Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

The latest of Philippa Gregory's Tudor novels to be released, The Constant Princess concentrates on the early life of Katherine of Aragon, the first of Henry VIII's wives. I have to say that it was so refreshing to read a novel about this time in history that wasn't about all the usual suspects. For example Elizabeth I doesn't even get a mention, although Henry VIII does, and there is even a brief cameo by Anne Boleyn towards the end of the novel.

I learnt so many new things from this novel. I hadn't really ever paid a lot of attention to the backgrounds of Henry's wives other than Anne Boleyn so it was a big surprise to me to learn that Katherine was actually the daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain...the same Isabella and Ferdinand who financed Christopher Columbus' journeys to the New World and instituted the Spanish Inquisition.

The description of Katherine's early life in the Alhambra Palace was beautifully described, and made me want to pack my bags to go to Spain to see the places mentioned. I love it when a book does that to me..even though I can't just pack up and go!

We see Katherine in her early life, then as she gets used to marriage with Arthur, dealing with her subsequent widowhood, and waiting to see if she will be married to Henry or not. In effect we watch her mature from being a girl to a woman, all the while remaining a princess of England and Spain.

If I had one criticism of this book, it was that the ending felt very rushed, however having thought about this for a couple of days, maybe the idea behind that was to show Katherine at one of her points of greatest triumphs, and then at one of the lowest points in her life as a kind of contrast. Most fans of English history and historical fiction already know what happens to Katherine, and the end of this book leads quite nicely into the beginning of The Other Boleyn Girl as well.

Gregory writes in a very readable style, and for the most part, manages the changes between first and third person narrative employed in this book quite smoothly. There are however a couple of changes that weren't quite as smooth as they could have been.

Overall, an enjoyable read! I am already looking forward to the next Tudor novel from Philippa Gregory, to be titled The Last Boleyn. This book should be out next November.

Rating: 4/5

Other Bloggers Thoughts:

The Bookworm - Naida

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