Monday, January 16, 2006

The Virgin's Lover

The Virgin's LoverDate: 30 August, 2005   —   $10.88   —   Book

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Review of The Virgin's Lover:

I love British History.  Particularly the Tudor Period.  I first became interested at age 10 when I saw the movie  Lady Jane.  I wanted to know everything about the period and began reading all I could.  By the time I was 12 I was fairly knowledgeable.  My seventh grade term paper was entitled "Religion in England After the Break from Rome".  It wasn't bad for a twelve year old!

I still love reading anything I can, and the Biographies by Alison Weir have been particular favorites of mine.  But The Virgin's Lover is Historical Fiction, and was fun in a different way.

This is the third Phillipa Gregory book I've read, and  I highly recommend all of them.  I found this one very interesting, however, because of her take on the characters and the events.

She portrays Queen Elizabeth I as indecisive.  She is young and a girl, and looking for a man who can steady her and give her courage to be a queen.  At times I found this portrait of Elizabeth frustrating.  After all, she was an incredible statesman, incredibly well-educated, and a brilliant mind.  But it reminded me that she was also a product of both her time and her circumstances.  When you think that she was raised at a time when women were not thought capable of true strength or brilliance, and were inferior in the eyes of God to men, it does seem possible that Elizabeth believed it too.  Also, she had lived a very unstable life.  She lost her mother at a very young age and went from being a treasured Princess to a lowly bastard at a time when she would not have understood why.  Her first step-mother was very kind, her second divorced, her third (a kinswoman) was beheaded, and her fourth another brilliant woman who managed to live.

Elizabeth moved from place to place with a continual awareness that her life was never safe, and one never knew who could be trusted.  With that knowledge it seems possible that she might have looked for someone in whom she could find stability and safety.  Of course it seems equally possible that she learned she could only trust herself.  Regardless, Ms. Gregory's take was unique and thought provoking.

The book also never fogot the way people thought about a woman Queen.  Women weren't thought capable of rule, decision making, or anything of great consequence.  I've actually read that Willian Cecil often kept things from Elizabeth, at least in the beginning, beleiving that she just couldn't handle it as a woman.  Reading it sometimes rankled as a 21st century woman.  But it was true to the period.

Ms. Gregory then took a brave stand, writing what she thought might have happened to Lady Dudly, the wife of Elizabeth's love Robert.  I won't spoil it for anyone, but I thought she was well researched and highly plausible.   I had trouble reading the book when it discussed Amy Dudley.  She had always been a historical footnote for me.  The poor wife of the Queens lover.  But the book brought her to life.  A woman who had done nothing wrong and was treated terribly.  A woman who deserved far better in life than what she recieved.  Especially at the hands of the man who should have loved her most.  Still, no character was a true villian.  Everyone was sympathetic.

In the end it was well written and an incredible read.  I couldn't put it down.  I've spent days with the baby in one arm and the book in the other.  I highly recommend it for those who love the period.

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