Sep 19, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme created by Marcia from A girl and her books (formerly The Printed Page) where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week. Mailbox Monday is now  on tour, and this month’s host is Amused by Books. For review, I received the following three:


Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir
I have been coveting this biography on Henry VIII's famous mistress for quite awhile, and now that it is finally here, I am swamped with books to read. Of course.
From Ballantime Books, October 4, 2011:

 Mary Boleyn (c.1500-1543) was no less fascinating than her ill-fated queen consort sister Anne. In fact, her own claims to fame are numerous: She was not only an influential member of King Henry VIII's court circle; she was one of his mistresses and perhaps the mother of two of his children. In addition, the apparently prolific Mary was rumored to have been also a mistress of the King's rival, Francis I of France. Alison Weir's Mary Boleyn substantially redeems her subject's reputation by disputing her scandalous portrayal in Philippa Gregory's novel The Other Boleyn Girl. Our most detailed view yet of a power behind the throne. (P.S. With titles like Elizabeth and The Lady in the Tower, Weir has carved out a niche as one of the foremost biographers of British royalty).

Alison Weir will also soon visit the USA for her book tour, visit her site for an updated list of dates.

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie
I have heard great things about this author, but haven't had the chance to read any of his work thus far. I have read that this new biography reads like a novel, and since I know nothing of Catherine the Great, I am intrigued!
From Random House, November 8, 2011:
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs returns with another masterpiece of narrative biography, the extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and rose to become one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.


Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into Empress of Russia by sheer determination. Possessing a brilliant mind and an insatiable curiosity as a young woman, she devoured the works of Enlightenment philosophers and, when she reached the throne, attempted to use their principles to guide her rule of the vast and backward Russian empire. She knew or corresponded with the preeminent historical figures of her time: Voltaire, Diderot, Frederick the Great, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, Marie Antoinette, and, surprisingly, the American naval hero, John Paul Jones.


Reaching the throne fired by Enlightenment philosophy and determined to become the embodiment of the “benevolent despot” idealized by Montesquieu, she found herself always contending with the deeply ingrained realities of Russian life, including serfdom. She persevered, and for thirty-four years the government, foreign policy, cultural development, and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars, and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution that swept across Europe. Her reputation depended entirely on the perspective of the speaker. She was praised by Voltaire as the equal of the greatest of classical philosophers; she was condemned by her enemies, mostly foreign, as “the Messalina of the north.”


Catherine’s family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers, and enemies—all are here, vividly described. These included her ambitious, perpetually scheming mother; her weak, bullying husband, Peter (who left her lying untouched beside him for nine years after their marriage); her unhappy son and heir, Paul; her beloved grandchildren; and her “favorites”—the parade of young men from whom she sought companionship and the recapture of youth as well as sex. Here, too, is the giant figure of Gregory Potemkin, her most significant lover and possible husband, with whom she shared a passionate correspondence of love and separation, followed by seventeen years of unparalleled mutual achievement.


The story is superbly told. All the special qualities that Robert K. Massie brought to Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter the Great are present here: historical accuracy, depth of understanding, felicity of style, mastery of detail, ability to shatter myth, and a rare genius for finding and expressing the human drama in extraordinary lives.


History offers few stories richer in drama than that of Catherine the Great. In this book, this eternally fascinating woman is returned to life.
And now for some fiction, His Last Duchess by Gabrielle Kimm:

The chilling story of Lucrezia de Medici, duchess to Alfonso d'Este, His Last Duchess paints a portrait of a lonely young girl and her marriage to an inscrutable duke. Lucrezia longs for love, Alfonso desperately needs an heir, and in a true story of lust and dark decadence, the dramatic fireworks the marriage kindles threaten to destroy the duke's entire inheritance-and Lucrezia's future. His Last Duchess gorgeously brings to life the passions and people of sixteenth-century Tuscany and Ferrara.

Originally published in 2010, Sourcebooks is reissuing for October 2011 publication.  I am intrigued to see how this one differs from Loupas' The Second Duchess, which I really enjoyed.

Which of these titles has caught your eye? I am looking forward to all of these!