Friday, January 8, 2016

The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory (Or, a slow burn of a sad story that we've all read before)

So let me explain the title first. I came up with the title as I waded through the book and I remember repeatedly telling my husband that it's just a sad story... one where we know the ending, and most likely, know the big parts of the story.The only difference is that it's through the eyes of another character, not one of the key players. I knew of Margaret Pole and her sad end, but I didn't know backstory or her role during the War of the Roses.

I'm not sure about you all, but I hate reading about characters that are so happy and life is wonderful when the reader knows that it's going to go to hell pretty soon. I'm going to go out on a limb and state that Gregory was laying it on with Katherine of Aragon's happiness, especially since we all know what's going to happy to her. It also happened with Margaret Pole, to a lesser extent, with her rags to riches story, seeking refuge in a nunnery until Katherine of Aragon marries Henry the VIII and is invited back to court. We all know where she ends up and her being elated makes me squirms. I feel like it's a horror movie, where the main character goes into the darken house when you know there is a killer there waiting for them.

Gregory also lays it on pretty thick with the character of Gregory, who eventually betrays Montague and his mother and his entire family. He's the apple of his mother's eye, but bad things only happen to boys that are overindulged and spoiled, which brings me too...

Damn, Henry the VIII. The rise and fall of this vapid, egomaniac of a character is pretty satisfactory, but in his wake is a path of destruction and headless women, not to mention a destruction of a religion in England. He surrounds himself with corruption, but I take issue with Margaret's viewpoint. It's skewed because she's a York Princess and her family is pushed to the side. Need I say that her father was killed because he eagerly tried to overthrow Edward II?

The last 100 pages of the book was also interesting to me because I haven't read anything on Jane Seymour or the aftermath of the fall of Anne Boleyn. I appreciated the last pages or so of the book when King Henry marries Jane Seymour. I feel like I've read a lot of books recently and saw a lot of movies that depicted the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, but we never hear about the wives after that dangerous affair. It was interesting to read it through the eyes of a powerful bystander and an heir of the Plantagenet line, the oldest royal family in England.

I even enjoyed the beginning of the book when Katherine of Aragon and Author are introduced and they were wedded and living in Ludlow when Author comes down with a mysterious illness. Katherine of Aragon is also another character I haven't read so much about, other than the displaced wife of Henry the VIII. The women are very sympathetic with her, and hate Anne Boleyn, and the reader can see how she isolates herself from everyone at court so when she is put on trial, no one is there to defend her. The act of putting his wife aside leads him into doing crazier and crazier things, with the people of court too afraid of him to advise him otherwise. Again, I feel like this is Margaret's black and white viewpoint because King Richard was definitely flirting with his niece...

Finally, like the other books in the series, there is mention of witchcraft, curses, religion and mythology, and the like, which gives it an interesting flair and spin on the history. I've read a few other books in the series, like The White Queen and The Red Queen which repeatedly mention the above themes and motifs. I'm not sure if it needed such repetition of a curse throughout the book and Margaret's adamant refusal of acknowledging it.

I'll see what other books in this series I can find for a bargain. I have a few more that I need to read, The White Princess and the other book about the rise of the Woodville family, but I'm not paying full price for them!

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