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The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

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Miss Moppet
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Postby Miss Moppet » Sat September 19th, 2009, 8:41 pm

I went to the library today to collect another book I reserved and waiting for me in addition to that was TWQ. (The photo cover not the portrait. Not that it matters).

I'm not mad keen to read it but I think I had better make it my next book because (1) it's been reserved by another borrower so I can't renew it (2) other people here are just starting it and buddy reads are so much more fun.

I am 30 pages off finishing The Wheel of Fortune so it looks like I'll get to TWQ tomorrow or Monday.

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Margaret
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Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
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Postby Margaret » Sat September 19th, 2009, 9:55 pm

I have mixed feelings about the question of whether and to what degree novelists should stick strictly to the historical record. Certainly, if a novelist's intention is for readers to believe the novel offers a plausibly correct account of what really happened - as is true of many historical novelists - then yes, every detail of the novel should be consistent with the historical record (even though it must, by necessity, imagine thoughts, conversations, etc. that were never recorded). On the other hand, many literary novelists (I'm not putting PG in this category) have the goal of portraying a higher truth about human nature and the world that goes beyond the merely factual. To that end, a novelist may change a feature of the landscape in order to use it in a symbolic way, or may introduce major fictional characters who make it easier to portray in a clear and moving way the type of emotional challenges a character taken from history would have faced. I think this is a reasonable thing to do, even though it diverges from the goal of presenting factual historical truth.

For example, I've just been reading Thad Carhart's new novel, Across the Endless River, about Sacagawea's son Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau. Very little is really known about him, but he did spend five years in Europe assisting a nobleman catalog his collection of Native American artifacts. Many of the novel's major characters are invented, and I did find myself wondering (especially toward the end) whether there was any shred of truth in some of the events and relationships. I'd have to say that detracted a bit from my full immersion in the story. On the other hand, this was a literary novel that stressed theme over story, and I'd have to say that every episode in the novel, whether it had a basis in fact or was purely imagined, did strengthen the theme and make it more moving and interesting for me. Without the invented characters and episodes, the novel would probably have felt too thin to be really interesting.

The real truth of history, I think, is something that inevitably remains largely hidden from us. Even when EC uses her friend to consult the Akashic Record, there is a limit to how much can be conveyed and to how fully a modern person can understand the meaning and implications of what is conveyed. So I see any novel as an interpretation of history, not as a factual account of it. Some are freer interpretations than others. But even the freest interpretations, I think, have a value, because they nudge us to look at our assumptions about the past from a different angle. We often have preconceptions about what people thought and how they lived in certain periods of the past which, when more evidence comes to light, turn out not to be true. Reading a novel that offers an unusual interpretation can shake us loose from some of our preconceptions. Of course, no reader should ever assume that any novel is a perfectly accurate reconstruction of what really happened!
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Miss Moppet
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Postby Miss Moppet » Sun September 20th, 2009, 12:09 am

OK, all I've done is glance at the back flap and I've got issues with it already.

Specifically, with the following words: 'PG was an established historian and writer when she discovered her interest in the Tudor period...'

Writer, yes. Historian, no. Historians write NF. A history degree is not sufficient to call yourself a historian. Nor is writing historical novels. She's a historical novelist - why isn't that good enough? Why does she keep trying to pass herself off as an academic?

"Margaret" wrote: But even the freest interpretations, I think, have a value, because they nudge us to look at our assumptions about the past from a different angle. We often have preconceptions about what people thought and how they lived in certain periods of the past which, when more evidence comes to light, turn out not to be true. Reading a novel that offers an unusual interpretation can shake us loose from some of our preconceptions.


Yes, I agree. I welcome a free interpretation as long as the author admits it to be so.

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Divia
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Postby Divia » Sun September 20th, 2009, 1:54 pm

I just finished the novel last night. I thought it was 1000Xs better than her last novel. However I agree that she seems to say her book is fact, when I am sure it is not. Whatever, that's her ego.
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Miss Moppet
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Henry VIII Explains It All

Postby Miss Moppet » Wed September 23rd, 2009, 2:29 am

"Divia" wrote:I don't care much for this whole War of the Roses thing.


This whole War of the Roses thing is hella confusing. Before I even start TWQ I'm re-reading the opening of ch 2 of Margaret George's The Autobiography of Henry VIII, because Henry VIII manages to explain the Wars of the Roses from beginning to end in 5 pages.

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EC2
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Postby EC2 » Wed September 23rd, 2009, 7:36 am

I am in the vicinity of the library tomorrow and then not again for several weeks, so I have to return TWQ by then. It's going to be a DNF for me because I won't have the time, and the inclination to be naughty and keep the book until I've done is is non existent.

"Divia" wrote:I just finished the novel last night. I thought it was 1000Xs better than her last novel.


TWQ is a thousand times better than TOQ? :eek: :eek: :eek: Thank goodness I didn't read that one then is all I'm going to say!
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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Divia
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Postby Divia » Wed September 23rd, 2009, 9:53 am

Well, I made it through TWQ the same cannot be said for TOQ
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Miss Moppet
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p.53

Postby Miss Moppet » Thu September 24th, 2009, 1:07 am

Having stated my disapproval of the portrayal of Liz as a witch, I'm now quite enjoying the witchcraft stuff. It livens things up a bit.

Unlike the constant Melusine references, which are already getting on my nerves.

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Divia
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Location: Always Cloudy, Central New York

Postby Divia » Thu September 24th, 2009, 2:10 am

"Miss Moppet" wrote:Having stated my disapproval of the portrayal of Liz as a witch, I'm now quite enjoying the witchcraft stuff. It livens things up a bit.

Unlike the constant Melusine references, which are already getting on my nerves.


Yeah those are a bit much.

I dont mind the witchcraft stuff cause it seems to be more folkish.
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Miss Moppet
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Postby Miss Moppet » Fri September 25th, 2009, 1:57 pm

I've bailed.

I got past the battle of Barnet, and then thought 'no more'. It actually wasn't the repetitive Melusine stuff. But the pov started driving me nuts. I really don't think it worked this time. First person is restrictive enough, and then the present tense makes it even more restrictive. PG made it work very well with TBI, but this is a very different kettle of fish. With the Wars of the Roses there are so many battles and events, and yet Elizabeth would have been on the sidelines for most of them, waiting to hear how things turned out. So to avoid endless recaps by Elizabeth there was a long letter from her brother, and then she dreamed about what was happening, and then there was all this pov describing battles that didn't seem to belong to anyone in particular. It didn't engage me enough to read on, although I liked many of the Elizabeth and Jacquetta scenes (Jacquetta's trial was a bit of a damp squib though - over in two pages).

I'm not sure what would have improved the book. Perhaps other narrators (say Jacquetta, Edward, Richard maybe?), perhaps abandoning the present tense which PG now seems to be wedded to. And there seemed to be so many characters all with the same names - although admittedly that was not something PG could fix!

I did flip to the end to read the author's note, which I thought was very good and clear about what was fiction and what wasn't. Not that I know this period at all so I can't really judge, but from a reader's point of view it was good.


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