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Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages/Format: 492/soft cover
Rating: 4/5

Summary: Even as a very young child, Elizabeth Tudor is keenly aware that people in the court of her father, King Henry VIII, have stopped referring to her as “Lady Princess” and now call her “Lady Elizabeth.” She soon learns why, as her sister, Mary, tells her of the tragic fate that has befallen Elizabeth’s mother, the enigmatic and seductive Ann Boleyn, and that both girls have been declared illegitimate. The death of their father ten years later puts orphaned Elizabeth in even greater peril: Like her mother two decades earlier, she is imprisoned in the Tower of London--and she fears she will meet her mother’s grisly end. Power-driven politics, private scandal, and public gossip, a disputed succession, and the grievous example of her sister, “Bloody” Queen Mary, cement Elizabeth’s resolve in matters of statecraft and love, and set the stage for her transformation into the iconic Virgin Queen--a woman far ahead of her time, an independent spirit who must use cunning and wits for her very survival. (from back of book)

Short Summary: Third person telling of Elizabeth I’s life from birth to her succession as queen.

Review: Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres, especially concerning royalty. The Tudor time period has been a big focus in my reading and I’ve read several books about Elizabeth already, so I was excited to pick this one up. (I also picked up Weir’s other book, Innocent Traitor, but that will be another review.)
     The book is written in third person, something I don’t find often in this genre of book. Most often it’s in first person. (Weir’s Innocent Traitor was in first person, but in My Lady Elizabeth she claims her publisher’s wanted her to write in third person.) While it was difficult adjusting to at first, I found it fascinating being able to see into the heads of secondary characters. For example, Elizabeth’s governess, Kat. Kat is jealous of Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, because Elizabeth views Katherine as a mother, while Kat feels Elizabeth should be viewing herself as a mother. I’ve never been able to read such feelings from a character other than Elizabeth, having always been limited to first person.
     Another upside to this book was the spice Weir added to Elizabeth’s scandal with Thomas Seymour. Elizabeth has always been viewed as a virgin, having never married. BUT, just because she never married, doesn’t mean she didn’t engage in some inappropriate activities… This is another interesting twist Weir added to young Elizabeth’s story, as I’ve never read it in any other Historical Fiction work.
This twist also serves another purpose, that even despite Elizabeth’s inhuman intelligence we’re also reminded of how imperfect and human she is, despite the front she is forced to put up as a princess of England. Weir does a good job through Elizabeth’s youthful indiscretion and infatuation with Thomas Seymour. Even Elizabeth, a girl who claims she will never married and be ruled by a man, is susceptible to lust and sexual desire the same as any other person.
     Elizabeth’s relationship with her sister is also a very amicable, healthy one. Mary was not made out to be a bad guy, even in the infamous episode of Elizabeth’s imprisonment in the Tower of London. They were too sisters who loved each other, but circumstances made life and their relationship rocky. Mary was an aging woman, dreaming for a child, devout in her religious beliefs and her only fault was that she was influenced by those who hoped to do evil to her country.
     However, I did have one downside to this book. At times throughout reading, I almost felt bored. Maybe this is because I know the ‘story’ already, but it just was as gripping at points. It was not bad enough that I couldn’t finish it, but I do recall times when I sat the book down because I wasn’t into it.
In the back of My Lady Elizabeth, Weir shares that she will be making a sequel called, The Phoenix and the Bear and it will chronicle Elizabeth and Robert Dudley’s relationship. I am definitely excited for when that day comes and will totally pick up the book. I enjoy reading about Elizabeth and Robert’s love affair.
     Overall, if you enjoy Historical Fiction or Tudor England I highly recommend reading this book.

Further Recommendations: Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir, The Other Boleyn Girl and The Constant Princess by Phillipa Gregory, I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles

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