Saturday, 27 August 2016

Review of 'The White Queen' by Philippa Gregory

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

I've always loved historical novels, and up until I went away to uni, me and my Nan used to swap them all the time, especially Philippa Gregory ones. One of us would pick up a new one, or an old one from a charity shop, read it and then send it on to the other one. She loved it, and it was a fab way to get twice as many books as I otherwise would have!

So, when I was 16 or 17 Philippa Gregory was probably one of my favourite authors, and I snaffled her books up as often as I could. But, going to uni changed all of that, as I simply no longer had the time to read for 'fun' anymore. I then pretty much fell out of love with historical novels, and haven't really picked one up since, so I was feeling a little bit 'meh' about The White Queen

Once I started reading it however, all the reasons why I love Gregory's writing came flooding back to me. The period of history that she writes about - circa the Tudors and Plantaganets - is one that has always fascinated me. She also writes with an incredible clarity, and I love the fact that she reads a variety of sources before writing, and then chooses her own angle from them. She also tends to write from a woman's point of view, and explores her thoughts and actions - things which were fairly overlooked at the time. 

The White Queen is the first of Gregory's books that focuses on the Plantagenet family. We come in during a period of time when The Yorks and Lancasters are at loggerheads, and the York family has just come into power. Elizabeth Grey, the novel's protagonist, has been widowed of her Lancastrian husband during the wars, leaving her and her two sons forced to fend for themselves. 

So, when the new York King Edward rides through her husband's lands, Elizabeth seeks him out in supplication for a dowager's income. What she gets however, is a lot more than that. Her beauty and a little bit of magic help the King fall in love with her at first sight, and she cannot stop thinking about him either. Elizabeth's mother has told all of her children about the legend of Melusina, a water goddess who helps their family out in love. With a little enchantment and word to Melusina, Elizabeth and her mother are sure that Edward will return to his new love.

And return he does. Soon Elizabeth finds herself the secret wife of this York king, and has no idea how life changing (or destroying) their love might be to both of them. Elizabeth must now learn what it takes to be the Queen of England in a time during which plots are rife, not least from their closest quarters.

Have you read it before? What did you think?

Friday, 12 August 2016

Review of 'Manhattan Transfer' by John Dos Passos

I warned you I would be catching up with all my long-forgotten course books. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and the thought of having all these books that I paid hard-earned money for sitting there unread, with my course unfulfilled, makes me feel a little dismal. So yeah, this is part of my mission to combat all those unread downloads and paperbacks. 

Manhattan Transfer was written by Los Passos and published in 1925 - just one year after the infamous The Great Gatsby. Whilst Gatsby has become renowned the world over, and made into several films, this has gone unnoticed, and yet they both tackle the same issue: the deconstruction of the American Dream ideal. Where Fitzgerald uses symbolism, Los Passos uses a jarring alienation technique, switching between reams of characters, locations and scenes. Both however show that there is no individualism in the American Dream because it is simply an illusion.

Manhattan Transfer follows the lives of a number of individuals living in 'The Big Apple'. Some are immigrants to the city, some are returning citizens, and some have never left the city. All are looking to improve their lives. As the novel progresses we see finances and relationships torn utterly asunder by following idealistic thoughts. Perhaps most interestingly, we see women take their own destinies into their own hands, albeit with little success.

If you enjoyed The Great Gatsby, but would like something with a little bit of a modernist twist I would definitely recommend giving this a go!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Review of 'Where Dragonflies Hover'* by Anne Marie Brear

Review of 'Where Dragonflies Hover' by Anne Marie Braer

Although I've read my fair share of historical novels in the past, I have to say that I actually haven't read very many based in the war years, which seems a little odd to think about now. It's such a massive part of recent British history, and, despite learning about it fairly intensely at school, I've read so few fictional interpretations of time abroad and at home during the two periods of World War.

Where the Dragonflies Hover is set in three time periods, but thankfully you're not jarred as you move from one to the other. In the modern day, our protagonist Lexi, a young woman, is a part owner in her own solicitor firm with a rocky marriage at home. Her husband Dylan is working all hours as a doctor to finance their lives, and the lack of time spent together is really starting to drive a wedge between the pair. Lexi falls in love with an old mansion up for sale, and sees this as the chance to make everything right again - they could move in together, create a family and fall in love all over again by restoring the old place. Dylan however has other plans. He's got the opportunity to move to London with a much better job and wants Lexi to come with him. Ultimately their dreams are clashing, and they can't see eye to eye. Is there anything that can change this?

When Lexi looks at the mansion she finds an old diary from a woman called Allie. Allie is writing during World War Two about her experiences as a nurse who fell in love with an officer in the First World War. This seems like the oldest tale in the book, but it's one that I've actually never read. Unfortunately for Allie her love is one that is forbidden to her as a nurse and eventually a matron, but in the heat of war lines are blurred and acts are forgiven. However, will society ever be able to accept the great love between this pair even if it is an nontraditional one?

I loved the interweaving of all three time periods in this novel, and the fact that the two love stories were told side by side without being basically the same story in different time periods. Allie and Lexi do face seriously different challenges, and I loved both of their stories. 

Have you read it? What did you think?