Three Sisters, Three Queens
By Philippa Gregory
Read by: Bianca Amato
Published by Simon and Schuster/Simon & Schuster Audio (Also available in print and ebook formats from Simon and Schuster)
August 09. 2016
Length: 21 hrs and 9 mins
Audiobook provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
“There is only one bond that I trust: between a woman and her sisters. We never take our eyes off each other. In love and in rivalry, we always think of each other.”
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author behind the upcoming Starz original series The White Princess, a gripping new Tudor story featuring King Henry VIII’s sisters Mary and Margaret, along with Katherine of Aragon, vividly revealing the pivotal roles the three queens played in Henry VIII’s kingdom.
When Katherine of Aragon is brought to the Tudor court as a young bride, the oldest princess, Margaret, takes her measure. With one look, each knows the other for a rival, an ally, a pawn, destined—with Margaret’s younger sister Mary—to a sisterhood unique in all the world. The three sisters will become the queens of England, Scotland, and France.
United by family loyalties and affections, the three queens find themselves set against each other. Katherine commands an army against Margaret and kills her husband James IV of Scotland. But Margaret’s boy becomes heir to the Tudor throne when Katherine loses her son. Mary steals the widowed Margaret’s proposed husband, but when Mary is widowed it is her secret marriage for love that is the envy of the others. As they experience betrayals, dangers, loss, and passion, the three sisters find that the only constant in their perilous lives is their special bond, more powerful than any man, even a king. http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Three-Sisters-Three-Queens/Philippa-Gregory/9781508211570
For these three women, life as queens or, former queens, is difficult and at times filled with peril.
Philippa Gregory is an absolute master of the form and has specialized in Tudor historical fiction. Usually there is some romance, and here there is more than a tot, but it is not the real focus of the story.
The focus of the story is ostensibly the relationship between these three women, thrown together early enough in life that they feel as sisters to each other and culturally, as sisters and sisters-in-law are bound as sisters would be. But, I felt the story slanted so much toward the life and political travails of Margaret, Dowager Queen of Scotland, even told in the first person with her voice, that it shadows the relationships between the women and ends up being the story of Margaret. When she talks with Katherine of Aragon, Katherine is given a lovely accent, but it is still Margaret’s book.
The way the description read I expected the story to be told through the voices of the three women, each in turn. But, the story is only told from Margaret’s point of view.
The young Margaret, has been brought up to believe absolutely in the divine right of the Tudors to rule England, and is very much caught up in the prestige and pomp she perceives and believes is her due. As the queen of the least wealthy country in the trio of England, France and Scotland, she was certainly likely to feel slighted.
This perception and belief is a major theme in the book and a problem is that she is a child still when thrust into the marriage which outcome will rule her life, and as a child is still apt to focus on the style and prestige over the substance, politics and policy making. With a brother as fickle as the notorious Henry VIII, it was a hard time to be the one most removed from court, but it may also have been the safest location.
As she matures she is less and less undermined by her own status seeking and becomes a better queen. Unfortunately, her queenship is threatened by politics and how women are treated legally as she grows older.
I was disappointed the other women are heard from sparingly and through their letters, but Bianca Amato does a great job voicing them through their letters and, I thought, through Margaret’s memory of their voices. Men’s voices are not as crucial to the book. Amato did a wonderful job narrating and, I felt her pronunciation was outstanding.
In terms of history and writing about the Tudors, it is possible that Gregory is running out of subject matter. Who is even left to write about? It seems as if this is telling the same story, that of the Tudors, from many angles. She’ll have to move on to Henry VIII’s children born to mistresses. As she has done so many books around them her grasp of the period is probably what will be thought of as Tudor reality. Although the time is presented more roughly than historical romance would, it is still a highly romanticized version of life in the period.
At 21 hours, one voice is a little tedious and as much of the story is about the peregrinations of Margaret and her husbands and children as they escape from one place, one castle, one country to another it feels a little long. If you’re a fan of the historical, and don’t mind a little gloss on the period then you will probably find it an enjoyable story!
AUTHOR: http://www.philippagregory.com/books (worth checking out for excerpts and historical materials)