Friday, October 9, 2009

The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes

European history, or really any history at all, has never been my strongest forte. I couldn’t tell you why exactly but I struggled with that subject even in my college years. I do however love historical fiction because it allows me to get familiar with history the only way I know, through reading. Even if a book is not necessarily historically 100% accurate, if captivating enough it makes me want to look up the facts afterwards. The War of Roses, or the period immediately preceding the Tudor era is one such subject I am not greatly familiar with. Therefore I was really excited to read The Tudor Rose by Margaret Campbell Barnes, because this is the time this novel is set in.
The subtitle to the book is The Novel of Elizabeth of York but it’s really not only about her. Elizabeth is the oldest daughter of Edward IV and a sister to two brothers who were imprisoned in the Tower by their uncle Richard as he usurps the throne of England after his brother’s untimely death. In the novel, the boys get murdered on the order of Richard who thinks that this will clear his way to be the ultimate ruler without any pretenders to the throne. Well, he got that wrong, since there is his niece Elizabeth and she is seen by the people of England as the legitimate Queen. Richard can’t really murder her therefore he proposes a marriage, as incestuous as it is. But there is one more candidate to the throne and to Elizabeth’s heart. This person is a Lancastrian, Henry Tudor. It is now up to Elizabeth to decide the fate of England and make the unthinkable decision to merge Yorks with Lancasters and give birth to a new dynasty.
As with every historical novel, it is a difficult task for a writer to create something both historically accurate and captivating to an average reader. And then there comes a question of how we really deem what is true and what isn’t. Every few years new facts are discovered, new theories made and so what might have been accurate fifty years ago, doesn’t necessarily have to be today. Ms. Barnes wrote The Tudor Rose in 1953 and besides portraying some characters differently to what contemporary historians agree on, I think that all the major facts she really did get right. And I appreciated the fact that she breathed life into this period of history that until now was shrouded in mystery for me. I guess this is just a convoluted way of mine to say that I truly enjoyed The Tudor Rose. It brought me closer to the period of British history that just may be far more interesting than the pounded-into-our-heads-in-all-the-media Tudor era. I will admit here that I was getting slightly sick with Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I. For that reason, I read Ms. Barnes’s that much more eagerly.
Putting all the accuracy questions aside, The Tudor Rose is a very entertaining read. For the first time in months (I’m not exaggerating) I read a book in two days and was extremely upset when I had to stop reading because my daily life called. Ms. Barnes was a skilled writer that managed to give personality to figures who were long dead. And what complicated personalities they were. Not one person was purely good or all evil. I couldn’t even bring myself to hate Richard despite his awful deed or completely admire Elizabeth despite of what she had to go through or sacrifices she made. It’s just like real life; we are all a mixture of both. I think this book is definitely worth recommending especially for people who do not read historical fiction because they think it’s boring, or harrowing to get through. The Tudor Rose is not. It is instead an interesting glimpse into history with action flowing smoothly until you’re at the end and want to know more.
Special Thanks to Danielle J. from Sourcebooks, Inc for sending me a copy of this book for review.
Note: If you read and reviewed this book on your blog, please let me know, as I would love to link it to my review to give readers as full a picture as possible.
Book Info:
Author: Margaret Campbell Barnes
Title: The Tudor Rose
Published in : 2009
By: Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc
ISBN: 9781402224683