History as Fiction

   Posted by: Julia Redlich   in Bookworm

Many of us have become wary of enjoying this genre, knowing that many of the plots are based loosely on fact and owe heaps to the inventiveness of the writer. Others are well researched and a tribute to the authors’ imagination as to what might have been. Of course it must be welcomed if it inspires interest in a period or person. Just think what The Daughter of Time has done for Richard!

A Dangerous Inheritance, by Alison Weir, Hutchinson, 2012, rrp AU$32.95, ISBN978009 1926236

Knowing this writer’s tendency to downplay Richard of Gloucester’s good qualities and find plenty of reasons to position him as an arch villain, I opened this with a little trepidation, and closed it with an appreciation of the skilful linking of two periods of time, two intriguing heroines and a connection to history’s most baffling mystery.

The two women are Katherine Grey, younger sister of the ill-fated Lady Jane, and Kate Plantagenet, bastard daughter of Richard III. During Katherine’s early arranged marriage to Henry, heir to Lord Pembroke, she comes into possession of a n old box of letters from the attics of Raglan Castle This was the last home of Kateand these letters reveal her love for her caring father. It is only later that his darker side becomes apparent – and maybe with good reason.

The women have much in common: both love men who are forbidden to them; both face danger. As a potential rival for the throne, Katherine suffers the anger and distrust of her cousin Queen Elizabeth, and for much of her life is confined to the Tower, separated from her second husband and elder son. After Richard’s  unexpected succession, Kate becomes aware of rumours and threats to the family, and tries to seek the truth about what happened her two cousins, the sons of Edward IV.

It’s an intriguing story of two women usually relegated to the background. Enjoy the easy movement between the years, the mystery not just of the princes, but also Kate’s mother, and why and when Kate died and her unexpected lover. Above all, learn about the turbulence of the life when you are far too close to the throne for comfort.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter, by Philippa Gregory, Simon & Schuster, 2012, rrp AU$36. ISBN97 80857207463.

The fourth book in the Cousins’ War series, this is a portrait of Anne Neville, younger daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick.  Her childhood is warm with the friendship with the powerful Yorkists, including the youngest son, Richard of Gloucester, but this changes rapidly as the  families become enemies. She faces exile in France, and becomes a pawn in her father’s ambition to regain his lost power, forced into marriage to the only son of  Henry VI’s ruthless Queen Margaret. All too soon she is fatherless, widowed, with her mother confined in sanctuary and her elder sister Isabel married to the fickle Duke of Clarence. Danger is never far away even when Gloucester rescues her from Clarence’s hold, marries her and she eventually becomes his Queen for the rest of her life of two short years and the tragedy it brings.

There is always room for more about Queen Anne, and I appreciated the volatile relationship between the two sisters that rang so true to life. But it seems a lot is missing. I wanted more. I hate to think that it was written too swiftly – maybe a publisher’s behest to meet a good sales deadline. What will the next book in the series tell us? Apparently it is about the possible fate of the two princes, part of the story about their sister, Princess Elizabeth of York – Richard III’s secret lover.

Oh dear.

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