I love a great historical fiction book, particularly if it is set around the Tudor period. The trouble is with some of them I’m in two minds when I read them and I’m not actually sure if I like it or not. This is one of those occasions.
Alison Weir shows how Elizabeth I used the fact that she was one of the most sought-after brides while she reigned for political purposes and in fact keep everyone on their toes. But the book also shows shows how she as a woman used it to manipulate people’s minds in to doing exactly what she wanted.
The novel specifically focuses on her relationship with Robert Dudley, who Elizabeth had known since they were both children. It is interesting to be outside witnesses to see their relationship in its many forms: from passion and desire, through to frustration and anger before settling down to long time devotion with a few sparks in between.
The reader can sympathise (even though we realise that part of his desire to marry the Queen is ambition as well as love) with Robert Dudley’s frustrations in trying to settle down and convince the Queen to marry him – although we also know it was pointless. Yes, he is an ambitious character who is able to manipulate situations to his benefit but you can also tell that he does have Elizabeth’s interests at heart.
So what of Elizabeth? Judging by Weir’s impression of her she was brave enough to put her heart aside for the good of the country, never wanting to risk the people’s love of her by marrying inappropriately. However, she comes across as spoilt and jealous nature – particularly when Robert eventually remarried after the death of his wife Amy – never allowing his wife come to court. She is a strong and courageous character who was also indecisive constantly frustrating her councillors.
The problem with this book, although it is fascinating to get into the mind of Elizabeth and why she acted in the manner she did in terms of getting married – it does become a little bit repetitive and frustrating to read about over and over again.
Everything seems to move forward at a great pace – I felt that a little more time could have been given to Elizabeth’s reaction to the death of Amy Dudley and how that affected her relationship with Robert, whereas there are other sections of the book that could have been trimmed down slightly.
If you have ever wanted to get into the mind of a Tudor monarch then give this a read but be prepared for a lot of repetitiveness. But you are never left in doubt for the strong realtionship and bond between Elizabeth and Robert.