The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
Published by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
This is the third book in Philippa Gregory’s The Cousin’s War series. I have also reviewed the two previous books, The White Queen and The Red Queen. Each book stands alone, and none of the reviews contain spoilers for the other books.
Both a friend and attendant of Lancastrian Henry VI’s queen Margaret of Anjou and the mother of Yorkist Edward IV’s wife Elizabeth Woodville, Jacquetta of Luxembourg was a complex and complicated medieval woman. Unlike so many women she was able to marry for love – at least the second time – and had a large, apparently close-knit family. Perhaps at another time in England’s history Jacquetta might have had a peaceful life at court and with her family, but her family began to come of age at a time when the houses of Lancaster and York were locked in a deadly battle for control of England, battle that caused everyone to reexamine their loyalties and choose sides.
So overall, I really like The Lady of the Rivers. It is classic Gregory, very engaging, if not always particularly historically accurate (although we now know that she isn’t too concerned by that allegation). I was sucked in, very interested about Jacquetta’s story, particularly since she is all but ignored in most historical fiction. But you guys, oh my gosh, the repetition. I don’t know whether this is a case of her being a big enough superstar not to have to accept edits or editing not being done very carefully on her books because she is a superstar who will sell no matter what, but at the beginning of the book in particular, she would describe the same thing in the same way multiple times in a few pages, or even on the same page. On particularly egregious example includes the same phrase being used twice in as many paragraphs.
“It is home, he says simply. “And even at its worst, one acre of England is worth ten square miles of France.”
I look at him blankly. “All you Englishmen are the same,I tell him. You think that you are divinely blessed by God for no better reason than you had the longbow at Agincourt.”
He laughs. “We are,” he says. “We think rightly. We are divinely blessed. And one acre of England is worth ten in France.” (emphasis mine)
I suppose that wasn’t exactly the same thing two paragraphs later, since he assessment changed by the magnitude of a mile to an acre, but you get the drift.
The good news is that either this repetitive ridiculousness stopped after about the first hundred pages or Gregory pulled me deeply enough into Jacquetta’s story that I didn’t notice. I do wish, however, that The Lady of the Rivers had been released as the first book in this series. There were parts in The White Queen where Jacquetta seemed almost cartoonish, her magic overdone. I think Gregory has tempered that picture and made her a much fuller character in The Lady of the Rivers, and I think The White Queen would have been improved with that additional knowledge both on Gregory’ part, and the part of the reader.
Gregory fans, this is no The Other Queen debacle, pick up it. Those of you not already acquainted with Gregory’s work, pick it up if you are in the mood for fun, absorbing historical fiction and aren’t too worried about strict adherence to known historical facts – and if you can bear a little repetition.
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