For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been living in two worlds: my usual world, of course, the one with the two lively preschoolers, and another world, the one of 15th century England, with its restless struggles for not only a kingdom’s power but its respect.
Many a night I escaped into this second world of Philippa Gregory’s The White Princess, but it is historical fiction rather than escapist literature. For one, this second world is much more stressful than my own world and not really a situation in which I’d want to live: A nice girl, with whom I can somehow relate even though she is born a princess, falls in love with a king (who I think may have also been her uncle but I’m still not totally clear on this), is forced to marry the new king who killed the king/lover/uncle, ends up loving the new king and having his children, and then has to worry about an invasion by her long-lost brother. Because kings with little support still have no intention of giving up their power, it’s really a no-win situation for her – either her husband dies or her brother dies.
Apparently this is the final book in Gregory’s The Cousins War series though I haven’t read the others in this series.
The book is high stress, and I’m pretty sure it sent me to sleep a few times with anxiety. Lots of heads roll, literally, and that is probably the most favorable way to be put to death that Gregory depicts. Still, I am (and have been for some time) obsessed with this world of Tudor England.
Many of the books I spend my time reading (and blogging about) include passages that make me stop and say, “whoa, that is beautiful, let me read that again” (and let me quote that passage in my blog…). This is not one of those books. I’m not saying it’s not well written; it’s just written in a way where you don’t even notice how it is written: not good, not bad, it just reads. I really don’t remember the language, I only remember the story. I dog-eared no passages to share with you.
For this reason, I sometimes have trouble accepting such books as valuable reads. I’m not sure this is fair.
Personally, I do see value in the book as historical knowledge. Perhaps a historian would disagree. But the characters are based on real people and historical events; this particular author has done a ton of research, just look at the bibliography at the end.
So after being entertained (though stressfully) for several nights, I have filled in Henry VIII’s childhood, bringing me up to her next set of books, which I was previously obsessed with, that begin with The Other Boleyn Girl. Now those are some books I tore though. The White Princess took me a bit longer though my real world wasn’t as busy when I read the others.
I’ll likely be returning to the “classics” for my next read, hopefully leaving the book with many underlined passages and dog-ears, but it’s good to know that pre-Tudor England is always waiting for me.
Gregory, Philippa. The White Princess. New York: Touchstone, 2013.