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Philippa Gregory’s “The White Queen”: Meh

June 3, 2010

The post title pretty much sums it up.

I really liked the other books by Gregory that I’ve read (The Other Boleyn Girl, The Queen’s Fool, The Constant Princess) but this one I found rather ho-hum.

First, and surprisingly, I didn’t like the supernatural element. Elizabeth Woodville, who becomes the White Queen, is the descendant of the water spirit Melusina, from European and especially Celtic folklore. Elizabeth and her mother posses powers of witchcraft, which they use to bring about Elizabeth’s destiny. I am usually drawn to mythical elements of stories but in this book they felt out of place. Gregory is also a historian, and part of what makes her books so compelling is imagining the real, historical characters and events as she writes them and realizing that a long time ago, these people, places, and events really did exist (or at least some semblance of them). Characters are much more fascinating when given dialog, thoughts, emotions, reactions, etc. than when you read about them in a history textbook. I had a much harder time appreciating, for example, the rival queen’s pursuit of the king across the seas when the White Queen and her mother have “whistled up a wind” that prevents the queen’s ship from sailing. While this particular pursuit is perhaps a fiction created by Gregory (I haven’t looked it up) and not a historical fact, I assume Gregory’s intent is to make us envision history happening this way, which is more difficult and less fun if magic is involved. I felt exactly the opposite about The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, however; perhaps I just expect (unfairly, I suppose) Gregory to be as historical as possible.

Secondly, The White Queen wasn’t as well-written (or edited?) as the other Gregory books I’ve read (as far as I remember them). Elizabeth, who tells the story, repeats herself over and over on a couple points, so much so that I felt like I was rereading sentences and even paragraphs when I really wasn’t. There were also two punctuation errors that drove me crazy. Nitpicky? Yes. And they weren’t even huge errors. But still.

Finally, I didn’t connect with Elizabeth or any of the other characters. She was so in love with the king but I couldn’t for the life of me tell why, except that he is handsome and, well, the king. Even though she falls for him before knowing anything about his personality, and he is of the York line that killed her husband, and, oh yeah, HE TRIES TO RAPE HER, it’s love at first sight and forevermore.

The White Queen really disappointed me. I don’t recommend it — but I did only read 3/4ths of it. If you read and finished it, what did you think?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. kimberlyloomis permalink
    June 4, 2010 10:40 pm

    I have yet to read any of Gregory’s works and this one seemed intriguing. Given your description, however, I tend to think that will make the library hold list in a few months as opposed to me begging a friend to borrow it ASAP.

    • June 7, 2010 6:43 pm

      Wise decision, I say. If you’re going to pick up one of her books, I *would* recommend The Other Boleyn Girl, which was much more attention-holding and gave a really interesting picture of how the royal court was one big power play between the kings of European countries, the church, wealthy families and their children. Very interesting.

  2. June 8, 2010 12:33 pm

    I’m the same I’ve never read any Philippa Gregory either and this hasn’t really sold her to me. May be have to start with a different book I’ve mainly been eyeing up The Other Boleyn Girl after seeing the film.

    • June 8, 2010 6:29 pm

      Oh, if you like The Other Boleyn Girl movie, definitely read the book. The movie was horrid in comparison.

  3. toffee1234 permalink
    June 17, 2010 8:32 am

    I love her books, and have yet to read the white qeen, i am stuck (for the 100th time) in The Virgin’s lover, which is excellent. I don’t think theis supernatural element is any good, and Gregory should stick to what she does best: historical, amazing, wonderfullz fantastik novels of court life years ago.

  4. toffee1234 permalink
    June 17, 2010 8:32 am

    btw – if you’ve never read gregory, why are you commenting?

  5. June 17, 2010 9:15 pm

    toffee1234, I agree. I haven’t read The Virgin’s Lover though, so maybe I’ll look into that one.

    I more than welcome all comments, even from people who haven’t read the book or who have and disagree with my opinions. I like hearing from people who haven’t read the book on what they’ve heard about it, why they haven’t read it, if they’re planning to, etc.

    Thanks for commenting!

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