The White Queen by Philippa Gregory: Book Review

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory Book Cover

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The White Queen by Philippa Gregory Book Cover
3 Stars

Title: The White Queen
Author: Philippa Gregory
Series: The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels #2
Genre: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Women’s Fiction
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback

My Synopsis:

Elizabeth Woodville, a young widow who stands to lose everything after her husband’s death, makes a desperate move and petitions King Edward IV to restore her late husband’s lands to her as he travels the road past her father’s estate. She gets more than she dreamed of when the attraction between her and the king is instant and irresistible. The two marry in a secret ceremony and Edward crowns her the Queen of England.

But the country has been at war for too long. Threats to Elizabeth’s family and children and Edward’s throne crop up at every turn. Can she navigate the treacherous times and keep her loved ones safe?

My Review:

I read The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory years ago and enjoyed them both. I have some understanding of England’s history under Henry VIII though and I know pitifully little about the Wars of the Roses. That lack affected my enjoyment of The White Queen a bit. There’s a family tree at the beginning but it doesn’t actually show anyone who appears in the book. I was so confused! I still don’t understand why the publisher included that family tree. It might show the beginning of the wars but it wasn’t helpful at all with this period.

There’s a fantastical element woven throughout the novel that I didn’t care for either. Elizabeth is descended from a water goddess, Melusina, so Elizabeth and her mother have magical powers. They cast spells and curses and have strange forebodings. They hear Melusina singing when someone in their family is about to die. I’m making it sound like more of a plot device than it actually was but the fact that the author included it at all bothered me. I love reading fantasy and I don’t generally mind magical realism, but these fantastical touches felt out of place in a book about real people and events.

I liked Elizabeth herself though. Just think about the courage she showed as a woman petitioning the king in person–not in court, but on the side of the road. And that’s just the beginning. When she’s queen, she makes sure to place her family in positions of power too. She learns some of the art of intrigue and dips her toes into those waters to hold onto what’s rightfully hers. The Elizabeth in these pages is a force to be reckoned with.

I did enjoy learning a bit more about this period of history. As events unfolded, I realized that Elizabeth’s sons were the mysterious “Princes in the Tower” (which I only know about because of Sent, a middle grade book). And now that I’ve finished The White Queen, I’m curious to find out how the throne went from the Yorks and Lancasters to the Tudors. This feels like something I should know more about but as an American, England’s vast history is daunting.

Those who know more about this period in history will probably like this more than I did. The history confused me a bit but Elizabeth was a strong character whom I enjoyed reading about.

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