Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: The White Princess by Philippa Gregory

Pages: 544
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: July 23, 2013
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "The White Princess opens as the news of the battle of Bosworth is brought to Princess Elizabeth of York, who will learn not only which rival royal house has triumphed, Tudor or York, but also which suitor she must marry: Richard III her lover, or Henry Tudor her enemy. A princess from birth, Elizabeth fell in love with Richard III, though her mother made an arranged betrothal for her with the pretender to the throne: Henry Tudor. When Henry defeats Richard against all odds, Elizabeth has to marry the man who murdered her lover in battle, and create a new royal family with him and his ambitious mother: Margaret Beaufort, The Red Queen. But, while the new monarchy can win, it cannot, it seems, hold power in an England which remembers the House of York with love. The new king’s greatest fear is that somewhere, outside England, a prince from the House of York is waiting to invade and re-claim the throne for the house of York. Fearing that none of his new allies can be trusted, Henry turns to his wife to advise him, all the time knowing that her loyalties must be divided. When the young man who would be king finally leads his army and invades England, it is for Elizabeth to decide whether she recognizes him as her brother and a claimant to the throne, or denies him in favor of the husband she is coming to love…"

Elizabeth of York, daughter of The White Queen and mother to infamous Henry VIII, is our main focus in Gregory's fifth installment of The Cousins' War.  Her marriage to Henry VII unites two feuding families and one would think this would be an ideal solution as it should bring an end to the War of the Roses; however, there's a problem.  Elizabeth still loves Richard III, who is now dead, thanks to the very man she is going to marry, Henry VII.  Awkward start to a relationship, yes?  To top it off Elizabeth and Henry's mothers loathe each other and Henry never fully trusts Elizabeth or her family. In fact, Henry VII is an ultra-paranoid king who spends most of his time worrying about being usurped or listening to his extremely religious and controlling mother, Margaret Beaufort. Philippa Gregory's The White Princess is a captivating glimpse into the life of Elizabeth York and her political marriage.

I immediately felt for Elizabeth of York in The White Princess. She fell deeply in love with Richard III and thought he was going to win at battle. It turns out Henry VII won and now she has to mary him.  Nightmare?! And to make matters more complicated, Henry VII is pretty much a monster and upon their first meeting, he does the unthinkable.  There are no words! So, Elizabeth goes into this marriage with her family's one focus on the fact that it's political and should bring an end to the Cousins' War.  However, Elizabeth's mother has something else in mind as her Yorkist loyalties are still running strong.  I think that Henry VII and his insufferable mother are aware of this and always hold Elizabeth at arms length away, which makes her pretty much powerless and hold little to no influence. Elizabeth spent most of her time in The White Princess torn between her York family and her children, who are essentially Tudors and enemies of her family. It's a tough situation.  Because of all of this, Elizabeth made for a less captivating narrator when compared to her mother and grandmother, who were the focus of The White Queen and The Lady of the Rivers.  

A lot of The White Princess was spent focusing on Henry's extreme paranoia and incessant worrying that someone will challenge him for the throne, namely Elizabeth's long-lost (supposedly dead) brother Richard, also known as one of the Princes in the Tower.  This obsession completely consumed him as well as his mother, which in turn made him not able to ever exhale and relax in The White Princess.

Even though Henry's paranoia got old after awhile and Elizabeth's lack of gumption took a toll on me, I still really liked her and felt empathy towards her plight. I mean she really tried with Henry and I felt she did everything right, but it never seemed to work out for her.  There was many a time in The White Princess where I felt Elizabeth got dealt a bad hand. I have no idea how she dealt with her disappointment of a husband, her nightmare of a mother-in-law, and her lack of power at court, despite the fact that she's Queen.  Don't even get me started that she didn't even live in the Queen's apartments, because her mother-in-law inhabited them!!

One of my favorite parts of The White Princess dealt with Elizabeth's mother and her determination and loyalty to the York family.  There's no doubt that her mother is one of my favorite characters in this entire series. Another favorite part of The White Princess is the possibility that Elizabeth's brother, Richard, is in fact NOT dead and could at any day come back to claim the throne. I found these two aspects of the novel especially captivating and of course, I loved Gregory's take on such a controversial even in history.

One thing is for sure: I can't get enough of Gregory's books. I absolutely love this series and am beyond excited to watch The White Queen TV series on STARZ this August. I can't wait to see some of my favorite characters come to life!  If you are a fan of historical fiction, I highly recommend The Cousins' War series. Philippa Gregory does historical fiction so very well and I just.can't.get.enough.  

6 comments:

  1. I still haven't picked this series up but I need to. I didn't really remember much about Henry VII compared to his more famous son. That marriage sounds like hell.

    Great review! I am looking forward to watching the series when it is on DVD.

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    1. If you like historical fiction (and I know you do!) you must check this series out. I hope the TV show is awesome. I can't wait for August! Thanks for visiting, Christina!

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  2. I started reading The Kingmaker's Daughter last night, so this one is next on my list. Can't wait to get through it. I'm really enjoying the TV series now - Anne and Richard's story (as depicted in the show) is quite sweet.

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    1. I hope you are enjoying The Kingmaker's Daughter--can't wait to hear your thoughts on The White Princess. You have me so excited for the TV show! Thanks for visiting, Leanna!

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  3. I love anything that Gregory writes! It's her stories that had me fall in love with historical fiction as a genre! I'm sad to say that I haven't read this series yet, but now I have a bigger push (I had no idea they were turning it into a TV show!).

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    1. Me too! I am a HUGE fan! I feel the same way. I am so excited for the TV show. It's on in the UK currently and it premieres in the US on 8/10. I can't wait! Thanks for stopping by, Andrea!

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