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Feb 16, 2009

Review: "The Other Queen" by Phillipa Gregory

I found this portrait on All It is an interpretation of Mary Queen of Scots, and her son, James VI/I.
This depicts the beauty that has always been described of her. Obviously Mary and James were not together for very long so this scene is just from someones' imagination. Also in my 'Images of Mary' endeavor, I found this collection which was quite interesting at the National Portrait Gallery. I definitely could get lost on that site and have a grand time doing so. I can't put pics here from the NPG unless I pay them. But AllPosters does the custom framing for you and I would love to have a library of my own with wonderful portraits of the people I love to read about! What fun!

"THE OTHER QUEEN" -Another novel on Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. It opens up with Bess of Hardwick (LOVE HER!) narrating and Mary is just being 'sheltered' in England. The first impression when beginning this book is I do not enjoy the switching back and forth between narrators. The author had done this before and I did an internal sigh when I realized it was happening again. Sometimes it works, sometimes it gets aggravating. It is narrated by Bess, her husband George Talbot, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and Mary. Once you are trying to get absorbed in the story, the chapter is finished and it's time for another narrator to catch up.
I disliked this version of the character of Mary, Queen of Scots right away with her sanctimonious attitude and how near her station is to God that she believes herself to be due to the bloodline of royalty in her veins. Which is how the royalty see themselves and how they are expected to be treated, which is fine. But the way she speaks of it is simply bragging and grates on your nerves. In previous novels Mary is portrayed as being more passionate or sensitive. Here we only get a glimpse of Mary believing she should rule both England and Scotland, and that she is eager to participate in plots of her escape. She disguises herself as a sweet and tender woman but narrates the story as a shrewd woman very willing to promote violence in order for her release.

The novel is opening to where Mary is brought from Bolton Castle to Tutbury in 1568. The positive side of the three narrators is of course you get all three point of views, but it just makes for annoying reading at times. It is rare to contemplate George Talbot's true feelings, most books I have read did not really consider his thoughts on the keeping of Mary, other than I always remember him wanting to be paid more for his expenses. Here we see George becoming enamored with Mary, becoming so much so as to be in love with her. He begins as simply believing that she is a Queen and should be restored to her crown in Scotland. But that is not what the Secretary of State, William Cecil, would like. Mary will always be his thorn since he believes Scotland should be under English command. He will stop at nothing to see her ruined, dead, beheaded, etc.

In this version of George, he has fallen in love with Mary. He does not seem to care for the expenses as much as Bess does. Bess realizes that George is besotted with the Queen, but tells us that her property, her estates, her legacy to her children are more important than any man. She is very upset that George could jeopardize their well-being with their own Queen Elizabeth I due to his quiet admiration of Mary. Let the plotting begin.. one after the other...George and his fellow Protestant lords are eager to marry the Catholic Mary to the Duke of Norfolk, and get sons off of her that can rule both Scotland and England. Poor Elizabeth will not choose a man, will not marry, and this is causing an unsettling feeling with the Englishmen, questioning the succession of the crown. The nobles also despise Elizabeth's adviser, Cecil, being that he is a nobody and not with a heritage of nobility behind him such as George Talbot and his friends.

Bess's narration is perhaps the only thing that seems close to reality in this book. She is a headstrong woman who is adamant to preserve her fortune that she has collected due to her wonderful mathematical ability and the fact the three husbands before her have left her something to add to her estates. She seems to have feelings for George, as they have not been married for long when the story opens up. She soon realizes that perhaps he is not as worthy as he could be once he begins to show his puppy love for Mary. He is to go before Queen Elizabeth to see what part he played in letting treasonous letters and plots be brought to Mary. Bess is outraged that everything that she has worked for her whole life and the prosperity of her future is put at risk all because of George. She falls out of love quickly.

As I read this I have had thoughts that most of the events would not be true. The Earl's love for Mary, Mary meeting Anthony Babington when he is 8 years old, the hatred Mary feels for Bess because Bess is jealous.. The letters to Bothwell while he is in a Denmark prison and pretty much everything else that happens in the last half of the book. This becomes annoying so much so that I have to keep telling me this is fiction, please stop worrying about it. I fight the desire to stop reading it. I do not have much left to read, the chapters always begin with the Season and and Year, and I am still on 1571 which is odd since there are another 16 years left to her captivity. So I looked ahead and the rest of the chapters are 1572 with it finally jumping to 1587 and ending there. Imagine I had to read for the full 16+ years of this yuck?! I don't know how the book will end, we can obviously make an educated guess but I will read it to see how it does end just out of morbid curiosity, since whatever it does end with will be such a farce getting there.

For the average person who just wants a good story, perhaps this is the book for them. If you are interested in Mary Queen of Scots and the events truly surrounding her life, then do not even read the book. It would not be worth the time. I was definitely not as eager to continue the story as I was with the fictional Mary Stuart books by Jean Plaidy. Therefore if you are in the mood for the fictionalized historical account Mary Stuart, I would recommend Jean Plaidy's books from the previous posts, and not Phillippa Gregory. This book just seemed like one character's whine to the next.

I now understand the furor caused by Tudor Historians when Gregory's book "The Other Boleyn Girl" was made into a movie. Many were incensed that this movie would be the cause of such a fascination with British History. I must humbly admit that her book is what drew me to my own interest in this era, but at least I knew better to start reading non-fiction so I could get the facts straight. That was a good book for those wanting an introduction to the Henry VIII period. One must then read a few more books to get a true sense of the era. Phillipa's next book is "The White Queen" and I have dutifully deleted that from my wishlist at Amazon.

Back to this review though: DO NOT READ 'THE OTHER QUEEN'! 0 of 5 stars

(note to self: never never pre-order a book without reading reviews!)