Tocotin's Reviews > The Other Queen

The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory
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Feb 25, 2011

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bookshelves: contemporary-literature, historical-fiction, my-own-books, used-books
Read from February 21 to 25, 2011 — I own a copy

It was a fast, if a bit choppy, easy read about the imprisonment years of Mary Queen of Scots, told from three points of view (Mary, her jailer George Talbot, and his wife Bess of Hardwick). The whole story happens almost exclusively between Mary, George and Bess, with only an occasional appearance from William Cecil, queen Elizabeth, and Norfolk.

All three main characters are prone to whining: Mary about her sacred status as a queen, Bess about her wealth which is rapidly diminishing due to the expense of maintaining Mary's household, and George about his honor and, later, love towards Mary. I think only Bess warrants some sympathy, as both Mary and George (in particular) are portrayed as simply too stupid to live. Mary has at least one thing going for her in this book, namely the powerful connection between her and Bothwell. George is just an insufferable ninny.

Despite the author's obvious efforts, I found myself on Elizabeth and Cecil's (who in this book is essentially a fusion of Cecil and Francis Walsingham) side. They were doing what they deemed necessary to avoid the restoration of Catholicism and falling under Spanish influence - all very understandable given the experiences of the English in the times of Bloody Mary and Philip on the throne; and I won't say anything about Mary Queen of Scot's declarations about "tolerance" LOL.

Last but not least, there is a considerable confusion with attitudes of some of the characters. For example, Bess is talking constantly about how one of her previous husbands managed to amass considerable wealth by robbing monasteries and accepting bribes from Catholics, and she calls her possessions "stolen" and the procedure of acquiring them "stealing". Frankly, I don't see how she could admit it so bluntly, being so proud and upright as the book depicts her - she would have phrased it differently at the least. Also, the way Mary and the people who were loyal to her called themselves and their side "Papist" all the time - why? It's not a neutral word, but a derogatory term, used mainly against Catholics by their opponents, and not by Catholics themselves.

All in all, it was all right, but I'm happy I didn't pay the full price for this book.
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