Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #32 – The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

Lots of driving over the past week or so. Tampa to West Palm to Miami to Tampa to Orlando to Miami to West Palm to Tampa. Lots of time on my ass. Lots of time to listen to a very long story. That’s pretty much how I pick my books on CD – driving time. Since I was going to be in the car for a crap-ton of time, I knew I could go long. The last time I had lots of driving to do, I tried Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. Who knew that the audiobook could be even more boring than the actual book?! So this time I decided to go pulp fiction. Well, pulp historical fiction.

We all know Philippa Gregory from such books as The Other Boleyn Girl, The Boleyn Inheritance, and other Tudor bodice rippers. The books we all hate to say we read (or listen to) and enjoy; total guilty pleasures. This book is no different. It’s about Mary, Queen of Scots (the “other” to Elizabeth I) during the time she was captive (guest?) in England after the whole Scotland debacle (Darnley murdered, Mary kidnapped and probably raped by Lord Bothwell, also maybe married to him and carrying twins). So Elizabeth puts Mary with one of her most loyal Lords, George, Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife Bess of Hardwick. Bess is an interesting historical figure that I had never heard of until listening to this book – I will definitely be looking into her more.

Anyway, there’s a lot here. Mary is semi-guest, semi-captive, sorta-queen, and is either staying with or jailed by the Shrewsburys. The story is told from the points of view of Mary, George, and Bess; which makes things very interesting, because Gregory has done the research to be able to talk about the exact same incident from three very different points of view, and she makes it sound plausible. Mary is vain, and fully believes that she is magic, untouchable, and ordained by her (catholic) god to rule. Bess is the daughter of a farmer who knows the value of a dollar (pound) and the value of land. Shrewsbury is of the old guard, landed gentry, his family has served the monarch (no matter who it is) for generations. Honor is all for Shrewsbury; safety is all for Bess (financial safety, that is); power and ruling is all for Mary.

There were a lot of passages at which I rolled my eyes, and most of those belonged to Mary. I would hope that a woman who could have ruled three countries (France, Scotland and England) wouldn’t have been such a determined flirt who used men and depended on them for the source of her power. Bess was more my style, an actual self-made woman who was considerably more clever than most of the people around her. According to the story (and from what I’ve gleaned from wikipedia), the “honor” of being responsible for Queen Mary bankrupted the Shrewsburys.

The people reading the story on the audiobook were all excellent actors, they really brought the characters to life. I’m not sure how I would feel about this in actual book form, but the audiobook kept me entertained and awake for my very long drives.

5 thoughts on “Captain Tuttle’s #CBR5 Review #32 – The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

  1. I’m glad you reviewed this… I have a couple of Phillipa Gregory’s books laying around but I have yet to pick them up and read them. (See, I have this disease where I just buy books… and more books and more books… and I don’t have time to read everything I buy!) You bumped Phillipa up on my list.
    Also, I wanted to say (as a Florida girl), that drive from Tampa to Miami sucks cause it’s long, but that Orlando run is the worst. The I-4 corridor is akin to the fifth circle of hell.

    • Which ones do you have? She can be very hit or miss for me – I actually really liked The Boleyn Inheritance, and didn’t like The Other Boleyn Girl. I think that is partially because she tends to portray Anne Boleyn more negatively and I really like Anne.

  2. I’ve read Margaret George’s novel on Mary, and I’ve also read Antonia Fraser’s bio on her. I think they presented her in a more sympathetic manner based on your reaction, but when it comes down to it, Mary wasn’t a very strong groundbreaking person or ruler. Her mother appears to have been more of a ruler – Mary unfortunately seems to have been raised to be the King of France’s wife, and I get the idea that Scotland was basically an afterthought, and if he hadn’t died, she would have basically deferred to him even in those matters , so when she was actually thrust into a position of leadership, she had no idea what to do. Worse, she was raised in France so she was basically a foreigner in her own country and had no idea about any of the politics surrounding her. So yes, there are definitely other queens and leaders I’d prefer to read about.

    • I’ve read the Margaret George novel as well, which I enjoyed. In this book, Mary’s plan to regain her throne(s) was to bat her eyes at every man that came her way, marry whoever could raise an army, maybe wait for Bothwell to come back and claim her. . . . The actor who voiced Shrewsbury did an excellent job of sounding like a fool in love with a girl half his age; and the actress who did Bess did a great job of sounding like a bitter middle-aged woman jealous of a pretty young girl. Everyone (and I mean everyone) in this book described Mary as the most beautiful woman ever in the whole world in the history of ever. Plus she was a perfect seamstress, danced like an angel, rode a horse like a man, blah, blah, blah. But she was also a huge liar, which most people found out to their great detriment. I’m not sure if Gregory was trying to make her unlikable, but if that was her plan, she succeeded.

      • I feel like sometimes Gregory likes to go with a completely different take on historical figures than other authors … I might be remembering this wrong, but I feel like she portrayed Elizabeth I negatively in one of her novels, and I definitely disliked her take on Anne Boleyn. I really liked Margaret George’s novel, enough to want to read the real story by Fraser. My favorite George one is definitely still Memoirs of Cleopatra.

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