The Lady of the Rivers – Philippa Gregory – 8/10

“The English court is at its summer pursuits of hunting, travelling and flirtation.”

A descendant of Melusina, the river goddess, young Jacquetta has already started to experience her magical powers when she meets Joan of Arc and sees her burned for witchcraft. Jacquetta is married at seventeen to the Duke of Bedford, who puts her magic to work. She is soon widowed and marries the Duke’s squire Richard Woodville, returning with him to the English court, where the couple rise in power at the court of Henry VI and his fiery French queen. While the king sleeps deeply and mysteriously and Richard of York threatens the monarchy, Jacquetta and Richard will not have the peaceful country life they wish.

I wrote last Sunday:

I started The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory… my inner book snob, romantic and good-story-lover are all fighting with one another. Victory report to appear soonish.

Well, this novel set those aspects of my reading personality at odds and they haven’t quite resolved anything.

The writing is better quality than in The Other Boleyn Girl – not only is the history less well-known, but the fear, political intrigue and the turns of fortune are the main features here, not a boorish king’s infidelities, which makes the subject matter more appealing to me. Jacquetta is an educated woman, tactful, respected, ambitious but not hubristically so, so she is a more appealing protagonist than Mary Boleyn.

There are various romantic lines, and I found the contrast in Jacquetta’s two marriages, as well as the relationships of the queen, very interesting – of course we don’t know how much is fact and how much is fiction, but historical evidence tells us that Jacquetta and Richard had a large number of child, so a sweet, large, happy family has been constructed for them by Ms Gregory.

And it’s a cracking story! Married as a girl to the second most powerful man in England, who turns out only to want her for her virginal magic, widowed and wealthy at twenty-two, wedded soon after to her true love, then summoned to court to advise a fiery queen and try to bridge the gap between the French pride and the English customs – Jacquetta had quite a life. Some of the history dragged a little – the constant battles got a little boring, factual though they may be.

All in all, if you can get over the snob factor, this is definitely one to pick up.

Additional info:
This was a review copy sent by the publisher.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 493 pages (hardback)
Order The Lady of the Rivers from Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards giveaways.

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8 thoughts on “The Lady of the Rivers – Philippa Gregory – 8/10

  1. Teresa 21 September 2011 at 6:38 pm Reply

    I think I’ll love this! I have it on pre-reserve at the library as it isn’t even on their system yet… 😦

  2. Alex 22 September 2011 at 1:27 pm Reply

    I didn’t know that Philippa Gregory did fantasy!

    • readingwithtea 22 September 2011 at 3:10 pm Reply

      It’s weird – it’s not like proper fantasy, it’s roughly how I imagine the Middle Ages to have been with lots of fear of witchcraft which turns out to have actually just been hoaxes and some basic medicine.

  3. Helen 22 September 2011 at 10:08 pm Reply

    I’m halfway through this book at the moment and really enjoying it so far. I’ve also read The Red Queen and The White Queen, and I’ve found all three books in this series to be better than The Other Boleyn Girl.

  4. Nymeth 23 September 2011 at 1:51 pm Reply

    I was going to say the same as Alex, so I’m glad you answered! Gregory does know how to tell a good story, though the writing leaves me with mixed feelings and I enjoy her against my better judgement to some extent. I guess that in my head I classify her as “trashy awesome” 😛

  5. […] basket. Best. Food. Ever. The Musician got the Women of the Cousins’ War trilogy (reviews: Lady of the Rivers, White Queen, Red Queen) from me to keep her entertained on upcoming trips away from […]

  6. […] a puppet as Warwick had expected, by marrying Elizabeth Woodville (The White Queen, daughter of The Lady of the Rivers) in secret. Disappointed by his protege, Warwick turned to Edward’s other brothers in an […]

  7. […] previous two of these koans, I pretty much agree with that one. I’ve seen it referred to in The Lady of the Rivers, the idea of a cycle of fortune. Sometimes one is at the top, sometimes at the bottom. It always […]

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