30 day book challenge – day 18 – A book you wish you could live in.

I don’t want my answer to every one of these questions to be Harry Potter, so I’m going to set aside the fact that I am still waiting for some big hairy guy to come and tell me that I am a witch….

… so my next choice would be Henry VIII’s Tudor Court from Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series (and specifically, The Constant Princess, The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance).

I know this doesn’t make a lot of sense.  After all, Henry VIII’s court was a dangerous place after he separated from Katherine of Aragon.  This was a King who was prepared to tear up everything that his country had ever known to marry the object of his obsession, Anne Boleyn.  It was a game changer – nothing was sacred any more and no one was safe.

But Philippa Gregory just brings this time period to life so vividly.  All of the darkness, the sexiness, the games, the politics, the high stakes and the manoeuvring for favour are brought out in spades.  I can picture myself living in that court, gossiping in dark corners about the King, living with the danger and uncertainty.  There is something exciting about that.

And from a historical point of view, Henry VIII’s actions in separating from the Catholic Church have resonated through the ages.  To this day, a monarch is still forbidden from marrying a Roman Catholic (although I believe that there are proposals to change this).  To live at that time would be to witness history in the making.

Henry VIII and his six wives are well known tales, taught to every child in school learning British history.  However, Philippa Gregory really brought these stories to life in a way that a history lesson in school never could.  I really enjoy her focus on the female characters, and her portrayal of Katherine of Aragon standing at the head of the English army to quell the rebellious Scots is a one of my favourite moments in these books.  Just to clarify, that is because she is a woman leading an army, not because she is quelling the Scots!

Perhaps they are not 100% historically accurate all the time, but she has done her research well and uses what she has learnt to create something that feels tangible and real, and makes me feel as if I am part of it when I read her books.  I have never attempted historical fiction myself although I would love to give it a go – I think it would be a real challenge to strike the right balance between letting your research provide detail and context to the story, without allowing it to dominate the story so that it reads like a textbook.  Philippa Gregory strikes this balance absolutely perfectly – for me she is really the Queen of historical fiction.


Posted on September 15, 2013, in Reading and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Its so hard not to answer with Harry Potter right?

  2. I think Harry Potter is the ultimate alternate life! But I agree, I love the scandal and scheming of the Tudor Court books: especially The Other Boleyn Girl!

    • Thanks for your comment! I love the scheming and scandal of the Tudor Court as well – for some reason my history teachers never got this side of it to come across, but Philippa Gregory has it nailed!

      • I always liked Anne Boleyn best of his wives and the book just made me love her more! It doesn’t really matter how factually accurate she is to me, they’re just really gripping stories!

      • I’m reading Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel at the moment and she portrays a very different Anne Boleyn to Philippa Gregory. I’m not too far in yet, but I’m looking forward to how she will deal with Anne’s fall from grace. I thought Philippa Gregory did that part really well in The Other Boleyn Girl.

      • That sounds interesting, I’m nearing the end of my current book so I might check that out once I’m done with The White Queen! Will you review it when you’ve finished it? I’m always looking for recommendations from people who enjoy the kind of books I like!

      • Yeah, I will post a review when I’m finished. It is the second book in a series which starts with Wolf Hall. That one deals with Henry’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon and the rise of Anne Boleyn through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. It is very different from Philippa Gregory but I think any fan of Philippa Gregory and the Tudors would enjoy it!

  3. An interesting choice, and very well argued. I agree that PG manages to bring the period to life so vividly, and you’re just sucked into the story from the very first page. Thanks for linking to my review of The Constant Princess!

    • No problem – The Constant Princess is my favourite out of the Tudor novels. I totally agree with what you say in your review that Katherine of Aragon is an often neglected character and the focus tends to be on the Katherine/Henry/Anne situation so I really enjoyed reading a novel in which we are given a chance to get to know Katherine before Anne Boleyn.

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