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The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The White Queen (edition 2010)

by Philippa Gregory

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2,381None2,612 (3.58)121
Title:The White Queen
Authors:Philippa Gregory
Info:Pocket Books (2010), Edition: Export ed, Paperback, 456 pages
Collections:Your library

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The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

15th century (58) 2009 (14) 2010 (14) audiobook (12) ebook (16) Edward IV (50) Elizabeth Woodville (65) England (116) fiction (161) historical (61) historical fiction (319) history (38) Kindle (22) medieval (17) novel (11) own (12) Philippa Gregory (15) Plantagenet (53) Princes in the Tower (17) read (24) read in 2010 (13) Richard III (19) romance (19) royalty (31) to-read (69) Tudors (13) war (17) Wars of the Roses (109) witchcraft (12) York (14)
  1. 50
    The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman (DevourerOfBooks, kraaivrouw)
    DevourerOfBooks: Perhaps the best historical fiction on The War of the Roses.
    kraaivrouw: This is the one to read about the War of the Roses.
  2. 40
    The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir (ddelmoni)
    ddelmoni: Non-fiction
  3. 30
    Katherine by Anya Seton (cyderry)
    cyderry: this book explains how the Yorkist/Lancaster line split occurred.
  4. 30
    The King's Grey Mare by Rosemary Hawley Jarman (Sakerfalcon, tina1969)
    Sakerfalcon: Another novel focusing on Elizabeth Woodville.
  5. 10
    Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett (joririchardson)
  6. 21
    The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory (tesskrose)
  7. 10
    The Last Plantagenets by Thomas B. Costain (cyderry)
  8. 10
    The Three Edwards by Thomas B. Costain (cyderry)

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Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
“The White Queen” is narrated by Elizabeth Woodville, wife of England’s King Edward IV, over the period of 1464-85. Occasionally the narrative switches to third person so as to portray certain battles between Lancaster and York, which are better known today as the Wars of the Roses.

Elizabeth comes from a Lancastrian family, but following a defeat at the hands of Edward IV, the Woodvilles change their allegiance and swap their red roses for white ones.

By luck, it seems, the king falls in love with Elizabeth, and she feels the same way, despite the fact that her husband has been killed by Edward’s soldiers.

But this tale is not all about love and marriage. Plenty of battles are to be fought. Desire for power results in not just cousin fighting cousin but brother fighting brother.

I like the author’s take on the mystery of the princes in the tower and am pretty much in agreement with her theories.

What I dislike is the amount of repetition. Many times I find myself reading over the same info, sometimes in back to back sentences.

There’s also a lot of, “We are of the House of York.” We fight for the House of Lancaster”. “But he is one of the brothers of York.” This sort of thing is so frequent that it feels unnatural in some way.

Another mildly annoying thing is the overuse of referring to characters by their full titles, but I accept that it’s important to do this at times with so many people owning the same names.

For example, through Elizabeth being married twice, she has two sons called Richard, which is one of the most common character names, alongside Edward.

That said, it becomes irritating when it’s obvious to the reader who’s speaking/being spoken to or being referred to and still we get the character’s full title.

Below is an example of what I mean. At one point Elizabeth is talking to her sister Katherine about their eldest brother and Elizabeth’s sons from her first marriage:

“My Grey son Thomas is going to escape from here. He will go to Sheriff Hutton to rescue his brother Richard Grey and his uncle Anthony”

Elizabeth has only one son named Thomas. The reader met him many pages before this reference to him. The reader doesn’t need reminding of his surname and I’m pretty sure Aunt Katherine will know who Elizabeth means.

And why, after saying “My Grey son Thomas” would she need to state “his brother Richard Grey”? Either “his brother Richard” or better still “his brother” would be more apt.

And why specify “his uncle Anthony”? Surely “his uncle” or “Anthony” is more appropriate.

Long-winded sentences like the above slow the text down and it feels totally unnatural that two sisters would talk to each other like this. In fact, this form of writing is how I would expect someone to write a children’s book.

To me this makes a more concise read:

“Thomas is going to escape from here. He will go to Sheriff Hutton to rescue his brother and uncle.”

It conveys the exact amount of information featured in the original sentences but says it without any clutter.

Also, it’s a rarity throughout the text for Elizabeth to just say “Anthony”; she almost always says “My brother Anthony”, which seems silly, as there’s no need to specify that Anthony is her brother when there’s no one else called Anthony in the story.

Below is another Elizabeth quote:

“I long to see my oldest son by King Edward”

I had to re-read this. I thought there was a typo somewhere, as by this stage Edward IV has passed on and their eldest son is Edward V, thus I thought she was trying to say, “I long to see my son, King Edward.”

The way it’s phrased just seems an unnatural to me.

The example below is from a letter written to Elizabeth, by Margaret Beaufort, mother of the future Henry VII:

“he should speak to my son Henry Tudor”

Now she only has one son, which is well known to both the reader and Elizabeth, so why would you state his surname? There’s no real reason to state either name, especially so when you think this took place in a dangerous time in the 1480s. Wouldn’t you just get everything down as quickly as possible and send the letter?

Margaret, at this stage, was under house arrest and wasn’t permitted to send letters – she sneaked this one out – so I reckon she wouldn’t waste time and ink naming her well-known son.

Anyway, others may say I’m being too picky, but this to me is a case of using two words when one will do, ultimately slowing down the narrative, while suggesting that the reader lacks the ability to keep up with numerous characters with different names.

So although I liked this book enough to award it 3 stars, I feel it had the potential to be much better.

I am interested in this period of history and the real people that are characterised in this novel, therefore if you feel the same way I’d recommend you give it a go. If you just want a damn good read then you may be disappointed. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Mar 28, 2014 |
I didn't get on with The Other Boleyn Girl, but I was willing to give Philippa Gregory another chance because she is such a loved writer, and it is an interesting part of history -- and perhaps more importantly, the portrayal of medieval queens is something I'm really interested in academically. But gah, I'm afraid I'm really wishing I hadn't bothered, or at least that I hadn't bothered to buy it. €12!

The problem with it is apparent from the very first pages. Elizabeth moves from a crafty, strong woman who despises the king but does what she needs to out of necessity to a giddy girl who doesn't even seek proper proof of what's happening within a handful of pages. By page fifty, she's desperately in love with him, she's married to him, she has faith that he'll come back to her -- all based on very little character development, for us, and with no time spent getting to know him (unless, I'm going to be crude, knowing his dick very very well counts) for her.

I actually liked the references to Melusina, etc, because that was something that could well inform someone's attitude back then. But that was about the only thing I liked. Here is this woman who was strong, capable, and at the very least politically astute if not downright clever -- reduced to a melting, credulous little dove over a handsome face. Gregory's version doesn't feel consistent, either internally or with history. Other characters are just as mercurial, so it's not as if this is a clever characterisation thing.

If I ever get to writing a thesis, I'll probably have to reread this and read a lot of Gregory's other work, but it'll be unwillingly. ( )
  shanaqui | Feb 10, 2014 |
Philippa Gregory definitely has a formula and this book followed it to a "t". Some of the narration in this story got tedious, but for the most part, the story was quite interesting. I love this era of English history and it's always fun to read. ( )
  debbie.menzel | Feb 6, 2014 |
This book was a SantaThing choice and the first book I read in 2014. As a died in the wool Ricardian ever since I first read [The Daughter of Time] a quarter-century ago, I confess I went into this book without an ounce of sympathy for the mail character Elizabeth Woodville. That said, the story was in fact quite well-conceived and hit all of the factual markers necessary to ground it in history. Elizabeth is a well-drawn and sympathetic character- a woman fighting for her family, her power and her love in a time of great historical turmoil. I was less enamored with the supernatural elements of the tale, though ultimately they were not enough to ruin my enjoyment of the story. Though I myself could still not take the Woodville side, and didn't like the picture of Richard that was painted in this novel, it was nonetheless an enjoyable read and a solid introduction to the time period. ( )
  ForeignCircus | Jan 9, 2014 |
This was the first book by Philippa Gregory that I read, and it remains one of my favorites. I typically stick to heavy literary classics, but my fascination with some eras in British history left me hankering for some historical fiction. Reading Philippa Gregory's books really allow me to itch that scratch.

Also, I'm someone who finds difficulty making time for personal reading unless I am part of a book club, a Goodreads First Reads winner, or have some other external pressure to make time for an activity I would normally de-prioritize as pure pleasure. However, this novel quickly hooked me in so that I was completely immersed in the story for hours at a time. I was too absorbed to feel guilty for not doing something more "productive." That's a real gift.

If you're interested in historical fiction about women, this period, etc. this should prove to be a satisfying indulgence. ( )
  kara.shamy | Jan 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
[A] highly professional, highly enjoyable novel: stylistically plain, rhetorically straightforward, infinitely more interested in drawing readers into the life and immediacy of history than in pedantically mimicking period idioms.
Gregory's exhaustive research, lush detail and deft storytelling are all in top form here, making The White Queen both mesmerizing and historically rich.
added by Shortride | editPeople, Joanna Powell (Aug 24, 2009)

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philippa Gregoryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cottenden, JeffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, YuanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Li, CherlynneCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lyons, SusanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
In the darkness of the forest the young knight could hear the splashing of the fountain long before he could see the glimmer of moonlight reflected on the still surface. He was about to step forward, longing to dip his head, drink in the coolness, when he caught his breath at the sight of something dark, moving deep in the water. There was a greenish shadow in the sunken bowl of the fountain, something like a great fish, something like a drowned body. Then it moved and stood upright and he saw, frighteningly naked: a bathing woman. Her skin as she rose up, water coursing down her flanks, was even paler than the white marble bowl, her wet hair dark as a shadow.
She is Melusina, the water goddess, and she is found in hidden springs and waterfalls in any forest in Christendom, even in those as far away as Greece. She bathes in the Moorish fountains too. They know her by another name in the northern countries, where the lakes are glazed with ice and it crackles when she rises. A man may love her if he keeps her secret and lets her alone when she wants to bathe, and she may love him in return until he breaks his word, as men always do, and she sweeps him into the deeps, with her fishy tail, and turns his faithless blood to water.

The tragedy of Melusina, whatever language tells it, whatever tune it sings, is that a man will always promise more than he can do to a woman he cannot understand.

Richard on my other side kneels too and mutters, as if he cannot be heard, "Is this the king? Really? He is the tallest man I have ever seen in my life!"

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Book description
Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They ruled before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women.

The White Queen tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition, who secretly marries the newly crowned boy king. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become the central figures in a famous unsolved mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the lost princes in the Tower of London.
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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.… (more)

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