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The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

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boswellbaxter
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The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

Post by boswellbaxter » Tue September 6th, 2011, 4:47 am

In The Lady of the Rivers, Philippa Gregory continues her Wars of the Roses saga (I balk at calling it the Cousins’ War) with the story of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, mother to Edward IV’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville. Like her daughter Elizabeth, Jacquetta is possessed of supernatural powers.

First, I did strongly appreciate one aspect of this novel: the sympathetic portrayal of Jacquetta and the Woodville family. Most novels about the Wars of the Roses portray the Woodvilles negatively, to the point of making them into cardboard villains, and it was refreshing to see Gregory take a different tack.

Unfortunately, there’s not much else about this book I liked. Jacquetta’s first husband, John, Duke of Bedford, who served as Regent of France during Henry VI’s minority, was an interesting man faced with the very difficult task of holding on to England’s possessions in France while at the same time dealing with political infighting in England. Gregory turns him into a rather pathetic sort who marries pretty young Jacquetta only to make use of her gift of seeing into the future. Other important players of the time, such as John’s younger brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and his ambitious wife, Eleanor, make appearances, but their dramatic potential is never realized. Margaret of Anjou shows promise when she first appears in the novel, but soon becomes the she-wolf, complete with budding psychotic son, familiar to anyone who's read a lot of Wars of the Roses fiction.

Early on in the book, the widowed Jacquetta makes a scandalous marriage to her first husband’s squire, Richard Woodville. The novel then quickly jumps ahead into the court of the grown Henry VI and his French bride, Margaret of Anjou, whom Jacquetta serves. At this point, Jacquetta is reduced to the role of standing by and shaking her head as Henry and Margaret drag the country into civil war. Except to read the occasional Tarot card and to give Margaret sound advice, which is usually ignored, Jacquetta plays almost a minor role in her own novel.

The writing in this novel simply isn't up to the standard of some of Gregory's earlier efforts. I thoroughly enjoyed The Boleyn Inheritance, especially Katherine Howard's chapters, which I thought caught the voice of the ditzy young queen perfectly. The first-person present tense here is simply mind-numbing, with needless repetition. Too often, Jacquetta says something, then tells us what she said.

For me, however, the novel’s biggest flaw was what was not inside it—Jacquetta’s later years. The most dramatic events of Jacquetta’s life, her being accused and exonerated of witchcraft, the murders of her husband and her son John, and her flight into sanctuary with her daughter, belong to this period, as does the controversial role the Woodvilles allegedly played in the trial of Sir Thomas Cook, but Gregory chose to end her novel well before these things occurred. It’s her novel and her choice, but I for one would have loved to have seen how Jacquetta reacted to the controversy her family’s sudden rise generated, how she fought the charges against her, and how she dealt with the murders of her husband and John. With this missing, the impression as we close the book (or turn off the Kindle, in my case) is that of a pleasant but rather milquetoast Jacquetta: Wendy the Good Little Witch.

I received an electronic review copy of this novel from Net Galley.
Susan Higginbotham
Coming in October: The Woodvilles


http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/
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Post by Misfit » Tue September 6th, 2011, 12:22 pm

Wendy the Good Little Witch.
That pretty much says it, doesn't it?
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Post by Divia » Wed September 7th, 2011, 2:04 am

Gregory needs to start to bring her A game. She's becoming a really crappy writer in my opinion. And yet her fans will celebrate any crap she churns out.

I posted on facebook that I am done with gregory until she creates some GOOD HF. Her books have been horrible. The last one I enjoyed was the Boleyn Inheritance. God, how many years ago was that?
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Post by rebecca » Wed September 7th, 2011, 2:30 am

boswellbaxter--"the novel’s biggest flaw was what was not inside it—Jacquetta’s later years. The most dramatic events of Jacquetta’s life, her being accused and exonerated of witchcraft, the murders of her husband and her son John, and her flight into sanctuary with her daughter, belong to this period....but Gregory chose to end her novel well before these things occurred..."

That is the very thing that irritates me when I am reading a PG book, she seems to end her books when it is just about to get interesting. Why does she do that? It defies logic.
It seems to happen in all her books. When it comes to her 'Cousins Trilogy' the most exciting part would be when all three women basically have to live with one another. I would love to read a book to find out how these women coped once Henry VII became King. It would be so interesting to read the dynamics between the three women, Elizabeth Woodville, her daughter Elizabeth and Margaret Beaufort. The atmosphere would have been explosive as all women fought for dominance. History tells us who won and who lost but I would love a behind the scenes peek into the women themselves.

I do find it perplexing that this kind of scenario seems right up PG's alley and yet she leaves it...I really do feel let down by how she ends her books especially as the author can do better. Or am I being too harsh?

Divia--"I am done with gregory until she creates some GOOD HF. Her books have been horrible. The last one I enjoyed was the Boleyn Inheritance. God, how many years ago was that?...."

I agree though I still feel her best book was TOBG and I also enjoyed the Boleyn Inheritance but since then I have been disappointed as I explained in the above comments. It is where she starts and ends her books that is the problem...I often find myself scratching my head and thinking...'you have just finished the book when it is just about to get interesting.' :confused: Or am I alone in thinking that? It is annoying! Or is she starting to take the easy way out because she is a best seller?

I wonder how many disgruntled PG readers are out there? As I wait for my Rivers book to arrive.

Bec :)

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Post by Misfit » Wed September 7th, 2011, 2:57 am

I wonder how many disgruntled PG readers are out there? As I wait for my Rivers book to arrive.
Yet people still buy them in droves. It's like Jean Auel and Land of the Painted Caves. Who cares if the book sucks if people still buy it? BB is right, she picked the most boring parts of Jacquetta's life and tried to dramatize them. She failed. Oh and my review here.

What really scares me is that if you edit out all of her repetition/redundancy and worthless filler, how much book would there really be left? Granted, I had a digital copy, but the last two were fairly short and rather large font. Lots of worthless filler.
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Post by boswellbaxter » Wed September 7th, 2011, 3:40 am

Rebecca, I don't think you're being harsh at all. I felt that there were so many missed opportunities here. One reason I was eager to read this book was because I was interested in seeing what PG made of Jacquetta's years in France and her marriage to the Duke of Bedford, and she blew that chance by concentrating all of her energies on the witchcraft angle. And since Jacquetta's supposed supernatural powers were so central to her character as conceived by PG, why leave out the episode of her being accused of sorcery? It made no sense, especially since PG made a point of noting the parallels between Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester, who was tried for witchcraft and imprisoned, and Jacquetta.

If I had paid for this book, I would have really felt cheated.
Susan Higginbotham
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Post by Misfit » Wed September 7th, 2011, 11:13 am

[quote=""boswellbaxter""]Rebecca, I don't think you're being harsh at all. I felt that there were so many missed opportunities here. One reason I was eager to read this book was because I was interested in seeing what PG made of Jacquetta's years in France and her marriage to the Duke of Bedford, and she blew that chance by concentrating all of her energies on the witchcraft angle. And since Jacquetta's supposed supernatural powers were so central to her character as conceived by PG, why leave out the episode of her being accused of sorcery? It made no sense, especially since PG made a point of noting the parallels between Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester, who was tried for witchcraft and imprisoned, and Jacquetta.

If I had paid for this book, I would have really felt cheated.[/quote]

That is an excellent point, and there are so many points in this book where she's recounting things that are dull as dirt. I.e. Richard goes to Calais to wait upon the king's orders (can't recall if Jackie was there with him or not). Richard cools his heels in Calais for a year, yet we get page after page of exposition telling us that nothing happened. Page after page telling us about the court going on progress.

I wonder at the unseemly haste to pump these out. Do PG and the publisher really think this is good writing? Or do they just care about getting more books on the market and making the big bucks before people really tire of her.
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Post by rebecca » Thu September 8th, 2011, 3:17 am

boswellbaxter--"I felt that there were so many missed opportunities here. One reason I was eager to read this book was because I was interested in seeing what PG made of Jacquetta's years in France and her marriage to the Duke of Bedford, and she blew that chance by concentrating all of her energies on the witchcraft angle....And since Jacquetta's supposed supernatural powers were so central to her character as conceived by PG, why leave out the episode of her being accused of sorcery? It made no sense...If I had paid for this book, I would have really felt cheated."


This is what I don't understand about this particular writer. How can PG make such an interesting and intriguing woman as Jaquetta boring? Especially as her story has all the elements that PG seems to love...a hint of witchcraft mixed with ambition and a court full of plots and machinations and she turns this scenario into a snooze fest. I am becoming annoyed and disgruntled and I probably will feel cheated. Also as in all her books there is so much repetition as in the Other Queen 'I am Queen 3 times over'(paraphrasing)it got to the stage that I was doing the 'eye rolling.' :rolleyes:

I think PG may find out that if the reader feels cheated, she will eventually feel the pinch.

Misfit--"BB is right, she picked the most boring parts of Jacquetta's life and tried to dramatize them. She failed....I wonder at the unseemly haste to pump these out. Do PG and the publisher really think this is good writing? Or do they just care about getting more books on the market and making the big bucks before people really tire of her..."

I don't want to denigrate the woman because writing is a very difficult process and takes great skill and discipline but I am beginning to wonder if PG has simply lost the love for her art? The points that you and BB have made are spot on, so what is it with her?

I hate being cynical but if she no longer cares about her work and is in it only for the money then where is her respect for the common reader? Does PG and her publishers understand that the normal reader deserves better than what is being produced? I wonder?

I and others are not asking her to write a Booker prize winner and personally I don't even care if she takes liberties with the facts so long as she tells a good story. But I am becoming increasingly disillusioned by her lazy writing and it is lazy and there is no excuse for her or for her publishers.

Sorry ladies this has turned into a bit of a rant but I am tired of readers being ripped off especially as I feel that the author and her publishers may feel that the percentage of her readership are a dumb-downed lot and it doesn't matter what the contents of her books are so long as they sell. The reader deserves better and the writer can produce better. So why isn't she?

With her next books I shall be borrowing them from the library but only if they have better reviews. I refuse to be cheated any more.

Bec :)

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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu September 8th, 2011, 4:34 am

I would bet that your guess is right, Rebecca: Philippa Gregory is weary of the whole process, and she isn't giving it her best. Maybe she is under contract to produce x number of books in x amount of time, and she is purposely churning out poorly-written novels until the contract expires and she can go rest on her royalties from TOBG.

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Post by Misfit » Thu September 8th, 2011, 7:02 am

I hate being cynical but if she no longer cares about her work and is in it only for the money then where is her respect for the common reader? Does PG and her publishers understand that the normal reader deserves better than what is being produced? I wonder?
She does have a devoted fandom (read the message boards at her website), but you still have to wonder how much they'll take. Not to sound like a broken record but just look at the reviews for Land of the Painted Caves, Amazon US or UK. I've rarely seen anything like it, and many are from hard-core dedicated and now very much ticked off fans.

Definitely library only. This kind of material is not worth lining anyone's pockets with. And I am cynical.
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