Posts Tagged With: England

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

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Synopsis:

Splendid and sumptuous historical novel from this internationally bestselling author, telling of the early life of Katherine of Aragon. We think of her as the barren wife of a notorious king; but behind this legacy lies a fascinating story. Katherine of Aragon is born Catalina, the Spanish Infanta, to parents who are both rulers and warriors. Aged four, she is betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, and is raised to be Queen of England. She is never in doubt that it is her destiny to rule that far-off, wet, cold land. Her faith is tested when her prospective father-in-law greets her arrival in her new country with a great insult; Arthur seems little better than a boy; the food is strange and the customs coarse. Slowly she adapts to the first Tudor court, and life as Arthur’s wife grows ever more bearable. But when the studious young man dies, she is left to make her own future: how can she now be queen, and found a dynasty? Only by marrying Arthur’s young brother, the sunny but spoilt Henry. His father and grandmother are against it; her powerful parents prove little use. Yet Katherine is her mother’s daughter and her fighting spirit is strong. She will do anything to achieve her aim; even if it means telling the greatest lie, and holding to it. Philippa Gregory proves yet again that behind the apparently familiar face of history lies an astonishing story: of women warriors influencing the future of Europe, of revered heroes making deep mistakes, and of an untold love story which changes the fate of a nation.

This is the first book in Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series. In this book we meet Katherine of Aragon, first as a girl of 5, then as a girl of 15, as she marries Arthur. We watch their love and affection develop, and their intimacy increase, until one fateful day when Arthur dies. Katherine, a strong-willed woman, determined to be Queen of England, steps up and tells one great lie – that their marriage was not consumated. The result – her marriage to Arthur’s brother Henry. We see them crowned, and Henry become Henry VIII. With her power she manipulates, goes to war and struggles with the reality that her parents have used her as a pawn in their power struggle in Europe. But Henry is youthful and lustful – he longs for war, love, attention and an heir. How long until his eyes stray and her deadly secret is revealed?

This was an enjoyable read. Gregory takes us on a historical adventure, in both England and Spain, incorporating their two histories. She writes about European battles between France, England and Spain, and of Spanish battles with the Moors. She looks at how people are the same, even if they have different religion, and she shows what lengths people will go to to achieve their ambitions.

I liked how Katherine was written, a strong women, determined to do whatever it takes to achieve her destiny, even lying and manipulating, but yet a gentle, loving woman, who mourned Arthur’s death and was crushed by the death of her little boy. Henry was a bit irritating, but well written, as he was just a spoilt boy, as can be seen through his history and his string of marriages.

The ending is not a surprise because this is based on English history, but I liked how Gregory broke off. There are no surprises but that does not spoil the book at all. Gregory has re-told this event in history with creativity and passion. This is a good book, well worth reading.

8/10

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Rogues and Rebels by Jo Field

 Book One of the Tawford Chronicles: A story of intrigue, passion and betrayal in the English Civil War”

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 In the autumn of 1642, Southwest England is ripped apart by civil war. Parliament has revolted against King Charles I and the populace is divided. Brothers and cousins, fathers and sons find themselves on opposing sides. Alexander Dynam leads a band of men in the service of the king. He is resourceful and courageous, an accomplished spy and a master of disguise. His men love him, he has earned their respect and they are loyal to the core. As the book opens, Alexander has been caught by Roundheads (as the forces of the Parliament are called) and is being held in a cellar. With MacGyver-like ingenuity, he escapes and in so doing makes a serious enemy of Captain James Dewett, the man held responsible for the loss of such a valuable prisoner. The consequences of his enmity will be far-reaching.

Alexander has always believed himself to be the bastard son of his guardian, Viscount Robert Westley. When he discovers that he is not Robert’s son and Robert refuses to tell him the truth of his parentage it causes a bitter rift between the two. The rift is deepened by the loss of Robert’s actual son, who is killed when thrown from Alexander’s horse. Robert can’t help but blame Alexander, who blames himself just as much. Their division is heartbreaking for Robert’s sister Ellen who loves both men fiercely and can’t bear to see them at odds.
Plots and intrigues hatched and carried out, skirmishes and battles, heroes and heroines who use all of their brains and courage in defense of themselves and their loved ones, cunning and sneaky villains, even a mystery satisfactorily sleuthed and solved. Jo Field brings all these and more together in this wonderful historical novel that brings alive the English past and a host of interesting and well developed characters.
I really enjoyed this engaging story. The plot was intricate and satisfying. If you are like me, you draw conclusions about a book based on the cover (Yes, I know I’m not supposed to!) But don’t let the cover of this one fool you, though set against the background of war, it is far from the heart of the narrative.
The author is currently working on Book Two in this series, Secrets and Ciphers. Write faster, Jo, I can’t wait to read it!
Rogues and Rebels is published by Discovered Authors. ISBN 978-1-905108-61-9
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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

 I just want to start out by saying that this book is going right to the top of my Favorite-Books-Of-All-Time list, I loved it!

It is 1946 London. The war is finally over and Juliet Ashton is in the midst of her first book tour. She is a journalist and during the war she wrote a cheery newspaper column under the pen name Izzy Bickerstaff. Those columns have been collected into a book and, though it’s selling well, Juliet more than ready to say goodbye to Izzy and start on a new writing project.

While she is casting about for ideas she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, a farmer on Guernsey Island in the English Channel. He has found her name and address written in a secondhand book that he owns and asks for her help. Since Guernsey was occupied by the Nazis during the war, they have no bookseller in residence and he is unable to expand his reading. Would she have the name and address of a London bookseller who might be able to help?

The resulting letters they exchange introduce her to other residents of Guernsey, mostly friends of Mr. Adams and fellow members of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. One of the residents made up the Society on the spur of the moment one night when several of them were caught out by Nazi soldiers after curfew. And what a blessing it turned out to be, giving them something to think about and reasons to go on during the worst of the deprivation and starvation that the five years of occupation brought.

Eventually Juliet decides on the theme for her next book and goes to Guernsey to start writing and meet her new friends. What she finds when she gets there surprises her and changes her life.

I loved everything about this book. The post WWII England setting, the epistolary form, the realistic characters, the fact that much of it is about books, reading and love of literature. But most of all I loved the writer’s wit and style that had me laughing out loud in places and broke my heart and brought me to tears in others. I read it very quickly and I kept telling myself to slow down because at the rate I was going it would be over far too soon. But I couldn’t. So I’ll just have to read it again and again, like going back to an old friend.

It is a shame that there won’t be any more books by Mary Ann Shaffer, but what a gift she has given us. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will be published on August 5, 2008 by The Dial Press.

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