Feb 15, 2013

To The Tower Born by Robin Maxwell



To The Tower Born by Robin Maxwell
Published September 2005

In 1483, Edward and Richard of York--Edward, by law, already King of England--were placed, for their protection before Edward's coronation, in the Tower of London by their uncle Richard. Within months the boys disappeared without a trace, and for the next five hundred years the despised Richard III was suspected of their heartless murders.

In To the Tower Born, Robin Maxwell ingeniously imagines what might have happened to the missing princes. The great and terrible events that shaped a kingdom are viewed through the eyes of quick-witted Nell Caxton, only daughter of the first English printer, and her dearest friend, "Bessie," sister to the lost boys and ultimate founder of the Tudor dynasty. It is a thrilling story brimming with mystery, color, and historical lore. With great bravery and heart, two friends navigate a dark and treacherous medieval landscape rendered more perilous by the era's scheming, ambitious, even murderous men and women who will stop at nothing to possess the throne.

Robin Maxwell reimagines the world surrounding the lost princes in the tower, whom many believe Richard III was somehow responsible for their death/disappearance. No one knows what happened to the boys. I really enjoyed reading Alison Weir's Princes in the Tower in 2008/9, and I should have just re-read that one to get 'my fix' on the princes, because this read just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Maxwell creates a set of new events to fictionalize the story and from the start of this novel some things were just rubbing the wrong way, such as calling the family of Richard III, "The Gloucesters", or the use of the 'word' misliked. Or the nickname for Queen Elizabeth of York, Bessie. The use of the word cunny, which she used to specify a part of the female anatomy. Bessie was vicious to her mother Elizabeth Woodville. Nell and Antony (sic) Rivers fall in love. They are joyous at Fat King Edward's death which puts their charge little Edward on the throne. Bessie has a horribly uncontrollable crush on her uncle. As I went through more implausible events of the story, I wondered if I should go on, because quite frankly, I hated the whole thing.. pretty much when I got to this part that Nell said to Bessie, "... Though I cannot pop little kings and queens out my cunny." (page 63).. I just banged my head. I even talked to my husband about these things that were bugging me, and we don't ever ever ever talk about books, he's a football and steak kinda guy and that's about it.

But I had invested two days of painstakingly reading every word up to page 90 or so, and it was then I decided to just read it very fast and be done as soon as possible, band aid style. I did want to know what the whole mystery of the princes thing would turn out to be in this telling. And I did want to be able to cross this book off of my 2013 TBR Challenge list.

This was not a 'solicited for review' type of read, it's a personal copy that doesn't have a review requirement attached to it, so I am not going to give all of my knee jerk reactions (out of respect for those that did enjoy it) except to say I couldn't recommend this one personally. Also, there are readers who enjoy her books and there are some who don't, and now Maxwell is one for two with me. I did enjoy Robin Maxwell's O Juliet novel from a few years ago, so I think that perhaps the subject matter here is just something I am tired of having redone over and over and pointing fingers where there is no proof of anything at all, and totally reinventing stuff for fun just didn't work for me this time. The caveat is that if I had read this four or five years ago, I can see myself enjoying it, but I've read so many accounts with Richard III and his family in them that I now prefer a more serious type of historical atmosphere surrounding the events.

What happened to those poor boys? All I can say is, who put the boys in the tower? In the end, there were just simply too many eye roll moments to appreciate this new theory. I am also wishful that authors would leave cunny style words out their works. I can't say it much better than this wonderful person, may she rest in peace.

Feel free to read these positive reviews instead:
Examiner Article
Livin & Loving
Carpe Librum
Historical-fiction.com

For those who would like to learn more about the Princes and their lives (these are all non-fiction):
I've read these two books thus far and can recommend: Elizabeth Woodville: Mother of the Princes in the Tower by David Baldwin and The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir but both before my reviewing in 2008 and thus there are no reviews by me- sadness. Another one I read was The Wars of the Roses by Weir which was a lot of names and dates and took at least three weeks to read because it was my introduction to the era; I feel it gives an accurate portrayal of the times and who was where at what time and is on my To Be Re-Read List.

Also on my shelf to read are more non-fiction books:
Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes by Betram Fields
The Lost Prince: The Survival of Richard of York by David Baldwin


And for those who really want to know what happened to the princes according to Maxwell's book..
highlight with your mouse:

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER 
So when Maxwell states the book has been lauded by the Richard III Society, you can deduce who she says didn't do it. Those who don't think he did it believe the Tudors did it. Henry VII was not around but his mother Margaret Beaufort was... so Margaret locked them in a dungeon and Nell and her web of spies saves them so that they apparently live happily ever after, but we don't really know about that at all because the ending just kinda ended.

7 comments:

  1. I appreciate your honest thoughts, Marie. I felt the same way about her novel, The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn. It had been on my TBR list for a couple of years and I was determined to read it this year and mark it off my list. The use of some pretty crude words made me cringe added nothing to the story, as well as some far-fetched historical liberties.

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    1. Thanks Joanne.. I hate feeling so repelled by an author's book, but this just wasn't for me obviously!!!

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  2. Thanks for sharing your feelings, Marie -- this is definitely a pass for me. As we briefly acknowledged on GoodReads, it seems like Maxwell can be really hit-or-miss with her novels. I hadn't really been a fan but her Jane actually won me over last fall.

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  3. Thanks for the honest review, Marie! I haven't read anything by this author yet but I do have Jane on my bookshelf. I will start with that one since it sounds like people do enjoy it.

    I read Alison Weir's book a few years ago and also really enjoyed that book. I would love to find a really good novel based on the Princes in the Tower because it is just such a fascinating mystery so I will keep looking!

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  4. I really appreciate your honest thoughts on this book, Marie. Based on your feedback I know this one isn't for me -- I would also take issue with the same things you did.

    Have you read Sharon Kay Penman's The Sunne in Splendour? It's a fabulous look at the Wars of the Roses period and the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III. Penman is sympathetic towards Richard, and gives an entirely plausible account of the fate of the two princes. I have been firmly pro-Richard III since reading this book.

    I really want to read the Bertram Field book, and have read the David Baldwin book. As much as I'd like to believe at least one of the two princes survived, I'm not sure I agree with Baldwin's theories. Although they provide definite food for thought.

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    1. Even though I would find it odd that a prince survived also I do want to read about David Baldwin's research. And I haven't read Sunne in Splendour!! It's been on the back burner for so long. :(

      I find that when I read novels with R3, if the author writes engagingly enough, I end up believing whatever they want us to believe regarding R3. I have flip-flopped on my views because of some authors' swaying me this way and that. I can foresee Penman swaying me towards Ricardian also!

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  5. This isn't one of my favourites either. My favourite Richard III novel would have to be Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman - it's long but such a fantastic read.

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