I did it! Finally I have read all of the Phillipa Gregory Cousin’s War books and can, at last write a review on them!
As you’ve probably gathered, I am a complete history nerd and anything late- Medieval makes me all tingly and gooey. Yes, you read that right. Phillipa Gregory (bow down) is an historical fiction author that I love and greatly recommend. Her most famous novel, The Other Boylen Girl, is how I got into her writing but I can now proudly say that I’ve read every single book she’s written in the Cousins’ War and Tudor series. If you love history things but aren’t particularly keen on reading a historians’ work on women of the late 15th early 16th century, please do me a favour and read Phillipa Gregory. A historian herself, she makes sure that a tremendous amount of research goes into her writing before she starts a book, and this means that I can love and respect her without turning my back on my inner fact-checking historian. Enjoy all of her books, but like she says, take them slightly with a pinch of salt. No one knows the private conversations or various relationships between people, so be careful when reading her books not to assume that Anne Boylen did in fact say that exact thing at that exact time. But for women history, Gregory has done a splendid job of reminding us that the world (funnily enough) was not entirely governed by men.
So, this review will be slightly different as I will be attempting to put all five books into two of my usual categories. At the bottom of this blog I will put who the women are in history that Gregory has written each book on.
Let’s get started!
How put-down-able it was: I really loved the first of the series, Lady of the Rivers, because her story is so surprising and untold that it was almost impossible to put down. Jaquetta didn’t seem to have a single day of rest (mainly because she spent most of her time popping out children), and I didn’t either because I spent so many hours up at night reading it! The Red Queen is my personal favourite (not bias at all… I’m just doing my Masters Degree dissertation on her…) and the book was so exciting and gripping that it made me want to change my BA degree from Politics to History three years ago. The book is utterly mesmerising and knowing the ending result in Margaret’s life does nothing to stop you wanting to devour each page as quickly as possible. The White Queen is just as interesting as the books before, but I felt slightly less enthused about reading it and therefore it took me slightly longer, perhaps because Elizabeth spends a lot of time repeating her trips to sanctuary and so you feel slightly like you’ve read that story before. The Kingmaker’s Daughter is a very good book but I was less gripped by it than the others. This may be down to Anne’s character, but I wouldn’t have given it a particularly high put-down-able score if I was reviewing it on it’s own. Finally, The White Princess, which should have had me on the edge of my seat as it involves the Red Queen and Henry VI, just didn’t at all. The story is very repetitive and focused on a lot of speculative history and I was rather hoping it was half the size when I was only about a third of the way through.
Characters: Well, this category is, of course, slightly speculative as we must remember that these books are not real documentations of the women, but the characters that Gregory believes they may have been. Please remember this. I don’t wish to harper on too much about history but if I hear someone tell me that Anne Neville was a bit boring based solely on The Kingmaker’s Daughter, I think I might cry. The Lady of the Rivers gets easily a high rating for characters. Gregory herself writes that Jaquetta has never had an official biography written about her and when you’ve read this book and seen what marvellous things she got up to, you’ll be surprised why not. The Red Queen has me bias, of course. Margaret Beaufort fascinates me beyond measure and this book truly opens your eyes not only to her life story, but also what women were being put through at such young ages. She has her first child a twelve years old and goes on to do the most amazing things (see MA Dissertation 2017!). The White Queen I have never really warmed to as a person in history but Gregory’s book tells a beautiful tale of romance between Elizabeth and Edward IV that makes it hard to ignore. A side note for those of you who watched the White Queen BBC series, DO not believe at least 90% of what was shown on that program! It neither represents the true events and history of the time, nor Gregory’s wonderful work in her book. Ignore it. The Kingmaker’s Daughter had me rather conflicted. I wanted to like Anne, I really did, but I found it very hard. Little is known about her real life, and Gregory has done a splendid job of creating a character that is likely to have mirrored the real life woman, with very little to go on. But if you want a feisty woman who changed history herself, I fear Anne is not the woman for you. Finally The White Princess… well, I felt absolutely nothing for Elizabeth which made me very sad. Gregory writes her as a very quiet and reclusive woman, possibly more accurate to history than my imagination, but her focus is primarily on Henry VI in the book and I found the lack of personal feeling from Elizabeth slightly dull to read.
Those are the most important two categories I wanted to review the books on, and now I will quickly rate them on their overall rating.
The Lady of the Rivers: 4/5
The Red Queen: 5/5
The White Queen: 3/5
The Kingmaker’s Daughter: 3/5
The White Princess: 2/5
But these are just my opinions and please do read them for yourselves. Gregory has done an amazing job on creating very life-like characters in incredible women that we know very little about! Thank you for reading, and I promise my next blog won’t be so long to make or to read! Remember to comment below or Tweet me to let me know if you agree or disagree… and keep reading!
Lady of the Rivers: Jaquetta Woodville
The Red Queen: Margaret Beaufort
The White Queen: Elizabeth Woodville
The Kingmaker’s Daughter: Anne Neville
The White Princess: Elizabeth of York/Elizabeth Tudor