Saturday, 1 October 2011

Review of The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

I am a huge fan of Philippa Gregory and was so excited to receive a copy of her latest novel The Lady of the Rivers to review.

The Lady of the Rivers is the third book in the Cousins' War trilogy and focuses on the little known life of Jacquetta Woodville; the Dowager Duchess of Bedford and mother to Elizabeth Woodville, who is the White Queen in the first title in this trilogy. I have read all three of the books now, but I found that you could really read them in any sequence.

Jacquetta was an immensely interesting figure and this book talks of her life growing up in Luxembourg (she was daughter of the Count of Luxembourg) and in British controlled France. Jacquetta marries the British controller of France the Duke of Bedford, but it is her later marriage to his squire Richard Woodville and the births of their numerous children that occupies most of the novel. We also see her relationship with Margaret of Anjou in the book and her close and vital position at Court.

The novel tells us Jacquetta’s story from her point of view. It is fictional, although includes reference to the few facts known about her life. Despite studying history, I know little about the Wars of the Roses and found this element so interesting and particularly the constant battle to keep and hold France despite the cost.

There is a strong theme of magic in the novel, as a result of Jacquetta’s family link to the goddess Melusina. I actually really enjoyed this theme and loved the way it linked in with plots and suspicions of the time. In particular, the way that the book opens with the powerful and terrifying portrayal of Joan of Arc and her subsequent trial.

This is every bit as good as the White Queen and The Red Queen and is a must read for all historical fiction fans. Jacquetta is the ultimate heroine; she is beautiful and powerful, but likeable at the same time. As with other novels by Gregory the text really comes to life and makes you feel that you’re experiencing this piece of history with the characters themselves.

Philippa Gregory has also produced a book entitled The Women of the Cousins’ War to accompany her trilogy and this is now available to purchase. Look out for my review to follow soon.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy of The Lady of the Rivers to review.

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