In the realms of historical fiction, both televised and written, the Tudors are, hands down,
portrayed most often.
It is true that they had a lot of drama, what with winning the Wars of the Roses, a king with eight wives, a queen whose name is inseparable from the adjective bloody, and another queen known for her lifelong virginity. But there are other royal families whose stories are every bit as interesting. In a radical move from her previous historical novels (The Other Boleyn Girl, The Constant Princess), Philippa Gregory moves on beyond Tudors in her newest novel, The White Queen. The story starts when Elizabeth Woodville, a beautiful young widow left with two sons after the death of her Lancastrian husband in battle, appeals to youthful Edward IV, the victorious Yorkist contender for England’s throne, for justice in getting her marriage portion returned to her. Edward, a notorious ladies’ man, is taken by Elizabeth’s beauty and they are soon married in a secret ceremony. Throughout the novel, Gregory portrays Elizabeth as a clever woman determined to promote her family’s interests, but her ambition is accompanied by her deep love for her handsome, loyal, faithless husband. In an era when royal marriages are matters of state, Edward and Elizabeth’s clandestine marriage rocks his throne, and soon Edward is on the run and Elizabeth is in sanctuary, staying out of the reach of the reinstalled Lancastrian dynasty. Upon Edward’s return to battle for his throne once again, the Lancastrians flee in turn after Edward’s decisive victory.
The White Queen is a novel of ambition, treachery and politics, but most of all, it is a love story that lasted until Edward’s death. Instead of becoming the Queen Mother when her son assumed the throne as Edward V, Elizabeth and her daughters once again ended up in sanctuary as her husband’s brother, Richard, declared her marriage to Edward invalid and assumed the throne himself. Philippa Gregory has skillfully depicted the careful path Elizabeth walked, balancing loyalties and safety in order to keep her family alive. The White Queen is the first book in a trilogy called The Cousins War; and Gregory is currently working on The Red Queen, which will be followed by The White Princess. Expand your historical horizons and find out what came before the Tudors in this gripping saga!
From historical fiction to pop culture, September also brings us a new novel from Nick Hornby, most famous for his best-selling book High Fidelity, which was turned into a popular movie starring John Cusack. In addition to being a novelist, Hornby is also a well-known music and literary critic. In Juliet, Naked, his sixth novel, he returns to his music fan roots (so well displayed in High Fidelity) and gives readers a more mature, less arrogant view of the obsessive music buff in middle-age. When Tucker Crowe, a reclusive musician who disappeared from public life a decade ago, releases an “unplugged” version of his bestselling album “Juliet”, uber-fan Duncan is ecstatic–another album he can dissect, interpret and review on his blog, more material he can discuss with Tucker’s other dedicated fans. Annie, Duncan’s girlfriend, is not quite as excited. After her less-than-positive review of the album posted on Duncan’s website inspires Tucker Crowe himself to email her, everything begins to change. Duncan, unable to bear Annie’s betrayal of the perfection of Tucker, takes up with another woman. Annie, flattered by Tucker’s ongoing emails, realizes that she might be able to change her own life. And Tucker? He still has a lot of growing up to do, despite his multiple divorces and multiple children. Music fans will love this book–it doesn’t have all the answers and loose ends are left waving in the breeze at the end of the book, but isn’t that just like life?
Susan Taylor has been in the book business since 1982.