Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Red Queen

by Philippa Gregory

I don't like Margaret Beaufort. This is the first time ever that I have not liked the main character, but still enjoyed the book as a whole. What?! Yes, it's true. I'm a study in contrasts. Margaret is an extremely pious, stubborn woman who believes her destiny, like Joan of Arc's, is to put the true king on the throne. Her son is Henry VII, so everyone who knows even a touch of history knows it'll happen eventually (he's Henry VIII's dad), and her methods of giving her son the kingdom of England are not what I would call sacred.

It's not that I don't like the fact that she's religious, or the fact that she's stubborn. I don't like her because she's cold and mean and jealous. Here she is spouting that she's doing God's work, but at the same time, she's denouncing people and ordering their deaths. She claims modesty and humility, when all she wants is to be known as the mother of a king and able to sign her name Margaret R, or Margaret Regina.

But this adds completely to my enjoyment of the book. Only a talented author can make her readers hate the main character but still become engrossed in the book. Margaret is supposed to be cold and calculating, because that's what gets her son the throne. She has her goal, and she does nothing to prevent her from achieving it. So, in a way, she's also a character to be admired. She doesn't let anything or anyone distract her from her destiny, despite the many setbacks she has throughout her entire life.

Reading about Henry VII's rise to the throne through his mother's eyes was so compelling, that during each battle I had to catch my breath and remind myself that he wins at the end. Despite his defeat from both Edward and Richard of York, and his exile to France, he has to win, because without him, we wouldn't have Henry VIII or Queen Elizabeth I. But I must say there were times when it was hard to root for the Tudors and I, unlike Margaret, would probably have given up.

I have enjoyed Philippa Gregory's writing since her book "The Other Boleyn Girl" and I have yet to be disappointed. She writes with such passion, that even with a character who's not the nicest girl in the world, the reader can't help but support her cause. It amazes me how different this one is from "The White Queen", as it should be, since TWQ is about Margaret's rival, Elizabeth Woodville. I strongly recommend both novels, about a very unstable time in England's history.

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