RaveThe Sunday Times (UK)The title of Gristwood’s sixth book, The Tudors in Love, might produce an eyeroll from those who are tired of our long love affair with England’s most romantically dysfunctional dynasty. However, this book stands out on the crowded bookshelves by showing that the Tudors were just as obsessed with reading about the doomed romantic royals who had gone long before them ... [Gristwood] does a superb job in distilling the vast amount of modern scholarship on this topic ... The disconnection between romance and realpolitik is brutally and entertainingly illuminated by Gristwood.
RaveThe Times (UK)The self-control of Louis — and his pathological secretiveness — has made him difficult quarry for historians. Thus far, no other English-language biography has so successfully given us a portrait of him as man and monarch. Mansel is strong at recreating the king’s inner life ... Mansel renders Louis’ satellites in fascinating detail ... Mansel, whose previous books include The Eagle in Splendour: Inside the Court of Napoleon, treads the line between the academic and the accessible effectively, explaining the context of the French monarchy, diplomacy, medicine, Catholicism, queenship, fashion and art. He devotes three chapters to the construction of Versailles, which was far more than simply a mausoleum for Louis’ ego; it was a place of such splendour and renown that it enhanced French international prestige. As the author reminds us, Louis’ subjects sometimes referred to him as \'Louis le Grand\', but that sobriquet has not endured ... the Sun King emerges as a fascinating failure.
RaveThe Times (UK)... a book firmly rooted in reality ... Tallis is a zealous destroyer of myths ... Uncrowned Queen is successful in this aim; it demolishes the dark legend of Margaret Beaufort. Balance is achieved through information recorded by Margaret’s staff, including the erudite 10th Lord Morley and her confessor, John Fisher, who was later ushered into the Catholic confraternity of saints by the pudgy, blood-soaked fingers of Margaret’s grandson Henry VIII ... Tallis’s Margaret is generous, ferociously intelligent, pious, ruthless, driven and untrusting ... Tallis deploys an extraordinary eye for detail in telling this story. She notes the arthritis that crippled Margaret in later life is faithfully rendered in the prayer-clasped hands of her effigy at Westminster Abbey. She discusses concerts in the gardens of Margaret’s palace and the annotations Margaret made in her prayer books. She explains throughout her use of the sources, while maintaining an elegant prose. Through this superb revisionist biography, Margaret Beaufort emerges as a fascinating and often surprisingly sympathetic matriarch.
RaveThe Times (UK)The letters are, as one of their editors notes, close to \'an uninhibited and unstoppable stream of consciousness . . . written from air-raid shelters, and office desks, on buses and station platforms, in hotel foyers and under hair-dryers\'. The 1,400 letters were uncovered by chance in an eBay auction by their future editor and transcriber, David McGowan ... Eileen is an ambitious, kind and achingly funny observer ... It is touching to read the happiness she felt one evening in treating herself to an egg rather than a powdered proxy, and also her euphoria at Allied victories in the Mediterranean ... Eileen was a sharp but fair observer ... It is easy to see Love in the Blitz being adapted for the screen; Eileen will be a gift to the actress cast in the role. She emerges from these letters as a force of nature, and her voice is one of the real joys in these remarkable letters. She was clever and caustic, without being cruel; intellectually brilliant and revelling in that fact, she laces her letters with references to Rossetti, Shakespeare, Donne and the Book of Job ... It’s a memoir of hope and resilience, as much as of love.
PositiveThe Times (UK)Hardman moves through the details of Marie Antoinette’s childhood more quickly than some of her other biographers. This is, after all, an academic look rather than a life and times ... There are a few flaws. For instance, England is used on dozens of occasions where Britain is meant, seven decades after the Act of Union. However, as a political biography of the last Bourbon queen of France it is hard to see how it could be bettered — failing a cache of previously undiscovered letters or memoirs turning up. Hardman utilises years of researching the fall of the French monarchy, weaving in accounts by those who knew, loved or loathed Marie Antoinette, to offer a broadly convincing portrait of a woman who \'inspired loyalty in strangers who were willing to risk their lives for her, even when the chances of success were slight\'. It is a thought-provoking portrait of a brave, well-intentioned, if often misguided queen.