Sunday, July 10, 2011

Review, No. 3

Gregory is famous for historical fiction, especially of the Elizabethan period. Here she tells the story of the fictional Hannah, the Holy Fool of the English court, used as a spy, caught between Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth. She weaves an intriguing tale of fact and fiction and her characters all come alive in a very believable way. Even with the already-widely reported stories of Mary (aka Bloody Mary) and Elizabeth (aka the greatest queen probably ever), Gregory manages to avoid stereotypes. If anything, she makes us question what prejudice we brought to the table. Through the transparent plot (Hannah, a secret/illegal jew, caught between two lovers), we are asked to sympathize rather than judge, question rather than condemn. There is no right or wrong, good or bad; we are as helpless as Hannah when it comes to picking sides. It is almost as if Gregory merely hopes to represent history, using Hannah as an excuse to write a double-biography.

The novel spans years and I came to care less and less about what Hannah had to say, or how she would live her life, or if she would ever get over herself and love her betrothed. She--the narrator--got in the way of an intriguing interpretation of two very different princesses. The real story is in Gregory's interesting play on history, with Mary as a faithful victim and Elizabeth as a heartless slut. Honestly, beside the historical events of Queen Mary's reign and the possibly-manipulated moments of Elizabeth's...flirtatious rise, there was no plot. Anything in Hannah's life just distracted and detracted. Especially her infuriating infatuation with a sleazy "lord" and her cliche concerns about faith vs. religion.

Honestly, it failed to impress; it was just...there. So I guess I'll give it 2/5. 

For fair warning, there are some...mature parts--mostly of crude men groping willing women--but they are few and far between. As is anything truly interesting. So, it was neither disappointing nor exactly extraordinary. And that's that. 

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