- Hardcover: 496 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins (3 November 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007147287
- ISBN-13: 978-0007147281
- Package Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 4.6 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 762 g
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
The Queen’s Fool Hardcover – 3 Nov 2003
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Praise for Philppa Gregory:
‘Gregory's research is impeccable which makes her imaginative fiction all the more convincing’ Daily Mail
‘Gregory is great at conjuring a Tudor film-set of gorgeous gowns and golden-lattered dining. She invokes some swoonsome images…while the politics are personal enough to remain pertinent’ DailyTelegraph
‘Subtle and exciting’ Daily Express
‘Written from instinct, not out of calculation, and it shows’
Peter Ackroyd, The Times
‘For sheer pace and percussive drama it will take a lot of beating’ Sunday Times
About the Author
Philippa Gregory is an internationally renowned author of historical novels. She holds a PhD in eighteenth-century literature from the University of Edinburgh. Works that have been adapted for television include A Respectable Trade, The Other Boleyn Girl and The Queen's Fool. The Other Boleyn Girl is now a major film, starring Scarlett Johansson, Natalie Portman and Eric Bana. Philippa Gregory lives in the North of England with her family.
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some of her other books. I bought it because I was running out of her books to read ! What a pleasant surprise- I think it is one of her best !
If you are a Philippa Gregory fan or a fan of this genre, don't miss this book !
While Hannah may be a fictitious character, there is a great deal of history packed into this novel having to do with England's relationship with Spain and France at that time, the plight of Jews all over Europe (including in England), the shifting attitude towards religious freedom in England, and the restrictive nature of a woman's life in the 16th century. And of course, there is a love story intertwined throughout the book. Hannah, who is a gangling adolescent at the beginning blossoms into a beautiful young woman by the end. I don't want to give too much away, since I want you to enjoy the book as much as I did!
However, there are two things wrong with the book - first, the "cover" story about the young girl who plays the Queen's fool is fairly unbelievable. Secondly, the book lacks character depth - in a good book you should know how the characters feel because of what they say and do, not because the narrator has to continually tell you. I felt like Hannah was inconsistent. But, I loved her spunk!
After reading this book (which we read for our book club) I read a non-fiction history, "The Wives of Henry the Eighth" by Martin Hume. This book provides the background to significantly help understand the deeply unstable environment in which Queen Mary was raised. It vividly evoked the terror and horror of Henry VIII's reign as well as the egocentric, un-motherly behavior of Katherine of Aragon, Queen Mary's mother. If you want to enjoy The Queen's Fool more, first read "The Wives of Henry the Eighth".
In England, there is the problem of heresy as religious persuasions continue back and forth, setting the Crown itself swaying precariously between supposed heirs. Many of the Lords support one religious faction and when that trend is persecuted, the same Lords follow the new trends of the latest "in" religious group. Some don't make the change quick enough, not reading the changing wind well enough or actually and rarely having a religious conviction. They are beheaded, en masse.
All this brings us to Gregory's brilliant narrative structure chosen for "The Queen's Fool." The narrator's name is Hannah Verde (in England, changed to Hannah Green). She lived in Aragon, Spain, with her mother and father. As a child, she saw her mother burned at the stake as a heretic. Her mother and father are Marranos, who are Jews who converted to Christianity but in the privacy of darkened homes, practice Judaism. Her mother was somehow found out and after her burning, the father escapes with Hannah, dressed as a boy (much safer for a young girl at that time), and they live temporarily in many European countries. Finally, some members in the Netherlands arrange documents for their flight to England. No European country wanted Jews at that time, so their lives in England are lived on the sword edge of survival. Her father is a rare book seller and has hundreds of manuscripts for sale and perusal which are outlawed as heresy by the current religious faction in England.
Hannah's great adventure as observer of the English Court begins inadvertently, when she is standing outside her father's bookstore talking passersby into the shop. She sees three Lords approaching. In the bookstore, she asks two of them where the third one is. There have only been two of them and they question her about the third one she has seen.
Hannah has a gift. She has Second Sight, which comes and goes at its own volition. It cannot be forced. Other people saw two Lords. She saw three. One of the two is Lord Robert Dudley, of the House of Northumberland, which house is in the ascent in the Royal hierarchy. He is excited about her second sight and dressed as a boy, she ultimately enters the service of Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth as a "fool" but actually as his spy.
The further machinations of the grasping of the Throne are narrated by Hannah, as she goes back and forth between the two heirs, Mary and Elizabeth, and spies for Robert Dudley. She becomes the Queen's Fool and in the background, is used for her second sight and her spying abilities.
Now, what is a Queen's Fool? A Fool was dressed in a special costume of differing colours on the arms, the legs, and wore funny hats. If you've read Shakespeare, you will know that a Fool was not only to lighten the load of the Crown and make the Monarch laugh, but he was also a trusted companion, someone the Monarch could be himself with, someone there who wanted no political gain, someone there to show him he was not alone. The fool was loyal because his livelihood - and his head - depended on it. The Fool was no fool.
Hannah is used to hiding her real identity and feelings, from having been persecuted and dashing through one country after another to find sanctuary, and the horrifying memory of seeing her mother burned in front of her. She is used to dancing over the flames and manages to satisfy all parties without damaging herself.
The narrative is brilliant, since we see the events unfold through the eyes of an outsider, as we are outsiders, reading about it all.
It gives a sense of immediacy and the pages fly by while the reader cannot seem to separate herself from the narrative.
It also straightens out a lot of confusion about these events. I remember taking this history in school. I was bored, confused and really didn't care. I memorized enough to pass the test and thought - Ho Hum! about it all. But reading Gregory, I am not only fascinated by the historical facts, but understanding them and can hardly wait to turn the page to see how it all turns out, as she also explores other important historical events, such as the battle for Calais, in which the English lost their French stronghold. Of course, Hannah is also witness to this.
The author must be commended for inserting "the people" in the events and showing their reactions. History often is just a story of wars with dates and the upper-upper class. Memorize it all and one can pass the test. But I used to think - what of the people? What did they think? Did they react? How did they react?
With all of Gregory's books, there is no need to wonder. The people have pride of place in this history and Gregory documents it.
One note of caution. Hannah, unlike historical figures in the book, is fictional. But the events that shape her life are historically accurate.
I bought the pocket book editions of the books of the Tudor era at Amazon. It was actually a mistake. I was looking for something else and found these gems. So I bought the whole series and have not enjoyed reading about history this much for many decades.
Don't make my mistake. Go purposely to find them. Buy them. Turn off the tv. Forget the housework (it will still be there when you're not). Simply enjoy,