Thursday, May 03, 2012

Book Review: "The Other Queen"

Philippa Gregory is a master at writing historical fiction. If you've seen the film "The Other Boleyn Girl," you've seen a movie based on one of her novels. If you enjoyed it, I highly suggest you read the book as it is much richer in detail and history. It's not dry or boring in the least; her writing is entertaining and interesting every bit of the way. As she herself admits, not everything in her books is based on fact because not all the facts are known. When this happens, she fictionalizes plausible events or occurrences based on the information she knows. When you glance at the Bibliography at the end of each of her books, you'll realize how much research she does before writing her books. It's astounding.

The Other Queen features Mary Queen of Scots. She sought help from her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England when her life was threatened in Scotland. Mary fled to England to save her life, but quickly realized how difficult it was becoming to get back to her throne in Scotland. Elizabeth I felt threatened by Mary's own claim to the throne of England, and she and her adviser were hesitant to let Mary go back to Scotland without promises that she would not attempt to claim the throne of England. Mary became involved in plots against Elizabeth and soon found herself a prisoner of England instead of a guest of England; eventually, she was on trial for her life.

The book also follows the Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife, who were charged with keeping Mary during her stay in England. Both of them seemed to factor largely in Mary's day-to-day life during her time in England; gradually, she became a punishment for them, rather than the honor they first thought it would be.

What I enjoyed about The Other Queen, was the conflicting emotions I felt throughout. At times I admired and liked Mary, while at others I utterly despised her. I felt sorry for the Earl of Shrewsbury, but at other times thought he was an imbecile. His wife at times made me think she was the most selfish and cold-hearted person ever to live, while other times I empathized with her plight.

It was an enlightening read, and I went through a range of emotions while reading it: excitement, frustration, sadness, empathy, annoyance, and happiness, to name a few! Although it wasn't my favorite novel of Gregory's, it was one I'll probably end up adding to my repertoire of re-reads.

If you're interested, my favorites from this author are The Other Boleyn Girl and The Constant Princess. The first focuses on Anne Boleyn's sister, Mary, while the second focuses on Henry VIII's first wife Katherine in her younger years. Over the last few years I've become very interested in anything involving Henry VIII - so much so that I bought the history book The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir. I'm not much of a purely historical literature person (although I wish I were), but this book was excellent. It does not read like the history textbooks you might remember from school; instead, it pulls you through the lives of the wives of Henry VIII so quickly and easily that you're sure you must be reading fiction. Definitely check 'em out!


  1. I love all of Phillipa Gregory's works - I haven't read this one yet. After reading the other Boleyn, I went a little crazy and read a whole bunch of nonfiction work as well on the subject. It's amazing how closely her books match history!

    1. Yes! It's totally addicting once you start! She's a great author.