The Lady Elizabeth
Why read a thriller when you know the outcome? That's the challenge of historical fiction, particularly in the case of well-known figures like Queen Elizabeth. Alison Weir, noted Tudor historian, essentially re-writes her well informed biographies of Elizabeth and her family as fiction, yet remarkably endows the familiar story with a tension and suspense that actually make you wonder how it will all turn out. There's no new information here: Princess Elizabeth loses her mother and her title at the stroke of a sword, when her father Henry VIII executes Queen Anne Boleyn for treason. Her status now forever in doubt, Elizabeth grows into a precocious, resourceful young woman, wary of marriage and sexual entanglements and skilled at keeping her own counsel. With few advantages beyond her courage and formidable intelligence, she schemes and charms her way out of various intrigues and treasonous plots, coming perilously close to meeting her mother's fate. I was surprised at how much this novel moved me, especially the relationship between Elizabeth and her tragic half sister Mary. Initially seeing herself as a mother figure for the little sister who was 17 years her junior, Mary eventually succumbed to jealousy and resentment, carefully stoked by Elizabeth's political enemies. While we rejoice in Elizabeth's eventual triumph, we can't help but pity the failure and disappointments of her embittered older sister.
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