Sunday, November 18, 2007

Review of Alison Weir's "Innocent Traitor"

Now and then, I'll be posting reviews of books I really enjoyed. One of those books is Alison Weir's INNOCENT TRAITOR.

The story of Lady Jane Grey, the tragic Nine Days Queen, is well known to most people familiar with the Tudor period. Nevertheless, she exerts a powerful attraction because she was kin to Henry VIII's children and became a pawn through no fault of her own, coming to the fore during a crisis in the Tudor succession following the death of Edward VI. "Innocent Traitor" - acclaimed historian Alison Weir's entry into the historical fiction arena - brings Jane Grey to life in a unique and vibrant way. Through a medley of voices, including Jane's own, that of her mother Eleanor of Suffolk, her devoted nursemaid, and even Jane's royal cousin Mary Tudor, we experience the maneuverings and intrigues of life at court through various perspectives and opinions. We also come to know Jane as an emotionally abused child of gifted intelligence; as a young woman of staunch faith and honor; and as a reluctant queen whose pure reformist vision cannot overcome the depredations of her father-in-law and his ruthless associates. Helpless to stem the forces moving against her, Jane records her fate with stoic dignity and a keen eye. It's to be expected that any book by Ms. Weir will be full of intimate details about life in the era; nevertheless, she does not overwhelm the narrative but rather expertly seasons it with facts that display her painstaking commitment to authenticity. In addition, she imbues even such unpleasant characters as Jane's parents with foibles and vulnerabilities of their own, giving them flesh-and-blood dimension. Jane's mother in particular dominates with her leonine pride in her royal blood, her rapacious ambition and her lusty marriage to a man who is her intellectual inferior. A true survivor of her time, she does not concede defeat, bending to obstacles when she cannot mold them to her will. Readers of historical fiction should not miss this compelling debut by one of England's foremost authorities on the Tudors - a tale of grandeur, betrayal and innocence, framed by one woman's journey from throne to scaffold.


J.M. Aucoin said...

This has been sitting on me "To Read" list since it came out. Few people I know read this and have raved about it.

Now if only I had more time to read. ;-)

C.W. Gortner said...

It really is a terrific historical, Justin. One of my favorites this year. I liked the medley of voices and the fact that she chooses history over lush romanticism. When you do get a chance to read it, it'll be great to chat here about it :)

Carla said...

How did you find the different voices? I found they all sounded very similar to me. I liked the development of Jane's character and the sense of her as a political pawn in other people's schemes - that came over very well. I also liked the fact that it seemed to stick very closely to the history.

C.W. Gortner said...

I actually found the voices to work well, at least those of the main characters. Now and then someone would chime in and throw me, mainly because we only hear from him or her once or twice, but overall I think Ms Weir did an excellent job at keeping her characters' voices distinctive. It's a particularly challenging way to write a novel, seeing as it sacrifices a main POV. I especially liked Jane's mother - she's a nasty piece of work, but I felt she also had dimension. She wasn't a stereotype.

blog said...

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