THE WHITE PRINCESS

As usual, Gregory delivers a spellbinding (and definitely York-biased) exposé.

In the aftermath of the Wars of the Roses, the new queen of Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty, struggles with divided loyalties.

After he returns from exile to defeat Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth, Lancastrian conqueror Henry Tudor marries Yorkist princess Elizabeth, daughter of Richard’s predecessor, King Edward IV. The marriage, intended to finally reconcile the warring Yorks and Lancasters, does the opposite. Edward’s dowager queen Elizabeth Woodville (The White Queen, 2009) and her sworn enemy Margaret Beaufort, Henry’s mother (The Red Queen, 2010) engineer the marriage, each to promote her own agenda. Princess Elizabeth, who had been the lover of Richard III, is horrified to have her distrust of Henry and his mother confirmed by a pre-wedding rape: Henry and Margaret want to make sure she proves fertile before vows are taken. After her marriage, and the “premature” birth of son Arthur, Elizabeth forms an uneasy truce with Henry that will lead, eventually and after the birth of more children (including future king Henry VIII), to an interlude of genuine affection. However, her mother and she remain York sympathizers at heart, particularly after their young cousin Edward Warwick is placed under house arrest in the Tower. This is an ominous reminder of the imprisonment of King Edward and Queen Elizabeth’s two sons, Edward and Richard, in the Tower, from which they later disappeared. Rumors abound: Prince Richard may still be alive and may be coming to England to assert his entitlement to kingship, far superior to Henry’s. Both Elizabeths know more about such claims than they dare let on: Years before, they had substituted a pageboy for Richard when the two princes went into captivity. A ruthless monarch who rules by intimidation, Henry can never escape the nagging fear that a Yorkist heir will unseat him, especially since the Yorks are so much more likable and better looking than the Tudors.  

As usual, Gregory delivers a spellbinding (and definitely York-biased) exposé.

Pub Date: July 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-2609-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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THE UNSEEN

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules...

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Sentenced to house arrest in Moscow's Metropol Hotel by a Bolshevik tribunal for writing a poem deemed to encourage revolt, Count Alexander Rostov nonetheless lives the fullest of lives, discovering the depths of his humanity.

Inside the elegant Metropol, located near the Kremlin and the Bolshoi, the Count slowly adjusts to circumstances as a "Former Person." He makes do with the attic room, to which he is banished after residing for years in a posh third-floor suite. A man of refined taste in wine, food, and literature, he strives to maintain a daily routine, exploring the nooks and crannies of the hotel, bonding with staff, accepting the advances of attractive women, and forming what proves to be a deeply meaningful relationship with a spirited young girl, Nina. "We are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade," says the companionable narrator. For the Count, that way of life ultimately becomes less about aristocratic airs and privilege than generosity and devotion. Spread across four decades, this is in all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight. Though Stalin and Khrushchev make their presences felt, Towles largely treats politics as a dark, distant shadow. The chill of the political events occurring outside the Metropol is certainly felt, but for the Count and his friends, the passage of time is "like the turn of a kaleidoscope." Not for nothing is Casablanca his favorite film. This is a book in which the cruelties of the age can't begin to erase the glories of real human connection and the memories it leaves behind.

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility (2011).

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-02619-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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