I read this after watching the TV show, and Phryne Fisher is just as entertaining on the page as she is on the screen. Several of the details were difI read this after watching the TV show, and Phryne Fisher is just as entertaining on the page as she is on the screen. Several of the details were different--Dot's backstory in particular--but the spirit is the same, and even though I knew the answer to the mystery from the TV show, it was still fun watching Phryne figure it out. The final scene in the steam room plays out... rather differently, as well, so it was far from predictable.
I also enjoyed all the little insights into 1920s Australian culture that don't come through on the show. Bert's rhyming slang had me reaching for Google every couple of pages, which isn't a complaint. Kind of disappointed they left out Woman Police Constable Jones from the show, though, as I thought she was a great character, and she highlighted the glass ceiling in a way Mac doesn't.
I'll definitely be checking out the next one from the library....more
Philippa Gregory's historical novels have become comfort reading for me. I'll read any of them cover to cover, no matter the quality, just because I lPhilippa Gregory's historical novels have become comfort reading for me. I'll read any of them cover to cover, no matter the quality, just because I like reading about the Plantagenets and the Tudors. But I thought this was one of her better ones.
Katherine of Aragon is usually only talked about in the context of being Henry VIII's first wife, so it was nice to read a book about her early life, and young Catalina is a captivating character. She learns about battle strategy and strength of will at her mother's side, and carries those lessons into her life at the English court, where she will need them, over and over, for the rest of her life.
I liked Catalina's romance with Arthur. Nobody knows for sure what really went on between them, but it makes a better story to have them fall in love and make all sorts of wonderful plans for England and then it's like NOPE, DEAD. They really should have let women be rulers back in the day, if nothing else because the men never seemed to live very long.
I also liked the stuff about the Moors. When Catalina was a child, she lived in the (conquered) Moorish palace of Alhambra, and it informs her identity throughout the book. While in England, she recalls the Moors fondly: their elegant architecture, their silk clothing, their habits (such as bathing with actual soap omg), their food (lol what is salad), their medical and mathematical knowledge. Yet she also learned as a child that the Moors were heretics, a people to be conquered and subdued, and that their knowledge was a sin against the Christian God. The tension between these conflicting ideas is woven throughout Catalina's story, and to me, it's the most interesting part.
While there are clear signs of modern sensibilities sneaking into the writing (Katherine has a dream! A dream that one day we may all live together without being judged for the color of our skin or the religion we practice!), I liked the perspective Katherine's Moorish childhood brought to Tudor England. Especially as she found herself unable to provide Henry with an heir, and wondered if maybe the Christians shouldn't have banned all of that "science" and "medicine" stuff the Moors knew so much about.
About the ending: I'm not one to get too hung up on questions of historical accuracy when reading historical fiction. My question is rather, does the book in question hold up as a novel if you read it with no knowledge of the historical events? And I think this one does. The final ending, with Katherine about to testify against Henry in the "Great Matter," seems to me to be only put there because we know that's what happens to her later. I think it could have been cut. My opinion is either go all the way, and fully describe the events of the Great Matter and the English Reformation from Katherine's perspective, or don't describe it at all.
I like the book ending after the Battle of Flodden Field, with Katherine triumphant as regent and Queen Militant. She sounds like a fantastic queen who was able to get shit done. Too bad Henry VIII had to be such a dick....more
This is my favorite kind of book. I love books where everything is linked, where it all fits together like a perfect puzzle. There are mysteries leftThis is my favorite kind of book. I love books where everything is linked, where it all fits together like a perfect puzzle. There are mysteries left unsolved until the very last page, and they're all resolved in a delicious, satisfying way that brings everything full circle. It's also one of those books you want to start reading again as soon as you finish, just to see all the clues you missed. It's the kind of book I dream of writing someday.
It's clear Morton cares about her characters. This is an intangible quality I'm always looking for in books. If I feel like the author is only interested in shocking the reader with twists, I feel cheated, no matter how compelling the mystery. So many authors disappoint me in this respect, and I'm so glad Morton didn't. I look forward to reading everything else she has written.
I have a very carefully curated to-read list on Goodreads, but sometimes it's the books I pick up on a whim at the library that I end up loving the moI have a very carefully curated to-read list on Goodreads, but sometimes it's the books I pick up on a whim at the library that I end up loving the most.
Why isn't there more of this book? Why aren't more books like this book? How is this book so good? Why wasn't this book around when I was a kid?
Rooftoppers is gorgeously written and utterly charming. I read it, and then I read it again to add all the quotes I loved to Goodreads. (I may have gone overboard with the quotes.) I only wish it were a bit longer. I wanted to know what happens to all these lovely characters after the book ends. Then again, maybe you're meant to imagine, instead. Certainly there is not a single wasted word in this book.
Recommended for everyone who loves books, words, and reading. Definitely going on the list of books to give my niece when she is old enough....more
Ah, if only life were like a Maisie Dobbs novel and we could all resolve our emotional problems along with our more physical onMurder! Drugs! Pilates!
Ah, if only life were like a Maisie Dobbs novel and we could all resolve our emotional problems along with our more physical ones by the end of the book. Maisie becomes sort of an angel of peace, healing others' spiritual wounds left by the war and, bit by bit, healing her own as well. This book didn't affect me as deeply as the first, but the mystery was compelling, and though I had a rough idea of the killer's identity and motives by halfway through the book, the details were a surprise. Also, I'm pretty sure I only figured that much out because I've been immersing myself in this time period through Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries and the accompanying novels by Kerry Greenwood. You start to recognize some of the tropes after a while. Rhyming slang, cocaine, poisoned tea... I didn't expect the Pilates, though....more
This is a higher caliber of historical fiction than I've been reading (mostly referring to Philippa Gregory's latest works). It uses actual metaphor,This is a higher caliber of historical fiction than I've been reading (mostly referring to Philippa Gregory's latest works). It uses actual metaphor, rich and detailed language, and interesting characters. That said, most of it didn't grab me and make me want to keep reading. There were definite high points--Matilda's escape from Oxford is super badass--and I liked the characters, but it was a bleak time in English history, so it's not exactly a fun and rollicking read. There's a lot of pain and grief waiting for these characters.
One thing I didn't expect is for this book to be told from multiple perspectives. I assumed we'd stay on Matilda the whole time, but we also get scenes focusing on Adeliza of Louvain, Brian FitzCount, and William D'Albini, and even a few peeks into Geoffrey and Henry II's perspectives. It's a good choice for this novel, because lots of the action takes place away from Matilda, and seeing her through others' eyes is interesting. I especially liked Brian's perspective. He's portrayed as someone who loves Matilda deeply but knows he can never be with her, and when he fights in her defense, he is horrified by warfare and develops something easily recognizable to modern readers as PTSD. Adeliza and Will's unlikely romance was delightful, and it was interesting to see two people basically on opposing sides of a political struggle forge a loving relationship with each other.
One complaint about the ending: (view spoiler)[I didn't find Adeliza's departure to be all that realistic. Why she would want to die surrounded by strangers instead of at her home with her loved ones is a mystery to me. I understand that she didn't want her children to see her wasting away, but she seemed so anguished about leaving them and Will that I kept going "why don't you just stay?" She says it "could be no other way," but that's not true at all. I'm glad we had the scene of her and Will reconciling at the very end, though. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I started reading Philippa Gregory with the Cousins' War series, and I liked those well enough. I didn't understand why all the reviews were so scathiI started reading Philippa Gregory with the Cousins' War series, and I liked those well enough. I didn't understand why all the reviews were so scathing and disappointed.
Well, now I get it. This book is worlds better than PG's most recent books. WORLDS. The characters feel like real people, not like puppets of historical figures. The writing is rich with description and detail. The dialogue is snappier and more natural. Compared to this, her recent books seem flat and uninteresting.
(Which is really a shame, because I love the Wars of the Roses era, while Tudor stuff doesn't interest me quite as much. If anyone knows of great books set in 15th-century England, please let me know.)
This book is the best kind of historical soap opera. There are beheadings, poisonings, possible incest, illicit gay affairs, secret pregnancies, and scandals galore. (I don't much care how accurate it all is, because it makes for great storytelling.) Mary Boleyn makes a great protagonist to witness all of this. While she starts out young, naive, and excited by all the flirting and glamour of the court, she quickly becomes disillusioned when her family uses her as a pawn to get themselves closer to the throne. Her own happiness matters not a bit to any of them, least of all Anne, her sister and rival, who schemes and manipulates her way into the king's favor at any cost.
It takes a long time, since she's naturally obedient and trusting, but eventually Mary develops the confidence to fight for her own happiness, and realizes there are more important things in life than being a Boleyn or being close to the king. Her simple romance and her times at her farmland home provide a welcome contrast to the glitzy, cutthroat world of the royal court. PG's later books could benefit from more depictions of life outside of court and away from royalty, I think, but that's hard to do when you make your protagonist a member of the royal family, as most of the Cousins' War protagonists are.
The heavy-handed foreshadowing that Gregory is so fond of is present in this book, but it doesn't go overboard. I do like the parts when everyone says Anne's baby is worthless because it's a girl. Um, I'm pretty sure that girl will grow up to prove you wrong a hundred times over....more
No but for serious, this is excellent stuff, and I fear some of it goes over my head. I feel I wouldThis book doesn't take place in Wolf Hall at all!
No but for serious, this is excellent stuff, and I fear some of it goes over my head. I feel I would need to read it a couple more times to really get it. The writing is beautiful, and Mantel succeeds where many writers of fiction about historical figures fail: she makes the characters seem real, seem human. Some of the best characters were Cromwell's wards, his surrogate sons and his real one. I want a book about Rafe now. Or, failing that, one about Marlinspike.
Yes, the book can be confusing, especially since everyone is named Thomas, Mantel eschews quotation marks for dialogue as often as she uses them, and you have to keep in mind that the word "he" always refers to Cromwell unless stated otherwise. (I actually wondered at one point if she had originally written the book in first person and then gone back and changed "I" to "he" everywhere.) It's sometimes difficult to tell who is speaking. But the character of Cromwell makes slogging through all that worth it for me. He is a character, for the most part, without blinders or rose-colored glasses. He has no illusions about the world. He is a man who Knows What Must Be Done to get a certain outcome, and he does it, unafraid to get his hands dirty with the grunt-work. He is not flawless--sometimes he's a bit oblivious to the emotions of those around him. I like that Mantel telegraphs them to us, the readers, even though Cromwell doesn't think about them until they're shoved in his face.
I'm reading this book on a sort of odyssey into fiction about 15th-16th century England, in hopes of gaining some kind of Understanding of the period. It was a time of fundamental uncertainty, in which you had to change rapidly with the times, and those who couldn't change, or refused to change, often met with bloody ends. (view spoiler)[The book ends with Cromwell at the peak of his power, but we know he doesn't stay there. (hide spoiler)] Interested to see where the next book goes.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Poor Anne Neville. It was not fun to be the daughter of the Kingmaker, the man who changed sides so easily in the hope of being the power behind the tPoor Anne Neville. It was not fun to be the daughter of the Kingmaker, the man who changed sides so easily in the hope of being the power behind the throne. She followed her father in his loyalties--what else could she do?--until he died and she was finally free to make her own choice.
Or was she? I enjoyed the courtship of Anne and Richard as portrayed in this book. It was delightfully romantic, but underneath that, some part of Anne understood that she was never truly free to make her own choices, that she was always a piece in someone else's game. She clung to Richard as her savior, but he was the only option she had. I like to think that they loved each other, but it seems realistic that there must have always been doubt in her mind, given all the scheming and dealing that went on during the Cousins' War.
Maybe it's just that I read The White Queen first, but I can't see Elizabeth Woodville as the villainous witch* she's portrayed as here. I realize that this is how Anne might have seen her, but I still don't understand the enmity towards her and her family that everyone (except Edward) seems to have felt. So she had a big family and she wanted to use her position as queen to give them advantageous places in society. Wouldn't you? She had power, and she used it, and in my mind, she won. I know she lost her first husband in battle and her second husband to illness (or possibly poison), and her sons, father, and brothers to the wars, but she died in her bed, at a respectable age for the time, having seen her daughter crowned queen. And her blood still runs in the royal family today. I'd say she did pretty well.
*(The magic stuff annoys me in this book way more than it did in The White Queen, because in TWQ we actually see the magic being done, while in this book I just want to shake everyone and scream MAGIC DOESN'T EXIST at them. Your sickly son suddenly dies? GEE MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE HE WAS SICKLY. Your sword arm hurts? MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE YOU HAVE SCOLIOSIS, RICHARD. I know, I know, they had no idea about medicine and shit. STILL.)
The story takes us up to the very end of Anne Neville's life, which I like, since many of the books in this series seem oddly unfinished. Since we know Anne didn't live to see her husband defeated by Henry Tudor, it doesn't seem unfinished to end the book before that happens. I think I'd rank this somewhere between The White Queen and The Lady of the Rivers in quality....more
I think Philippa Gregory does her best work when she stays away from the royals themselves and makes her protagonists less well-known characters--basiI think Philippa Gregory does her best work when she stays away from the royals themselves and makes her protagonists less well-known characters--basically, because she's allowed to make more stuff up. In some of her books, it feels like her characters are just biding their time until the next historical event happens. There are points in this book that feel that way, but by choosing Jacquetta of Luxembourg as her protagonist, Gregory allows herself the space to tell some compelling stories.
The romance between Jacquetta and Richard Woodville is utterly charming, and it's the book's greatest strength, in my opinion. It produced no less than fourteen children, so their marriage must have been a passionate one, and Gregory makes their story into a lovely fairy tale. I liked those bits the best, especially towards the beginning of the story, when they were falling in ~forbidden love~ with each other because she was a duchess and he was a lowly squire.
However, the rest of the book chronicles England's descent into the Wars of the Roses, and it's a depressing tale of crisis after crisis and battle after battle, with the victor switching from York to Lancaster and back again. Imagine how depressing it must have been to live in such a country. Jacquetta sticks close to Queen Margaret of Anjou for most of the book, so we get to see the queen through her eyes. We also see poor Henry VI and his descent into... whatever it was that plagued him. (My pet theory: encephalitis lethargica, with post-encephalitic parkinsonism.) It's a sad, bitter tale of a royal couple who are utterly unable to rule their country with anything close to fairness, Henry because he's barely aware of anything but his own prayers, and Margaret because she has made so many enemies and is determined to punish them all with death. The Yorks, on the other hand, are for the most part merciful and just, and run the country much better than the king and queen do. It's hard not to cheer for them, even though Jacquetta and her family are honor-bound to remain on the Lancaster side for as long as possible.
Philippa Gregory really, really likes to write about Jacquetta's visions and premonitions (and later, her daughter Elizabeth's), and they are always right, and it gets a bit tiring after a while. Like, of course she's always right, because you already know what happens, and WE already know what happens, so it's not actually that impressive. I did, however, enjoy the bits with the tarot cards and Fortune's Wheel. It's a good theme for the Wars of the Roses, since pretty much anyone involved in them rose and fell on the wheel multiple times before it was all over. Margaret of Anjou makes such an awful ruler because she can't accept any sort of defeat or loss. Henry VII in The White Princess is similar, and a ruler who must win at any cost, even the cost of the fair and just governing of their own country, is not what any country needs. Cough cough, American Republicans.
Some of the visions are annoying because they don't come true until chronologically later books in the series, and the book ends right as the events of The White Queen begin, which is an odd place to end. The book gets away from this a bit, but its main theme at first is that women who desire power, or dare to wield it, get punished severely. (The book opens with Jacquetta witnessing the burning death of Joan of Arc, and reflecting that the execution is public in order to show young women like her the consequences of attempting to be a powerful woman in a man's world.) Jacquetta fears being tried for witchcraft herself, but we never get to the point in her story when she actually is, so it feels half-finished.
Anyway, I have two minor logistical complaints to mention: The family tree in the front of my edition says that Jacquetta's son Louis died in infancy, when in fact he doesn't die until age twelve. And secondly, a character uses the phrase "can't tell a hawk from a handsaw" to refer to Henry VI, which is ridiculous because that phrase comes from Hamlet, and Shakespeare wouldn't be born for another hundred years. I can generally forgive the modern language in the book because it would be nearly unreadable otherwise, but don't use obvious Shakespearean phrases in a pre-Shakespeare novel!
The "White Queen" TV show has reignited my obsession with the fifteenth century, so here I am again devouring Philippa Gregory books. Disclaimer: I knThe "White Queen" TV show has reignited my obsession with the fifteenth century, so here I am again devouring Philippa Gregory books. Disclaimer: I know next to nothing about British history and history in general, so I can't speak to the historical accuracy of this book.
This one is compelling, but also pretty depressing. It continues where The White Queen left off, this time with Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII, as our protagonist. Even though Henry VII is an asshole, to his wife and to his country, it's fascinating to watch his descent into absolute paranoia, as he becomes convinced that everyone he knows is trying to bring him down and put a York king on the throne. Honestly, with everyone who was trying to take his throne, I'm kind of surprised that he kept it.
The story of the missing princes in the Tower also continues, with the younger prince, Richard, haunting Henry at every turn, either as someone else pretending to be him, or (maybe) as himself, miraculously having survived his imprisonment in the Tower. Gregory has Elizabeth Woodville switch Richard out with an impostor in The White Queen, and she strongly implies that he comes back in this book as "Perkin Warbeck." From what I understand--again, not a history expert--the "official" version of the Perkin Warbeck story has so many holes in it that it's almost certainly not the actual truth of whoever this young man was, so I have no problem with Gregory proposing that he was Richard of York. Honestly, it's as likely an ending as any other one to the Princes in the Tower story. Certainly at the time, enough people believed he was Richard (or wanted a York king and thought he was close enough), and threw their support behind him, that he was a giant inconvenience to Henry.
Elizabeth grows more and more horrified as her husband becomes obsessed with this boy to the point of taxing the country into starvation in order to finance wars against his supporters, and executing anyone who has anything to do with him. She compares him to her father, Edward IV, who ruled so easily because people loved him, while Henry is basically trying to bully the entire country into supporting him. It's easy to hate Henry, but the book ends on a poignant note, as he realizes just how far his obsession has taken him and the price he has had to pay for his kingship....more
Anything with the words "Princes in the Tower" somewhere in the description gets my attention, and I was inApparently having royal blood really sucks.
Anything with the words "Princes in the Tower" somewhere in the description gets my attention, and I was interested right away in these intertwining stories of two women, one Richard III's illegitimate daughter and one a possible heir to the throne in Tudor England. The parallels between them are striking, and Weir deftly weaves their lives together. Both were branded traitors after their families fell out of royal favor, both were forbidden to marry those they loved, and both suffered innumerable sorrows simply because of their royal blood.
Keeping the two stories straight in my head was difficult at first--perhaps they were a bit too similar. But Weir wisely tells one story in first person and one in third, and it becomes easier after a short while to differentiate between the two. Both of the girls--for they are girls at first, barely out of childhood--start off somewhat naive, and go through the tragedy of seeing their hopes dashed and their heroes brought low.
Katherine "Kate" Plantagenet's view of her father, Richard III, is more sympathetic than many accounts, and the impression is that of a loving father and husband who slowly gets caught up in his own paranoia and starts seeing threats to himself everywhere. Kate, after hearing the rumors that he killed the Princes in the Tower, vows to find out the truth and clear his name. She writes down some of her theories, and these are discovered decades later by Katherine Grey, the other protagonist of the book, who eventually becomes obsessed with learning the answer to the mystery of the princes as well. Grey feels something of a mystical connection to this other Katherine, as though in death her ghost is determined to discover the truth she could not find in life.
By the end of the book I got the impression that being a royal woman during these times was more of a curse than a blessing. You were used as a pawn by those seeking to gain power, forced to marry (or NOT marry) against your will, and you were basically powerless to change your fate. Sometimes your efforts got you locked in the Tower of London, and sometimes, through no fault of your own, your head got cut off.
This book was enjoyable and compelling, and made me want to read more about the time periods described in the book. It's the first book of Weir's I've read, and I will definitely be picking up more of her work....more
I learned from this book that everyone in England (and most of Western Europe) is either named Richard, Edward, George, Elizabeth, or Margaret. SeriouI learned from this book that everyone in England (and most of Western Europe) is either named Richard, Edward, George, Elizabeth, or Margaret. Seriously, how do you keep them all straight? Even the protagonist, who already has a son named Richard, goes and names another son Richard just for the hell of it. WHY.
This book concerns the wars between the Lancaster and York houses of English royalty, and it sounds like an uncertain and brutal time, with alliances and kings changing every few years. (Spoiler alert: Henry Tudor eventually becomes King of England. Everyone else dies, although not all of them in this book.) Both sides have victories and defeats, and I like that all sides are shown to have done awful things in their quests for the throne. However, the book is pretty packed with events, and the pace moves too fast at times to really get a sense for what's happening and how it's affecting the characters.
I picked up this book because of the mystery of the Princes in the Tower, which is one of those great Unsolved Mysteries of history. (There are apparently two skeletons that are thought to be those of the two boys. I wish they'd dig them up and test them again, just to solve the damn mystery, but there are probably reasons why they haven't.) I always like fictional explanations for historical mysteries, although this one never fully answers the question of what happened to the boys. I wish it had gone on a bit longer. The protagonist, Elizabeth Woodville, lays a curse on the man who murdered her son, that his firstborn son might die also, but we never find out whether or not the curse comes to fruition. I suppose the book must leave it ambiguous because it's not known in real life what happened, but that's no fun.
I liked the The Mists of Avalon flavor the book had, since Elizabeth and her mother were both rumored to be witches and in this book they manage to cause a lot of plot points. Of course, these are all things that may have happened anyway, such as a torrential rainstorm that lasts for days, or the king falling in love with a commoner. But it's more fun to say it's ~magic~. The myth of Melusina is woven throughout the story in interesting ways as well.
In all, an entertaining read, but not among the best historical novels out there....more
I've been reading a lot of historical novels lately, and I quite enjoyed this one. While it has the familiar backdrop of Tudor England, with all the dI've been reading a lot of historical novels lately, and I quite enjoyed this one. While it has the familiar backdrop of Tudor England, with all the drama and heartbreak and beheadings you'd expect, the addition of an original character as the narrator gives the story new life. As a secret Jew pretending to be Christian, Hannah is uniquely placed to comment on the religious persecutions brought about by the Spanish Inquisition and, eventually, Queen Mary I. She's also an engaging and likeable character whose own story was often more interesting to me than the Tudors'. She would have made a great Young Adult heroine--this book would be a good Alex Award-type crossover, in fact.
I was also fascinated with the portrayal of Elizabeth in this novel. It is set before her reign begins, when she is a young princess not sure if she will ever win the throne. She's portrayed as a shameless flirt who ensnares other women's husbands for the pleasure of it, but when you look deeper you find a woman determined to use every scrap of power she has in order to survive in the (literally) cutthroat world she was born into. She knows better than most how quickly a country's favor can turn to or against a monarch, and during a time when she could have been declared a traitor and killed like so many others, her flirting and seducing might have saved her life.
Hannah's story, though, is what ultimately makes this book work. By showing us the perspective of someone other than the royal family and the court, we see how the grand drama of the monarchs affected the lives of the lesser-known citizens of the country. In a time when the country went from Catholic to Protestant and back again in a few short decades, your beliefs could cost you your life, and Hannah knows that better than anyone....more
This was a lot of fun. I loved the feminist theme running through the book, as well as the examination of race and passing for white. I can't wait toThis was a lot of fun. I loved the feminist theme running through the book, as well as the examination of race and passing for white. I can't wait to see what happens to Mary next....more
I went into this story expecting a light detective novel, and what I found was something completely different. A portrait of a country chanOh. Oh wow.
I went into this story expecting a light detective novel, and what I found was something completely different. A portrait of a country changed by World War I and the mental and physical scars carried by its citizens. A portrayal of a detective who puts compassion first, always, in her investigations. Maisie Dobbs is seriously inspiring me to be a better person right now. I knew I would like this book, but I had no idea how much....more