl on the Golden Coin”.
At this juncture of my many years of reading both history and historical fiction text; I can pretty much scan a book and know if it will please me. “Girl on the Golden Coin” instantly caused trepidation but its promises of scandal, intrigue, and duplicity surrounding Frances Stuart; insisted I proceed. As I suspected: I was let down. Big time.
“Girl on the Golden Coin” is best described as a “Stuart High School” drama filled with squealing, giggles, and shrugs. The novel is more fiction than history and fails to bring the era to life. Yes, there are some illustrative descriptions but overall, the authenticity is lacking as the focus is on teen-level soap opera drama. To be blunt: it doesn’t feel as though Jefferson did much research which is why the story is ‘told’ versus ‘lived’ and ‘shown’.
Although “Girl on the Golden Coin” is told in a first-person narrative; one never truly receives a real glimpse into Frances. She appears dense and yet illusive and has no character arc. In fact, none of the characters are portrayed strongly as Charles is not kingly, Queen Catherine is a dunce, Minette is a “mean girl”, and Frances lacks genuine chemistry with Charles. The only intriguing interaction is between Frances and the Duke of Buckingham.
The plotline in the novel is also thin. Nothing seems to ‘actually’ happen while uneventful pages pass. It isn’t that the pace is slow, per se; it is simply that the novel is boring. The reader will not learn historical facts nor experience memorable events. There is nothing to push “Girl on the Golden Coin”.
Jefferson’s work is a victim of the, “As you know, Bob”- method of storytelling in which characters discuss other figures or political events as a result of the first-person storytelling (a la Philippa Gregory). This becomes tedious with some sections feeling pointless except for this idle talk and adds to the absence of excitement.
It needs to be stated again that the major disappointment with “Girl on the Golden Coin” is the failure to bring Frances to life. Although this is HER novel, she breathes no air and Jefferson doesn’t give her any vibrancy. Plus, her portrayal is very inconsistent as she acts childlike one moment but alludes to adult behavior in the next moment.
Sadly, the well-known historical incidents involving Charles’s mistresses or the political landscape are glossed over, appearing unimportant. This means that those readers new to the topic don’t receive a proper introduction while novice readers don’t get to re-address their favorite moments. Also keeping the reader from truly getting into the story are the extremely short chapters (some are only 2 pages long). Everything is abrupt which prevents any depth or symbolism to seep through.
“Girl on the Golden Coin" finally improves during the last quarter of the novel with the final chapters being more ardent about history and including a creative interpretation of Frances’s elopement with the Duke of Richmond. However, the conclusion is rushed and honestly: doesn’t make much sense with the novel and therefore lacks strength. On the bright side, Jefferson provides an ‘Author’s Note’ explaining the historical liberties taken in the novel and explains some of her motives.
Overall, “Girl on the Golden Coin” is a fluffy, historical-fiction novel which emphasizes the ‘fiction’ aspect. Although the topic is interesting; both the presentation and the characters are flat and the plot doesn’t have much of a point or climax. The novel is only recommended for those new to the topic seeking an introduction or for readers seeking a light, 1-2 day fluffy read (which I know can be great for a ‘filler read’). Otherwise, those well-versed on the topic will be left unsatisfied. Credit should be given to Jefferson for writing a novel based on a figure who doesn’t receive much attention and therefore I would perhaps consider reading another one of Jefferson’s works to see if there is an improvement in her writing (but I would be in no rush). “Girl on the Golden Coin” is an empty-calorie read....more
For us Tudorphiles, there really isn’t anything we don’t already know about one of history’s most dramatic families. So what’s the point of reading anFor us Tudorphiles, there really isn’t anything we don’t already know about one of history’s most dramatic families. So what’s the point of reading another book on the Tudor dynasty? Perhaps this can be answered by Leanda de Lisle in “Tudor: The Family Story”.
Lisle’s version of events in “Tudor” stands out instantly, as the tone presented to the reader is not simply that of a recollection of Tudor monarchy life; but the basics and underlying psychosis of the family. Lisle begins the history backtracking to Owen Tudor and his “fall” into royalty. Although nothing new is learned by the expert reader; the family history will be understood in a new light. Lisle reveals the Tudors in a smooth way in which their emotions and actions throughout the decades make clear sense. Thus, although the story isn’t new, the fresh perception is.
Lisle’s text is heavily researched and accurate, skipping the biases and speculation which are abundant even in the works of renowned historians. The pace is exciting and has a steady ratio of almost-fictional narrative to that of an academic piece. However, at times Lisle goes off on the flowery descriptions and either grazes or rushes too quickly on the historical events (I suspect that she could produce a solid HF novel).
A notable characteristic of “Tudor” is the breath of life Lisle gives to some figures who are often ignored such as Mary and Margaret Tudor (the sisters of Henry VIII) and Margaret Douglas. Plus, the chronology is solid and all major points are highlighted without jumping back-and-forth which could confuse new readers.
Lisle seamlessly interweaves the text with descriptions of ‘everyday’ life/culture which instead of feeling like tangents; clearly sets the stage for Tudor lie and again: makes everything clear and understandable. “Tudor” is also filled with anticipation, with even the seasoned Tudorphile wanting to know what happens (even though he or she already knows).
On the negative end, Lisle has the habit of mentioning a thought or idea which is contrary to popular belief but doesn’t elaborate or offer clear sources. I would welcome new angles but need details. Also slightly annoying is Lisle maintaining the trend of quoting Shakespeare within her historic text. Shakespeare was NOT a historian and his plays were just that: plays. Not sure why so many authors insist on this.
The second half of “Tudor” has more of a detective focus with Lisle debunking some much-talked about Tudor myths. The only issue with this is a lack of description/argument and notes with holes in the connection (I had many, “You got this from that?!” moments). Despite this, Lisle also displayed the strength of not following stereotypes in “Tudor”: Mary isn’t vilified, Elizabeth isn’t glorified, etc. Instead, Lisle simply sees the strengths and weaknesses of each figurehead.
The conclusion of “Tudor” is exceptionally strong, wrapping up Elizabeth’s reign (but again, not overly romanticizing her); flowing into a memorable, well-rounded Epilogue in which Lisle truly brings home the Tudor message in a way not many history books have. Lisle doesn’t just stop there, as she briefly discusses some Tudor myths in the Appendices. For those readers who enjoy notes, Lisle offers pages worth while also serving up color plates and genealogical trees.
Even though one may not experience new information on the pages of “Tudor”, the presentation is entirely new. Versus a straightforward look at Tudor history, Lisle opens up the personal view of the Tudors and how THEY viewed themselves which explains their actions better then a simple look at their political actions. Lisle successfully treads a middle ground where readers both new and old to the topic will find enjoyment. “Tudor” is well-written and extremely readable with Lisle showing a marked improvement in her writing (it is obvious that she has more great things in store). Although not perfect, “Tudor” is very much recommended for anyone and everyone interested in the topic.
Note: My rating is more of a 4.5 but rounded to 4 versus 5 ...more
Even though the Tudors are known for their drama-filled (albeit, somewhat short) dynasty; there was already a family making waves before them: the PlaEven though the Tudors are known for their drama-filled (albeit, somewhat short) dynasty; there was already a family making waves before them: the Plantagenets. Dan Jones explains those historical figures who paved the road for England in, “The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England”.
Jones states in his introduction to “The Plantagenets” that his work follows that of a narrative history. This means that although less scholarly and academic; one can at least hope for an exciting (almost fiction-like) sweep of events. This, however, would be a false expectation for “The Plantagenets”. Not only is Jones’s writing shallow in the academic realm, but it isn’t heart-thumping either.
Jones has a poorly-written, flat style which follows a “Person A did this and then that”-style. The flow is unnatural, the reader is not engaged, and the historical figures are not revealed. “The Plantagenets” doesn’t feature any new information while also being deadpan about the information it does give. Furthermore, the chapters in “The Plantagenets” are short and abrupt. Don’t expect an overall history of the Plantagenets as the format is one which instead focuses on one key figure or event per chapter. Although chronological, Jones doesn’t dive deep enough, cuts off the chapters too quickly, and has a choppy presentation. This leaves the reader with many unanswered questions.
Jones is also guilty of filling his text with speculation and phrases divulging what figures “thought”. Unless he has access to top-secret diaries, he does NOT know what anyone thought. Not to mention, information which does sound solid is not properly sourced with facts mentioned similar to, “A contemporary stated…” but the contemporary is never detailed. To say the least, much of “The Plantagenets” is an overview and one which doesn’t even feel credible.
As “The Plantagenets” progresses, Jones finds a more confident path in his storytelling. However, the text is merely that: a retelling of events which reads like a high school student’s history report. Plus, the work is inconsistent with some chapters being exponentially more interesting than others (which also demonstrates Jones’s own biases).
The second half of “The Plantagenets” is markedly better with its focus on Edward II and Edward III. The text flows much more smoothly and is more compelling than earlier chapters. Even despite this minor momentum kick, however; Jones’s work contains blatant errors (which the seasoned history reader will catch), plus some repetition in storytelling. Jones also insists on quoting secondary sources, again making the work feel like a “recap”.
These negative points roll into an overly-rushed conclusion which instead of detailing the drama between Richard II and Henry Bolingbroke in a memorable way; instead focuses more on Jones’s clear dislike for Richard. The epilogue of “The Plantagenets” also fails to sum-up the work in a resonating way.
For staunch history lovers, “The Plantagenets” lacks proper citation notes and sources with only a brief (and somewhat unclear) list of suggested “further reading”. A section of color plates exists but in black and white and again: lacking detail.
Sadly, “The Plantagenets” was a huge let down and is only suggested for those new to the topic seeking a lighter fair versus historical depth. The storytelling is weak and inaccuracies exist which should be kept in mind when reading “The Plantagenets”. I might consider the author again but only as a book I would skim and wouldn’t be jumping over hurdles for it. ...more
The medieval times were rife with notable events that make even the most drama-filled lives of celebrities today seem like amateurs. Although there soThe medieval times were rife with notable events that make even the most drama-filled lives of celebrities today seem like amateurs. Although there some famous women who stand out from this historic period; there are also many whose stories haven’t been told. Vicki Leon introduces noteworthy women from the medieval period in, “Uppity Women of Medieval Times”.
“Uppity Women of Medieval Times” is a small compilation-type book; the likes of which one might see as a supplement to a museum exhibit. Eschewing a standard history text style; Leon instead showcases 200 different medieval women with 1-3 page blurbs on what makes them noteworthy. The women featured are of international merit (Leon doesn’t solely focus on one geographic area) and are generally lesser-known, truly introducing the reader to new figures.
Many readers might be discomforted by the short descriptions of the women: Leon only sticks to introductions/summaries and without any academic citations or notes. Those expecting a scholarly route will be disappointed. However, Leon does well with highlighting unknown women and therefore encouraging readers to conduct their own research therein.
Continuing on this sort of popular history route; Leon’s prose and style is familiar, conversational, and oftentimes quirky and humorous. In fact, the text reads almost like a comedian teaching a history lesson. The issue is that Leon forces this and tries too hard to infuse wit which becomes exhaustive and tedious. This, again, will derail readers seeking hard-hitting history.
Some of the women portrayed within “Uppity Women of Medieval Times” are somewhat lackluster and appear to be “filler”. Leon definitely seems to be stretching and reaching at times for content.
The pages of “Uppity Women of Medieval Times” noticeably are absent of a proper editor as there are some errors with dates and evident spelling errors. This weakens the already questionable credibility of Leon’s work.
In the second half of “Uppity Women of Medieval Times”, Leon attempts even harder to be humorous and amusing; often falling short and even being borderline insulting to women which is ironic as the piece attempts to be feminist in nature.
Even though “Uppity Women of Medieval Times” is far from scholarly, a brief (I stress, “brief”) bibliography is offered.
“Uppity Women of Medieval Times” is a quick, beach-read version of historical figures that is definitely not suggested for hard-core history lovers. Although, Leon can be funny and charming; she is tedious in her over-attempts. “Uppity Women of Medieval Times” is good as a filler book to introduce readers to lesser-known women but is not a dire must-read. ...more