Friday, 27 January 2012

Book Review: The Lady of the Rivers - Philippa Gregory

Synopsis - Descended from Melusina, the river goddess, Jacquetta has always had the gift of second sight.  As a child visiting her uncle, she meets his prisoner, Joan of Arc, and sees her own power reflected in the young woman accused of witchcraft.

Married to the Duke of Bedford, English Regent of France, Jacquetta is introduced by him to a mysterious world of learning and alchemy.  Her only friend in the great household is the Duke's squire, Richard Woodville, whi is at her side when the Duke's death leaves her a wealthy young widow.  The two become lovers and marry in secret, returning to England to serve at the court of the young King Henry VI, where Jacquetta becomes a close and loyal friend to his new queen.

The Woodvilles soon achieve a place at the very heart of the Lancaster court, though Jacquetta can sense the growing threat from the people of England and the danger of royal rivals.  The king slides into a mysterious sleep; Margaret, his queen, turns to untrustworthy favourites for help; and Richard, Duke of York, threatens to overturn the whole kingdom for his rival dynasty of the House of York.

Jacquetta fights for her king, her queen, and for her daughter Elizabeth Woodville, a young woman for whom Jacquetta can sense an extraordinary and unexpected future: a change of fortune, the throne of England, and the white rose of York.

Review -  The last of the selection of library books I offered up to my reading group, not chosen, but I read them all anyway.  I was happy with the lot except one which has not been reviewed as I gave up - yes - gave up!

This is my second Philippa Gregory, the first being The Other Boleyn Girl which of course was made into a film.  I thought this was a much better novel.  I loved the 'other worldly' interest of second sight and alchemy.  Of course, astrology was used in those days alongside belief in herbology.  However, it had to be hidden as many believed it to be the power of witchcraft.  The book starts with our heroine, Jacquetta meeting Joan of Arc before she was taken and burnt at the stake in Rouen, accused of witchcraft.

The book follows Jacquetta's rise to a place at the court of King Henry VI, and she spends many years as a close confidante of his queen Margaret of Anjou.  It is a story of love, civil war between the Yorks (white rose) and the Lancaster's (red rose) and betrayal.  Gregory has researched her history well and points out in the Author's notes that there is no biography of Jacquetta and the author has written the book using what historical fact she has found and combined it with fiction.  This combination works well and is proof to me why Ms Gregory is such a popular author of historical fiction.  4*

ISBN978-1-84737-459-2 Simon & Schuster 2011

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