Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Review of "The Virgin's Lover"

I haven't been able to read much lately (at least books I haven't read before. I have made some progress through older books of mine in rereads) because of school, writing, and working on the house to get it ready to sell, but I did recently pick up Phillipa Gregory's The Virgin's Lover. It is not quite as dirty as it might sound; it is a historical novel about Queen Elizabeth I.

I have seen many of Gregory's books while browsing the isles of Barnes and Noble, but I've never picked up any of them. Her other books The Other Boleyn Girl and The Queen's Fool also look intriguing, but they all only come in the "big print" form which is roughly fifteen dollars per book, and although I am interested in them I don't really have the money to throw at the big print books, while paying 7 to 8 dollars for a regular paperback isn't so bad.

In 1558, Elizabeth I becomes the queen of England after her sister Mary's death. Sir Robert Dudley, of the powerful but disgraced Dudley family rushes to her side, eager to gain his place in society back. He leaves his wife Amy behind as he is wrapped up in the scandal, glamour and riches of the Tudor court, and soon his falls in love with his childhood friend Elizabeth. As their illicit affair spreads across the country, Elizabeth strings along several potential husbands while waiting for an invasion from France, who wishes to crown Mary Queen of Scots the Queen of England. Robert abuses Elizabeth's power, and begins to take hold of her, trying to convince her to allow him to set aside Amy and marry him. When Amy Dudley is found dead, the country is in an uproar.

This is based on history, as Elizabeth I was very close to Sir Robert Dudley, and Amy Dudley's death remains a mystery even now.

I'll have to say I had an odd reading experience with The Virgin's Lover. I can finish most books in a day or two if I read them straight through, or a week if I'm busy. In high school I read three or four books a week. Just another example of how engaging and educational even the higher level high school classes are. It took me a couple of weeks to read this book, because I stopped for a week or two, maybe longer, because I didn't like it. The beginning was good, but the more the book went on, the more disgusted I became with Robert Dudley, who is for much of the book is the main character. I had no sympathy for him, as he absolutely abuses poor Amy in his desperation to get back the power his family lost under Mary's catholic rule. I admit that I haven't read much history on Elizabeth, so I am not sure of her true nature, but the Elizabeth in this book is spoiled, petty, weak, and neurotic. I cannot see any of the woman remembered today as the proud, intelligent and brave ruler of England in the character in the book.

However, once you hit a certain point in the book, while Robert Dudley does not become anymore sympathetic (at least for me) Elizabeth grows closer to the vision of her I have in her head. When she realizes the hold Robert has over her after he goes too far, she begins to work behind his back to regain her respect and her power, and becomes a more stable and powerful character.

Amy Dudley is such a tragic character, and while she begins very meek despite her husband's constant grasps at power that fail horribly, she deepens in her religion and her convictions. The reader is rooting for her once she finally grows a spine to speak back to Robert.

All in all, a fairly enjoyable read if you can get past the conniving, adulterous, and power-obsessed Robert Dudley. 3.5 out of 5 quills.

"Grandeur! Are you still running after grandeur? Will you never learn your lesson? There was nothing very grand about you when you came out of the Tower, homeless and hungry; there was nothing very grand about your brother when he died of jail fever like a common criminal. When will you learn that your place is at home, where we might be happy? Why will you insist on running after disaster? You and your father lost the battle for Jane Grey, and it cost him his son and his own life. You lost Calais and came home without your brother and disgraced again! How low do you need to go before you learn your lesson? How base do you have to sink before you Dudleys learn your limits?"

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