I happily stumbled upon Philippa Gregory over two years ago, after running out of books while on vacation in Mexico–THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL was available on the hotel’s open bookshelf. I was immediately taken, particularly by Gregory’s ability to take a familiar story and provide life in details that only academic historians would know–in TOBG, it was the intriguing story of Mary Boleyn, sister of the infamous Anne. Gregory does it again with the story of the “Princes in the Tower,” one of the true great unsolved mysteries of history.
In this case, the story of the Princes comes very late in the book THE WHITE QUEEN; rather, Gregory concentrates on building the extensive history of the Plantagenets and the Wars of the Roses via the first person narration by their mother, Elizabeth Woodville, who rises from widowed commoner to Queen of the York King Edward. The story spans the years 1464-1485, in which England saw vicious battles between cousins, brothers, fathers & sons for power in an evolving monarchy.
THE WHITE QUEEN provides the reader a view into an era of English history less well-known than that of the Tudors; a sympathetic view of an ambitious queen to whom history was not kind; and a compelling theory on the fate of the York Princes Edward and Richard, imprisoned in the Tower of London for being threats to the claim of their uncle to the throne. Unfortunately, for me, the book had some flaws difficult to overcome, including the overuse of supernatural elements that often stretched the story’s believability; and a lack of tension to make key parts of the story become real to the reader. I also was disappointed by the lack of historical details that I felt were so rich in some of her other books; details that could have made the stories come to life.
This is the first in a planned trilogy by Gregory on the Plantagenets; future books will look at the stories of two women introduced in THE WHITE QUEEN, including Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter, the mother of Henry VIII.
Melissa Klug is an avid reader of historical fiction and non-fiction, particularly Tudor era England. She works for Glatfelter and directs an initiative called Permanence Matters which educates the literary community on the declining usage of high-quality paper by the publishing industry (www.permanencematters.com).