Philippa Gregory takes us back to the Wars of the Roses in this entrancing novel. In Elizabeth she has alighted on an intriguing subject. She won the lecherous Edward through beauty and sex appeal. Theirs was a love story. But Elizabeth also believed herself to be a seer with magical powers who could curse her enemies … Gregory is very good at describing the bitchiness of the women in this tale of dynastic rivalry. Even Elizabeth turns shrew. Nothing, however, exceeds the exquisite spitefulness of the letter Margaret writes when Elizabeth’s daughter, Elizabeth of York, jeopardises her proposed marriage to Henry Tudor by her incestuous passion for her Uncle Richard.
Queen has fascinating characters, a touch of witchcraft and plenty of sex. But there's a problem: Henry VIII's court was a soap opera with endless gossip and the occasional beheading to liven things up. Women mattered. Edward IV's court was a boys' club involving non-stop bloody battles. Every other nanosecond, Edward was off battling rivals and rebels. The upshot: Elizabeth spent most of her time waiting for her husband to show up while the real action took place elsewhere. Gregory's gift is her ability to write about women in the past, not battles. Can she turn her readers into mad devotees of Elizabeth Woodville, Plantagenet sexpot? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fault, dear Philippa, lies not in the writing but in the material.
Thanks to Ms. Gregory, we see a great deal of treachery during Elizabeth's time as the ‘white queen’...There is, in short, endless maneuvering for advantage in a desperately uncertain world, one in which everyone is alert, watchful and scared of getting the thing wrong … Ms. Gregory navigates herself faultlessly through the period with a fine sense of what was distinctive about it … In lesser hands, recounting this slice of history might have been a tiresome exercise from start to finish, but The White Queen is something more than that. High English literature it certainly isn't; nor is it merely a medieval bodice-ripper. It is something betwixt and between, rather like the heroine's own life.
The book’s heroine is Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of York king, Edward IV. Her riveting story is deserving of a full-length novel. From whore to witch and everything in between, she is a woman whose multifaceted personality defies categorization … Gregory hits her stride when she depicts Elizabeth debating the roles of her new life with her mother, Jacquetta; her brother, Anthony and her daughter, Elizabeth. The scenes of dialogue illustrate a woman grappling with what is right in a world that does not play by a set of rules … The narrative falters when Elizabeth is depicting conjuring storms or scheming for influence while in sanctuary. The book is heavy in explanatory exposition and could have moved at a faster pace if it did not follow such a rigid time line.
I don’t mean to make The White Queen sound like hard historical labor. It’s not; it’s impassioned and absorbing and, despite some repetitious passages that an editor should have caught, beautifully written. You just have to get your bearings … The novel is strongly marked by these two different aspects, the historical and the metaphysical. Its more realistic side retells the Cousins’ War from the vantage point not of the men who go into battle but the women who watch and suffer – and often scheme behind the scenes … However, Elizabeth and Jacquetta – and, later, Elizabeth’s daughter and namesake – fight in their own way, with water-based witchcraft instead of swords and axes. I must admit that this side of THE WHITE QUEEN often seemed silly and unnecessary to me, a bit of trickery that is at odds with the women’s actual power and assertiveness.
… a novel about a woman raised onto the throne. Gregory challenges the set views of Elizabeth Woodville as the widow who married Edward IV – an upwardly mobile Lancastrian, unworthy of her queenship. The author tells us a story of a powerful lucky woman who believed she was a descendant of the water goddess Melusina … The first 200 pages go very smoothly but come to a crawl with the abundance of Melusina interludes and at times repetitive language and turns of phrase. The last 50 pages, however, are terrific. The conversation between Elizabeth and Richard III in the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey is semantically and linguistically impressive.
As always Gregory fills out all the dark corners of history and creates a thrilling read, and again creates a portrait of female society that has more power (diamond-hard women who will see their sons and husbands rule at any cost) than is generally acknowledged. Yet the intimacy of Elizabeth Woodville’s story is too often overshadowed by the complexities of the times she lived in, and in Gregory’s attempt to get it all in, some depth of character is left out. A mixed result in this first of a new series.