Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory
I have read most of the books in Philippa Gregory’s Tudor and Plantagenet series. They are usually relatively short, fast paced and an enjoyable way to learn more about the lesser known royals in an important time in English history. So, with anticipation, I purchased Gregory’s latest, Three Sisters, Three Queens which focuses on Margaret Tudor and her relationship with her “sisters” Katherine of Aragon and Mary Tudor. It turned out to be one of my least favorite books written by Gregory.
First, it is way too long at close to 600 pages and if the subject had been a little more likeable, that might have worked out. However, Margaret was depicted by the author as selfish, competitive and the biggest whiner in royal history – a thoroughly contemptable person. While the whining eased off a bit in the second half of the book, I was so sick of this Queen by the time I got there, I was disengaged. I found it intriguing in the epilogue that the author said that there is very little source material on Margaret so I guess this personality was developed by the Gregory based on a scarcity of information. Given that, I’m not sure why she chose to make her so miserable.
Margaret is Henry VIII’s sister. She is married off to the King of Scotland who dies early in the book but not before Margaret bore him a male heir. She then takes up with a young Scottish nobleman and marries him but he proves to be rather treacherous, and is unfaithful to her. This becomes an even worse situation for her because Henry takes her husband’s side and makes Margaret’s life miserable. She loses custody of her children, is bounced around and she doesn’t get much support from Kathryn of Aragon who obviously has her own problems or her sister Mary. There is also a long litany of stillborn children and infant deaths. It’s all pretty grim in the 1500s trying to conceive, birth and raise a healthy offspring – particularly a Tudor heir.
I don’t have much knowledge of the Kings of Scotland and that part of the story kept me reading. Unfortunately, the book would have been much better if had been a couple of hundred pages shorter and Margaret wasn’t such an unappealing, spoiled whiner. Hopefully the subject of Gregory’s next book will be more appealing.
The Premonition by Chris Bohjalian
The Premonition is a short story prequel to Bohjalian’s upcoming book “The Sleepwalker”. It showed up on one of my many suggested book lists and because the price was right on Amazon, I purchased it. I enjoy Bohjalian’s books and this one, like so many of his others, is set in Vermont where I have spent a good deal of time and enjoy reading about. I assume the job of “The Premonition” is to engage readers enough so they purchase the Sleepwalker and it did the job for me. Lianna is a teenager who occasionally gets “premonitions” and has a mother who sleepwalks. There is enough mystery and intrigue to wet my appetite for the longer novel and I’ll be pre-ordering the Sleepwalker even though the slight tinge of the supernatural has me just a little concerned that the Sleepwalker might be one of Bohjalian’s more “out there” novels.
If you like Bohjalian and are anxiously awaiting his next book, take a look at the Premonition. You won’t be disappointed.