Marissa's Reviews > The Constant Princess

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
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's review
Dec 30, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: genre-fiction, tag-tudor, era-early-modern, geo-england-etc

This book is, in my opinion, Gregory’s best novel. Some historical fiction can be a little too tawdry for my taste. (But don’t get me wrong, tawdry is awesome as long as it’s accompanied by some substance I can sink my teeth into). Gregory’s novels can lose this balance every now and then and she is sometimes guilty of repetitive phrases that can force your mind to wander. I did not notice these pitfalls in this particular novel. There are, of course, passionate love scenes (because what hf would be complete without them?!?!?) But she does it with enough nuance that I found that not only did I not mind it, but it truly enriched the story. It was a little hard to get into at first, as military history was my downfall in college and it begins describing Catherine of Aragon’s life as the youngest daughter of the Catholic warmongers Ferdinand and Isabella. Tudorphiles often forget that Catherine of Aragon was the infanta. She was quite beautiful when she was young and she was the daughter of Spain’s most glorious monarchs. Needless to say, I found myself drawn into the story. I was extremely emotionally affected by many episodes in the book and by Gregory's interpretation of Catherine’s oh-so-debated virginity after her first husband’s (Arthur) death. In fact, had to put the book down for a week because I couldn't think about anything else and it was really getting to me. It reads like an alternative history and it breaks your heart to think that this woman, who is so often portrayed as the dowdy, helpless first wife of the infamous Henry VIII, could have lived such a painfully sweet existence. The ending is abrupt but necessary for your sanity after the heartbreak that you will feel throughout the book's duration. I recommend this novel for amateur and professional historians everywhere but beware: you must have not let your historical prowess get the best of you. Just enjoy the story for what it is.
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03/17/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Karla (last edited Nov 20, 2012 04:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Karla I really liked the portion of the book that took place in Spain. It's true - often readers (myself included) forget that she was more than the wife Henry wanted to get rid of. She came from a dynamic family with its own share of problems, especially her sister Juana. Now there's a basketcase.....

Marissa I never really thought of it either!

Marissa This was one of the first hf books I ever read and it's so weird how I treated it in my review, as if I was letting the lack of historical evidence slide. Now I read it and I think duh! It's FICTION

Jemidar I thought this was a great "what if?' and enjoyed as such. I also really liked the background info in Spain as I didn't know much about it at the time. I do wish PG would get back to writing books like this again.

message 5: by Karla (last edited Nov 20, 2012 06:08AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Karla Marissa wrote: "This was one of the first hf books I ever read and it's so weird how I treated it in my review, as if I was letting the lack of historical evidence slide. Now I read it and I think duh! It's FICTION"

Agreed. I do appreciate dramatic license. Sometimes adhering to the facts with half-hearted imaginings in-between really are stifling. I always want the author to just go for it and really let fly and when they don't, I feel like they're timid or something. (Of course some HF simply stinks and nothing can save them.) This book in particular emphasized the romantic side of Katherine and I thought her relationship with Arthur was endearing. Felt sorry for her and what "could have been."

Jemidar Yes, we often forget about Arthur and 'what could've been.' That's also what I liked about this book.

message 7: by Karla (last edited Nov 20, 2012 07:30AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Karla Arthur not dying would make for some interesting alternative history, that's for sure. I wonder if the same genetic issues that made Henry VIII unable to procreate effectively would have similarly dogged a Katherine/Arthur marriage?

Jemidar Interesting question. None of the Tudor's seemed to procreate easily.

Marissa I had just gotten engaged at the time that I was reading this so I cried hysterically when Arthur died. I couldn't stop imagining what it would be like to lose my soon-to-be-husband. I had to put the book down for a while because I was so upset.

Karla Jemidar wrote: "Interesting question. None of the Tudor's seemed to procreate easily."

And that whole Church of England thing would have turned out differently or not at all or happened much later. Fun to ponder!

Jemidar Probably not at all because there would've been an heir and a spare. If Arthur and Katherine hadn't had princes then Henry might've. Actually, Henry definitely would've because he was convinced he didn't have sons because he married his dead brothers wife...or so he said.

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