CELIA's Reviews > The Constant Princess

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
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Dec 20, 07

Read in December, 2007

For me, Gregory's big problem is point of view. Her first-person narratives are fantastic, but her third-person ones suck. Here is an interesting combo: The Constant Princess is written mostly in third, but with about just as much in first-person asides that aren't really justifiable in any way. Are they journal entries from the protagonist, Katherine of Aragon? Just musings? Often, the narratives overlap, which could be interesting, but really just comes off as jarring. I don't really get what she's trying to do; obviously, many of her books revolve around Henry VIII, so writing each first-person would not have been too repetitive, and would have added to the strength of her Tudor novels, which is her uncanny ability to see these characters each in a different light. Although she's written about the court of Henry VIII several times now, each new focus manages to be fresh. I don't know why she just didn't write Katherine's story first person.
That being said, I did enjoy it. Katherine's a great character, and she picks her up early enough so that we see her grow, drops her off right at the Boleyn moment. It's also the first time we see Henry so young, and that was interesting, especially knowing what we know about whom he would become. The secondary characters aren't that great, however, despite--and this is what gets me--the switches to third-person narration. The best one is Henry's older brother, Arthur, but the love story between him and Katherine is rather sappy and contrived, very Scheherazade. Very.
So basically this one's flawed but still plotted, so nowhere near as horrible as The Virgin's Lover. Anyway I'm hooked on Gregory even despite her faults. Not really sure why; she's a good character writer, I think, creates very human ones. I'd love to see her tackle Henry straight on, as protagonist. You hear me, Philippa?
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