One of my personal reading challenges that I made for myself this year was to read all of Philippa Gregory’s novels based on the history of the Tudor line in chronological order. As I am writing this post, I have read 11 of the 15 books I set out on. I started this in May of this year, right after I moved and married. What I appreciate about Gregory is how obvious it is that she spends an extensive amount of time researching her topics, and where ever there are gaps in information she makes an educated guess as to what happened. As these novels are historical fiction, based on actual happenings the information provided is mostly factual, with some fluffing as needed.
While the most widely know of these novels is The Other Boleyn Girl, made into a movie in 2003, many who I have spoken to did not know that there is 15 novels written on the subject. On her website, Gregory has an order that follows the chronology of the lives of the women of the Plantagenet and Tudor courts, and each novel presents historical happening as the would have effected each woman. These women all have some kind of significance for how the monarchy progressed. While most of these novels only have one narrator, there are a handful that are told from the point of view of up to three.
There were times, as I was reading, that I felt nervous/nauseous about how things would turn out for these women. Many of them faced certain peril whether for personal decisions or being wrongly accused. I found myself rooting for people whose end has not only been already decided, but based on fact so there is no doubt what happened to most of these people. It is a fact that Henry VIII had six wives, and a lot of them met their end on his demand. But the way the Gregory presents the characters you want to root for them, and you hope that the ending is happier than you know it to be.
One of my favorite things that I was faced with was the unreliable narrator. There are things that happen that are perceived by one character and when you move to another, with the help of overlapping timelines, it is told in a totally different way that you need to decide who you think is telling the truth. I found myself leaning towards the first person that I heard it from, not because I was certain that they were the more accurate, but because I felt a sense of loyalty to the character. And it also boiled down to who I would rather have had tea with. I plan to post individual reviews of each of the books, some I naturally liked more than others. I will also discuss why I preferred certain characters to others, and how that may relate to my view on the fuzzier parts of history.