I absolutely adore historical fiction, particularly when it focuses on Kings and Queens of the past. Now anyone who knows me well will acknowledge that I’m particularly fond of Tudor history – which is when Philippa Gregory’s novels first attracted me.
Of course originally, she started with focusing on the central part of Tudor history, with books such as The Constant Princess, The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance for example.
But now she has gone even further back in history, to the house of the Plantagenet, telling the story Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV and all the key players in that part of history.
In The White Queen the story focuses on Elizabeth Woodville as she rises from a commoner part of traitor family (her family supported the Lancastrian cause for a period during the cousins war) to Queen of England. The book also puts forward a number of theories as to what happened to her sons: the two princes in the tower.
While Gregory herself admits that historical record keeping in these times wasn’t as great as later periods so it is difficult to gage people’s reactions and what exactly happened during these wars and battles so there is a lot of fiction and imagination going on throughout.
However, what she does well is vividly bring to life the characters, danger and setting of the era which really conveys the uncertainty that people were living in at the time when all these battles were going on.
Of course there is a lot of politics and planning battle movements that are described as well, but are done so in a way that is easy for her readers who might not be so familiar with the period of history to understand.
Some might find that the language that Gregory uses for characters too informal, but again as we don’t have any solid record of much that went on during the Plantagenet reign, this is something that ought to easily forgiven.
If you decide to read the book and you enjoy it, then you should give the recent television adaptation a watch too (based on The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter). Although it tends to rush through the events pretty quickly, it is beautifully made and contains excellent acting from everyone involved.