“It was that there were the three of us, all fated to be queens. Sisters and rivals.”
Let me start by stating that being a history fan, I love Philippa Gregory’s books and have read almost all of her work. However, this book seemed to be a filler (much like Elif Shafak’s Three Daughters of Eve). It wasn’t well thought out and I for one did not buy into the ‘sisters’ relationship put forward by the author. The historical aspects and the emotions of Queen Margaret are wonderfully portrayed but the title suggests that it’s the story of THREE Queens when it is only the complete story of one. It mainly tells the life and jealousy of Margaret the Queen of Scots and her insecurities, completely ignoring Mary- the sister of the King of England. Prose has never been Gregory’s strong suit and I don’t think she needs beautiful prose for the kind of stories she writes, but this novel seemed disjointed. At one point, Margaret would be ‘dismayed’ at her sister’s distress and at another, she would be ‘raging with envy.’
We get to know about the life of Katherine and Mary only through Margaret. Gregory has covered the life of Queen Katherine in detail in one of her other books (The Red Queen) so I wasn’t that bummed about not getting to know her, however for someone who has only read this book, I think it will be a sore disappointment. Another facet of the book which frustrated me was the one sidedness of almost every event. The reader only gets to know Margaret’s point of view and her opinion, what about some balance? Most of the authors these days achieve this balance by employing the strategy of multiple points of views, which was not used by Philippa Gregory.
I mostly read historic fiction because history is one of my interests and it is much easier to read when it’s told in the form of a story; therefore I try to read authors who actually do their research and try to portray history without any bias. This book disappointed in that regard as well. I understand that its told from the point of view of a whiny queen, but again anyone who doesn’t understand the position of Queen Katherine of England would walk away with the impression that she was a bloodthirsty woman who would do anything to achieve her ambitions. Gregory needs to do a lot better next time.
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez 4/5
“That room was silent with the fury of avenging angels sharpening their radiance before they strike.”
As a team member of Pinata book reviews, I am constantly looking for different books. I started this book mainly because I have been on a mission lately to read about every country in the world and this book belonged to the Dominican Republic. It is inspired by a true story of four sisters; three of which were involved in the struggle against the dictatorship of Trujillo. The fiery one-Minerva is the one who leads the sisters into the struggle against the tyranny of her country’s rulers. It is a story of how common people showed extraordinary valor for their country and their beliefs. It is the account of how seemingly normal events can lead to extraordinary circumstances. The prose is simple and the story more so, but the credit goes to the author for building up intensity while staying true to the characters of each individual sisters. It must’ve been difficult for Alvarez to give equal time and opportunity to all the four sisters and tell their story in an honest and moving way, but it is a task that she accomplishes with integrity and style. There are some patches in the book where I am forced to question the motives of Trujillo, but as it is inspired by true events, it actually shows the unpredictable nature of the dictator. Although I wish that there was more explanation and information about the political scenario of the country and a little less detail about the personal lives of Mirabel Sisters. The detail about their childhood seemed especially mundane given the fact that it could have been shown through the women that they became rather than through the diary entries of one of the sisters. The story keeps you glued to the book till the last page, even though when I read up on Trujillo in the middle of the book, I knew the ending.
Other than the setting, prose, character development; this book also gives another important lesson-we all go through almost the same things. We in Pakistan have been plagued by terrorism and people of Dominican Republic went through a reign of terror as well. There are those of us brave enough to challenge the terrorists directly in Pakistan, and Dominicans had and have those brave people as well. It may sound like a cliché but it’s true, underneath the differences of culture and language, we are all the same.