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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages/Format: 407/Soft Cover
Rating: 5/5

Summary: The child of a scheming father and ruthless mother, Lady Jane Grey is born during the harrowingly turbulent period that will see the demise of her famous great-uncle, King Henry VIII. Vexed by not having a male heir, Jane’s abusive parents connive to use their intelligent, dutiful young daughter as a pawn in a dangerous dynastic game. But when the premature death of Jane’s adolescent cousin--and Henry’s successor--King Edward VI thwarts their original ploy, Jane unwittingly finds herself as the center of the struggle for supremacy. And though she has no ambitions to rule, preferring to immerse herself in books and religion, she is forced to accept the crown, and by so doing sets off a firestorm of intrigue, betrayal and tragedy. (from the back of the book)

Short Summary: Various first person accounts of the short life and ten day rule of Jane Gray/Dudley.

Review: I followed up Weir’s My Lady Elizabeth with Innocent Traitor, still in the mood for Historical Fiction. Jane Grey’s story is a new one to me. I’d vaguely known about what happened to her through accounts of other people such as her cousins Elizabeth and Mary, but I never read about Jane exclusively. Needless to say, I was hooked.
     Jane’s tale is a very sad one and too often I found myself wanting to throw the book down at the injustice of her life. As too often happened in Tudor England, parents were not always given male heirs as they hoped, and the daughters suffered uncalled for hate and abuse. Jane is often a victim of her mother’s anger, never able to satisfy her mother’s impossible standards. Weir creates this situation with such agonizing detail and emotion that it was so incredibly easy to fall into Jane and understand exactly how she felt. I could feel the exhale of relief when she was able to leave home, or the cold hand that gripped my heart when she was living with her parents.
     It’s really amazing watching/reading Jane grow from a meek, mousy girl into a very outspoken girl who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself. Closer towards the end when Jane is forced to be Queen, I can’t believe the bold, brazen things she says! I can’t believe it was the same girl who started the novel. Weir writes Jane as a very believable young lady, and her coming of age is spectacular that I couldn’t help but cheer for Jane when she, a woman, stood up to men who sought to control her.
     Jane is an intelligent girl, much like her cousin Elizabeth I, as they both never wanted to marry and much prefer spending time with their books and studies as opposed to what was considered ’womanly.’ (sew, dance, get married, have babies, take care of the house, etc) As a woman, it is so difficult to grasp and understand the thinking of that time and I can feel Jane’s pain as she seeks to control her own life but cannot because she is a woman. I very much enjoy reading about women such as Jane and Elizabeth, who are both very much ahead of their time.
     A favorite scene of mine that is likely fictitious but nonetheless a brilliant move on Weir’s part is when Jane receives a gift from Mary, her cousin, a necklace that drips with rubies. When Jane tries it on in the mirror, she is horrified to notice how similar the rubies look like blood on her neck.
     As opposed to My Lady Elizabeth, which was told in third person, Innocent Traitor, is told in various first person accounts. There is Jane, Jane’s nurse, both Jane’s parents, Katherine Parr/Seymour, Mary Tudor, and even at the end, the last account is told from the executioner’s POV. I really loved how Weir decided to tell Jane’s story. There really isn’t anything like being able to be in each character’s head and have each puzzle piece to put together to make the bigger picture. I am able to read about Jane from her home, while the next account may be from her mother who is away at court. I think it was a very masterful way to tell Jane’s story.
     This book comes highly recommended, about a Tudor girl who may often be overlooked and overshadowed by her cousins, Elizabeth and Mary.

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

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