Monday, June 16, 2008

The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory

For this review, I thought I would use a different format. I am borrowing this from Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf.

Title and author of book? The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory

Fiction or non-fiction? Genre? historical fiction

Summarize the plot, but don’t give away the ending! The year is 1553. Hannah Verde is a 14 year old Jewish girl who has recently escaped the Spanish Inquisition with her father after her mother was burned at the stake for heresy. She dresses as a boy and helps her father run his printing press, while both she and her father have learned the ways of the English Protestants to keep a low profile. However, one day, two men make a visit to their bookshop, and Hannah's life takes a huge turn. The men discover that she has the "Sight" and can see the future, and she is asked to become young King Edward's Holy Fool.

Hannah learns quickly that she must pay close attention to all that is going on around her, but not draw too much attention to herself. She soon finds herself enmeshed in the intrigue of who will be the next monarch of England. After King Edward's death, and the short reign of Jane Grey, there is a bitter struggle for the throne between Mary and Elizabeth--half sisters and daughters of Henry VIII. During the constant plotting for the throne, the English citizens don't know if they should be Catholic or Protestant, and they don't know if they can trust their neighbors and own family members not to spy on them. The struggle goes on for several years, and though Hannah loves Mary, she is entranced by Elizabeth's beauty, energy and tenacity. Hannah finds herself spying for one side or the other time and time again, and she knows her life is constantly at risk.

Besides the fear of being arrested for treason and the constant terror that her Jewish heritage will be discovered, Hannah has another worry. She is betrothed to Daniel, a young man she hardly knows. She doesn't want to give up her independence to be a housewife and to live a life she considerous pure drugery, but she feels safest when she is with Daniel. Should she leave the court and be safely married--to live a life of cooking, cleaning and babies, or should she stay and be of help to the Queen in her time of need, OR should she spend time with Elizabeth, learning what she can from the rising princess?

What did you like most about the book? I read the majority of the book in a weekend--it was difficult to put down! There was not a dull moment in 500 pages!

What did you like least? This is no fault of the author's, but I didn't know enough about the history. I had to stop several times to get on the internet and look up the Tudor family tree, as well as tidbits of information about the people who were mentioned in the book.

Which of your readers are most likely to enjoy this book? Why? Anyone who enjoys historical fiction, especially Tudor history--it is easy get caught up in the time period and the constant plotting for the throne. I know there are many fictional elements in the book, but the amazing part to me is that so much of the story actually happened! If you enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl, I think you will like The Queen's Fool even more.

What did you think of the main character?: I found Hannah to be my biggest complaint of the book. She was forced to spy for all sides, but I hoped she would show more strength of character and simply pick one side and stick with it instead of being so wishy-washy.

Any other particularly interesting characters? I don't know how accurate the description was of Queen Mary in this book, but she was not portrayed like I remember from my history classes--as "Bloody Mary." At the least, reading the book and seeing how difficult her entire life was leading up to her reign sheds a bit of light on who she was.

What did you think of the ending? I am happy with the way this particular story ended, although I NEED to read more about what happened next in the real story.

Date completed: June 15, 2008
# of pages: 500
4/5 stars
Read Annie's great review, and if you've read and reviewed this book, please let me know, and I'll include your link.


Trish said...

Great review!! I like this format and I know that Bookfool uses it as well. I've thought about adopting it (but I'm lazy). :)

Sounds like a really fascinating book--I had no idea exactly what it was about, but the perspective a Jewish person in the heat of the battle between Protestants and Catholics sounds very fresh and different. I wonder if there are any books like these about Queen Mary? There seems to be so many about Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth that surely there is one about Mary??

Literary Feline said...

Of all of Philippa Gregory's books, this is the one I am most looking forward to reading. I read The Other Boleyn Girl a while ago and while I liked it, wasn't overly impressed. This one, however, sounds like one that I'll really like.

Great review, by the way!

Laura said...

~Trish-I think the new format might be better suited to a shorter book, or one with less going on at the same time!

I found it a different look at the history to see it from the perspective of a young Jewish girl looking in. I also did not know very much about Queen Mary, except her nickname, and though this was by no means a complete history of her life, it was a glimpse of what she could have been like as a person.

~Lit Feline--I enjoyed The Queen's Fool more than The Other Boleyn Girl. There was much less personal drama. After reading both of the Gregory books, I find myself wanting to read non-fiction about the time period.