What do I liked about this book? I like that in a relatively short book one gets a quick summary of Tudor history; Henry VIII, his wives and progeny, are quickly summarized so you can understand how Lady Jane Grey came to be queen for nine days. There is a clear family tree in the front of the book. What are the themes? Religion, more specifically Protestantism versus Catholicism, faith and power and personal gain. Royalty too. I am not religious, and I do not have faith, and I prefer reading about people from the lower classes, so the chances I could like this book are pretty slim, but I wanted to have a basic understanding of the Tudors. It says on the cover, “If you don’t cry at the end you have a heart of stone.” I guess I have a heart of stone.
So what went wrong? Alison Weir published ten books of historical non-fiction before writing this, her first book of fiction. She knows the topic and she says in her author’s note, “Most of the characters in this novel really existed, and most of the events actually happened. However, where the evidence is scanty or missing, I have used my imagination.” She then clarifies where in the books she has done this. That is exactly the kind of historical fiction I look for. Still, this did not work for me. The author also says she tried to penetrate the minds of her characters, and that is where the problem lies, at least for me. I kept thinking, this character would not do that, she would not say that! The author did not get me inside the head of Lady Jane Grey. I felt that she did exactly what she was told…..until the day she became Queen. Her thoughts and actions were to me unbelievable. Neither could I comprehend the faith she had. Everyone else around her was motivated by personal gain, her parents in particular. I could not believe that her mother came to regret her own behavior. No, I could not empathize with the characters because the author did not succeed in making me see through their eyes. Neither did I find genuine the words the author put in the characters’ mouths. They were too modern. In addition, there was absolutely no humor in this book!
If I read another book by this author it will be non-fiction.
The book was OK, and by GR rating that means it should be given two stars, so that is what I am giving it. Only two stars!
(ETA: Nurse Ellen is the one and only character I empathized with.)
Through page 50: Will I understand who is who? Will I like reading about the Tudors?
YES, to both questions. Wow, I am impressed at Alison Weir's writing skills. She knows the details so well that she can interweave them in a fascinating and engaging manner. Nurse Ellen is fantastic. I need her as much as Lady Jane Grey does! She so well understands how to explain sex and such to a small child and how to explain more as the child matures. Beautifully written. Relationships are expertly depicted! I am astonished and impressed. I don't like reading about royalty, but this I very much enjoy. Because even royalty are real people with feelings. Please continue in this manner. There is a map and family chart that is simple to comprehend, for a quick glance now and then. What a surprise.