Monday, July 18, 2005

30: Interesting times

With a rustle of petticoats and a heaving of stomachers, here comes another Phillipa Gregory book. The Queen's Fool follows on from The Other Boleyn Girl, telling the story of Hannah, a young Jewish girl who has fled the Spanish Inquisition with her father and settled in England. She is begged for a holy fool because she has The Sight of some kind and ends up in the court of sickly young Edward VI and, after him, Queen Mary. The story of the intrigue and terror that gripped all of England at that time is well told and, as I said when reading her previous book, she manages to drum up sympathy for the unlikeliest of people, so you sort of feel sorry for Mary by the end. But only sort of.

It's good to be reminded of how things were before Elizabeth's golden age, how restricted people were in what they could say and write about, how easily today's off-the-cuff remarks could become tomorrow's hanging offences, and how powerless minor courtiers and courtesans really were. It's more of the same stuff. Quality.

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