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Philippa Gregory: The Lady of the Rivers
The Lady of the Rivers tells the story of Jacquetta, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville who was the Queen of England in the fifteenth century.
Raised by a wealthy family in France, Jacquetta is descended from a goddess with outstanding talents. She weds the Duke of Bedford, the king's uncle, who introduces her to alchemy. After her brief marriage that ends with the Duke's demise, Jacquetta falls in love with a squire, marries him and gives him over a dozen kids; the eldest of which is Elizabeth Woodville.
As the novel moves forward, Jacquetta becomes close to the English Queen Marjaret of Anjou and is privy to the kingdom's most intimate secrets due to this friendship. The novel loosely covers the events leading up to The Cousin's War between the house of York and the house of Lancaster. Jacquetta sides with the queen and is a firm ally of the house of Lancaster.
The Lady of the Rivers' recurring theme is to highlight what happens to women who dare to take their fate into their own hands. Beginning her novel with the execution of Joan of Arc, Gregory provides a portrait of how women were mistreated at the time.
The story is the third in Gregory's Plantagenet women series, but for loyal fans, The Lady of the Rivers doesn’t quite match the calibre of her previous novels.
Historical fiction is known to offer insight into the minds of historical characters; adding perspective to the past, but that's exactly what The Lady of the Rivers lacks. Jacquetta is one character that hasn't been done enough justice in history books, and the same applies to this novel. Gregory doesn't dig beneath the surface to show – rather than tell – readers what Jacquetta really feels and why she acts the way she does.
The author has so little solid information about Jaquetta to work with and build on, and the end result clearly reflects that. Her character doesn't develop much, and teenage Jacquetta feels a lot like her mother-of-sixteen self. Gregory has chosen a subject matter that was uninterestingly presented in previous works, and she ought to have gone a bit further and added zest to Jaquetta's otherwise bland character.
Other characters seem one-dimensional and their conversations are stilted. Gregory has fallen into the habit of mentioning the characters' titles every time she mentions their names; although this might prove to be helpful, it gets quite irritating after the first dozen times.
In closing, Gregory's fans who are used to her engaging writing and unique take on things might find The Lady of the Rivers a tad disappointing as it lacks that magical flair that her other novels have been known for.
Joseph Anton was Rushdie’s pseudonym when he went into hiding, so it makes for a good title for a memoir detailing that particular part of his life. So one would assume the book details mostly that: the fatwa, its consequences and the efforts undertaken to void it. Unfortunately, there is a lot of toffee-nosed non-information one has to wade through to get to the interesting stuff.
The book is littered with numerous unnecessary references to several of his ‘beloved’, ‘amazing’ and ‘great’ friends such as Harold Pinter, Susan Sontag and Martin Amis. A good two pages are wasted detailing a dinner party at the home of then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. It would be more interesting to know how the fatwa was annulled (spoiler alert: it never actually officially was), not how Rushdie’s son Milan spent at least half an hour sitting on Tony Blair’s lap and how jolly a time was had by all.
The first impression of main character Abby, a freshman at university, is that she’s a goody-two-shoes and seems to have a reserved, shy personality. She is just starting a new independent life as a student far away from home, but her peace of mind is soon disturbed when she meets Travis; an underground fighter who goes to the same school. He's the kind of guy that every girl should avoid but still dreams of taming. With tattooed arms, the rebellious enigma captures Abby's attention instantly and though he has trouble written all over him, she can't help but get sucked into his world.
But on the other hand, Travis is also somewhat spellbound by Abby's innocence. What he doesn't know, and neither do we at the time, is that he’s in for a surprise; with a sharp tongue and a strong personality, Abby manages to charm the bad boy into submission. As the story progresses, we see Abby building a shield to protect herself from being another challenge that Travis conquers. Frustrated with Abby, Travis is forced to comply with her strict rules and settles for being ‘her friend’.
The novel takes an unusual turn when Abby loses a bet with Travis and is forced to live with him for a whole month. The lines between innocent friendship and love become blurred and as the story goes on, McGuire gradually delves deeper into Abby's fears and the dark past that is still hunting her.
Jumping up the New York Times bestselling charts soon after being published, Beautiful Disaster is much more than a just another romance novel.