Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Review: Elizabeth I by Margaret George

  • Elizabeth I

  • By: Margaret George

  • Pub. Date: April 2011

  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated

  • Format: Hardcover, 671pp  

  • ISBN-13: 9780670022533

  • ISBN: 0670022535

  • Source: Personal Copy

  • Synopsis:

    One of today's premier historical novelists, Margaret George dazzles here as she tackles her most difficult subject yet: the legendary Elizabeth Tudor, queen of enigma-the Virgin Queen who had many suitors, the victor of the Armada who hated war; the gorgeously attired, jewel- bedecked woman who pinched pennies. England's greatest monarch has baffled and intrigued the world for centuries. But what was she really like?

    In this novel, her flame-haired, lookalike cousin, Lettice Knollys, thinks she knows all too well. Elizabeth's rival for the love of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and mother to the Earl of Essex, the mercurial nobleman who challenged Elizabeth's throne, Lettice had been intertwined with Elizabeth since childhood. This is a story of two women of fierce intellect and desire, one trying to protect her country, and throne, the other trying to regain power and position for her family and each vying to convince the reader of her own private vision of the truth about Elizabeth's character. Their gripping drama is acted out at the height of the flowering of the Elizabethan age. Shakespeare, Marlowe, Dudley, Raleigh, Drake-all of them swirl through these pages as they swirled through the court and on the high seas.

    This is a magnificent, stay-up-all-night page-turner that is George's finest and most compelling novel and one that is sure to please readers of Alison Weir, Philippa Gregory, and Hilary Mantel.

    My Review:

    I have read several of Margaret George's works before- The Memoirs of Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, and Mary Called Magdalene. I enjoyed her previous works immensely and looked forward to this new book. George's research and attention to detail, along with her narrative skill, bring great historic figures to life for the reader.

    George begins her story about Elizabeth I later in Elizabeth's life, rather than during her childhood or ascension to the throne. Elizabeth was quite a queen and it was interesting to learn more about English history, such as the Spanish Armadas, and read about the probable thoughts and decisions of Elizabeth I. Elizabeth I switches between Queen Elizabeth's point of view and her cousin's view, Lettice Knollys.

    Elizabeth and Lettice are rivals, although Elizabeth is of course queen while Lettice has been banned from court... banned by Elizabeth. At first the switching between the two women seemed disjointed and interrupted the flow of the story and development of the characters, however, as the book progressed I appreciated Lettice's views more and more to gain access to the other side of Elizabeth's story.

    In addition to finding the beginning a little disjointed, I also had troubles connecting with either Elizabeth or Lettice. Once I thought the narrative switching got to be clearer, I also appreciated the characters more and liked Elizabeth more. I especially liked the reflective quality in her nature, as she looked back over her long reign.

    There was also a broad cast of characters that were part of Elizabeth's reign, including Will Shakespeare. Many of the characters showed the political aspect of any government. Lord Essex was the main secondary character in Elizabeth I, he was quite interesting and also a complete nuisance in Elizabeth's reign.

    Overall, Margaret George's telling of Elizabeth I's reign is a fresh story with a slow beginning but engaging end.

    My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

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