I've always liked Elizabeth Woodville, warts and all. I never expect her to be portrayed perfectly, mostly because a good deal of what she did herself was so imperfect. So it was with trepidation that I approached Philippa Gregory's take on this most enigmatic woman, The White Queen. Would she be portrayed as a she-wolf, a witch, a misunderstood wife/mother, or something altogether new? The answer is yes to all of these...and a good amount of no as well.
Following EW from the time of her first meeting with Edward IV until the eve of Henry Tudor's invasion into England, Gregory speedily runs through the major events of an unbelievable life: the initial attraction, the secretive marriage, the births of so many girls before a son is finally achieved, the backstabbing among brothers and cousins. Indeed, so much had happened to EW in the first 100 pages I was curious as to how the following 300 pages would be filled. The fact is, there is an incredible amount of intrigue and happenstance that was literally raced through, and someone unfamiliar with the time period might be confused by the lack of details. And told from Woodville's point of view, most of the events are so one-sided as to leave one thinking everything was black and white. Perhaps this particular issue will be resolved in future books that will flesh out the characters more fully. I do believe that a lot of repetition (sometimes within paragraphs) could have been edited out and more detail of surrounding circumstances given instead.
This is not to say that I didn't enjoy this novel; it's more to say that maybe more could have been done to make EW seem less one dimensional. Of course she was ambitious and of course she foisted her family into the spotlight, and I think Gregory did an admirable job of making EW seem like a good mother (something I'm not so sure is entirely accurate...). The magical element was less disturbing to me than I'd feared it would be, woven well into the story and used just enough to make it seem plausible. The problem I have with it is that EW's story is so good, so vibrant by itself that the addition of magic/witchcraft was really unnecessary. I also am not a fan of the present tense and I feel it did absolutely nothing to make me feel more "into" the story in this case; indeed, all it did for me was call attention to itself.
All that said, however, this is still an entertaining take on Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner who ensnared a king and used her wiles to influence history. It is basically historically accurate (yeah! a plus in my book) and it reads easily. I'm curious to see where Gregory is going to take us and hoping that she'll give us more details in the getting there. A good first novel in an intended series that actually rates 3.5 stars from me.
I am obsessed w/ this period in history, so I'm probably a little biasd, but I really enjoyed this book. I hadn't really heard or read much about Elizabeth Woodville, but her story was fascinating. During a time when England was at war, Elizabeth, who was a commoner, managed to make the new king fall in love with her, and they got married. She and her husband then spent the rest of their reign fighting off those who would put them off the throne, until her husbands death. … more
Philippa Gregory has brought a depth of perspective to some of the iconic female figures of English history, with impeccable research and an eye for the particular challenges of women in a male-dominated society. In The White Queen, Gregory recreates the life of Bess Woodville, the commoner who wins the affection of Edward IV as The Cousin's War (later The War of the Roses) roils the country in endless battles of succession for England's throne: "The sons of York will … more
I have anticipated the release of this book for quite awhile. Yesterday it finally arrived on my doorstep & I read late into the night. Had I not needed to get up to go to work I would have read a lot longer I'm sure ! Thus far I have to say that the "hype" over this book is worth it - this is one good read. Best of all this is the first book of a new series called the "Cousin's War" which chronicles events of the War of The Roses -especially (in this book) about Elizabeth Woodville, King Edward … more
In this account of the wars of the Plantagenets, a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition, Elizabeth Woodville, catches the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown.