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Alice is white-washed

  • Jul 28, 2010
Alice Perrers was a phenomenal woman in medieval history and one of the most famous English courtesans who ever lived. In the days when women were second class citizens the beautiful Alice was ambitious and just plain greedy as she climbed up the greasy pole of success and eventually connived her way into the bed of King Edward III. As a non-royal person her success was astounding but she was certainly nothing like the pleasant, considerate woman described in this book but much more like the "devil's tool" Sir John Wycliffe calls her. Author Campion should have painted Alice in her true colors and the book would have been much more interesting.

Geoffrey Chaucer, a great friend and protege of the young Alice, keeps getting awkwardly shoved into the plot where he kind of sits like an underdone potato. Geoffrey as a fictionalized character could have added wit and substance to the story, given it some ballast and depth. But he doesn't gel.

The biggest problems with this biographical novel are that it's treacly, it's goody-goody and it's -well- boring. No woman insinuates herself into a king's bed by being kindly, especially a woman who lived in the fourteenth century. Would the real Alice be so considerate of her lady's maid, the fictional Gwen, and worry about Gwen's feelings over and over again? And Alice as she probably really was, a gold-digging opportunist, frequently gets lost in the endless description of the fabrics Alice and everybody else was wearing. Satins and silks are practically as important as a person in this book.

The last chapter is called "The Phoenix" and of course refers to Alice rising from the ashes when the Good Parliament of 1376 banishes her from court and her somewhat miraculous rising for the second time after John of Gaunt rescues her but King Edward dies. Alice as a character in this book just doesn't have the larger than life personality of a Phoenix. Give me the real Alice- Phoenix, the savvy, manipulative gold-digger who rises far and sinks low and rises again through sheer chutzpah.

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September 27, 2010
Interesting take on the book. Sounds like it had much promise too. Another user gave it a +4.
More The King's Mistress: A Novel reviews
review by . August 08, 2010
I picked up "The King's Mistress" wondering how I would like it. I had never heard of Alice Perrers and had never read anything by Emma Campion. It turns out that Emma Campion is from my part of the world - and I wish that there were other works by her that I could read!     Alice Perrers was the daughter of a Hertfordshire knight whose life span is said to have been approximately from 1348 to 1400. I found the following description of Alice's character on the Middle- [...] website …
review by . June 28, 2010
The book jacket suggests Campion seeks to put a more human face on the reviled commoner, Alice Perrers, mistress to Edward III and lady-in-waiting to Philippa of Hainault. Although the author makes a valiant attempt to flesh out a figure spoken of with disdain in nearly every historical account, I found it difficult to empathize with this protagonist and her endless rationalizations for behavior that led to court gossip. As the wife of wealthy merchant, Janyn Perrers, Alice is content until she …
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Pam Sharp ()
Ranked #152
   I'm a retired botanist with degrees from Smith College and the University of Arizona. I'm currently into designing T-shirts and other items for Zazzle. Am interested in almost everything … more
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About this book


Alice Perrers scholar Campion debuts with a dynamic fictionalization of the life of Alice Salisbury, who, at 14, leaves family and best friend Geoffrey Chaucer behind to marry Janyn Perrers, a prominent merchant who has the patronage of Isabella, the Queen Mother. Alice accustoms herself to the royal lifestyle, grows close to her husband, and bears a daughter. Her happiness is destroyed when royal fortunes shift, Janyn disappears, and Alice is summoned to court by Queen Philippa. To secure her daughter's safety, Alice complies and is quickly drawn into the machinations and extravagance of Edward III's mid-14th-century court, where she captures the king's interest. Campion stays true to the facts of Alice's life as the mistress of Edward III, the mother of his son John, and a successful businesswoman. This is a detailed rendering of Edward III's court, one that provides an empathetic but realistic portrait of a colorful and, if Campion is to be believed, misunderstood woman.
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ISBN-10: 0307589250
ISBN-13: 978-0307589255
Author: Emma Campion
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Crown
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