Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: Women of the Cousin's War by Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin & Michael Jones (Non-Fic)

Publish Date: September 2011
Format: Hardcover 352pp

Synopsis (From the Publisher):
"#1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory teams with two eminent historians to explore the historical characters in the real-life world behind her Wars of the Roses novels.
PHILIPPA GREGORY and her fellow historians describe the extraordinary lives of the heroines of her Cousins’ War books: Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford; Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV; and Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII 
In her essay on Jacquetta, Philippa Gregory uses original documents, archaeology, and histories of myth and witchcraft to create the first-ever biography of the young duchess who survived two reigns and two wars to become the first lady at two rival courts. David Baldwin, established authority on the Wars of the Roses, tells the story of Elizabeth Woodville, the first commoner to marry a king of England for love; and Michael Jones, fellow of the Royal Historical Society, writes of Margaret Beaufort, the almost-unknown matriarch of the House of Tudor. 
In the introduction, Gregory writes revealingly about the differences between history and historical fiction. How much of a role does speculation play in writing each? How much fiction and how much fact should there be in a historical novel? How are female historians changing our view of women in history? 
The Women of the Cousins’ War is beautifully illustrated with rare portraits and source materials. As well as offering fascinating insights into the inspirations behind Philippa Gregory’s fiction, it will appeal to all with an interest in this period."

My Review:

The Women of the Cousins War provides the reader with a brief history of the three courageous women who are the focus of Philippa Gregory's novels set during the Wars of the Roses. Broken into three segments, the book covers the lives of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford,  Elizabeth Woodville, and Margaret Beaufort.

The introduction of the novel is written by Philippa Gregory and covers the research, means of inspiration, and the delicate task of balancing fact and fiction. It was this part of Gregory's contribution to the biography that I enjoyed most. Her other segment in the book, the one on Jacquetta, read slowly and after its completion there was not a feeling of knowing Jacquetta on a deeper level than what was derived from The White Queen.

After the essay on Jacquetta, David Baldwin begins his discussion on Elizabeth Woodville. This was by far my favorite section of this book. Even though Elizabeth is the most well known figure of the three, it was not a repeat of the basic facts about her life. Baldwin wrote a compelling essay and kept the rhythm flowing from start to finish.

The final essay, written by Michael Jones, gave new life to the historical figure Margaret Beaufort. The first few pages of this segment were a bit slow, but after that it was an easy and light, yet informative experience. Margaret Beaufort has always seemed like such a domineering and dismal character whenever she appeared in a novel, but after reading Jones's essay, a greater understanding of her personality and why it came to be is quite apparent.

If you are looking for an in-depth and highly detailed biography of these three women, I would suggest to purchase another book in addition to this one. The reason I say "in addition to" is because while the section in Jacquetta was a bit lacking, it is currently the most easily accessible work on her life. Now, if you are someone who is overwhelmed by the thought of reading non-fiction, this is a great piece to start with! The Women of the Cousin's War is a mild work of non-fiction that will give you a sturdy foundation before you read Phillipa Gregory's Wars of the Roses novels.



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Copyright © 2011 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.
FTC: I received this book from the publisher for review. 
As always, these are my own honest opinions.