There are a few authors that I count among my favorites in the historical fiction genre and this author is one of them. He has a unique voice in the genre and his books always tell their stories in an interesting and engaging way. In this slim volume, he incorporates fiction alongside non-fiction seamlessly. And he has brought us full circle back to the subject of his excellent novel, Virgin and the Crab...his beloved Elizabeth I.
I think I hearken a kind of kinship with this author due to our mutual love for Elizabeth I. And he really brings what I believe to be her true character to the forefront in this book. Elizabeth loved her men and here we are given biographical accounts of each of these men, followed by a vignette of Elizabeth and each man (and one of the man's wives) interacting. These are short sketches and yet they really bring forward in authenticity what these intimate interactions must have truly been like. Perhaps the genuine article of Elizabeth is best captured in various quotes and passages throughout the book. There were several that I really enjoyed. I will share one of them here:
"Well, I also have a formula of my own, Bess - a very special one concerning how the court of England might survive and function under its present climate. For yes, it is true, inevitably I have about me men who also subdue each day their scheming for my approbation. That is how I have kept the gift of peace for the people of this nation for so many decades. That is my formula. And do you think I do not contemplate the weakness of the argument from time to time, as well? Do you think I do not weigh each day in the balance those forces of right and wrong - of tolerance on the one hand for those who are virtuous, and retribution on the other for those who are evil? Every day I must seek that balance. A thousand eyes see everything I do and judge me. I have no life, no privacy, no joy. And yet because I am a woman, when they come to me, even the most powerful men are tamed. They seek for a moment, instead of gold and riches, the approval of their Gloriana, their Virgin Queen. They wait for a smile or touch of my hand as I pass, and live here in a place where the poet is as worthy as the soldier; where a master of music is as treasured as he who would forge a cannon - and they must lift their snouts from the trough occasionally in order to do so. That is how it works, Bess - the charade and the festival of the Virgin Queen."
This quote completely captures what Elizabeth's reign must truly have been like. It is obvious that Elizabeth held the happiness of her people and the peace of the land in the highest regard over everything else. I always feel that Elizabeth was a keen observer of her father's rule, and the history of his reign. How he jeopardized so much for his personal predilections in the guise of seeking an heir must have appeared to her keen mind a mistake she did not want to make in her own reign. Again, it is these determinations and conclusions the reader is able to make of Elizabeth's mind from reading this excellent volume.
I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in history and historical fiction.
Read my reviews of Robert Stephen Parry's Virgin and the Crab and The Arrow Chest.
About the book
The Elizabethan golden age was peopled by a court of flamboyant and devoted men - each one unique, ambitious and talented. At its centre was a woman, Elizabeth, the Tudor princess who succeeded to the throne of England in 1558 and who vowed to her Parliament to remain unwed and a Virgin Queen for the rest of her life. How did such a diverse group of red-blooded men view their ?Gloriana?? What were their aims and intentions? What were their dreams? And just how did Elizabeth manage to control and manipulate them? A unique blend of fact and fiction brings the Elizabethan court and its inhabitants to life in an evocative series of biographical sketches that will inform and entertain in equal measure.
About the author
Robert Stephen Parry is a UK writer of historical fiction with special interests in Tudor, Elizabethan and Georgian England; Victorian Gothic and Pre-Raphaelite art. A fresh and original voice in historical fiction, his work combines reality, mystery and imagination within a well-researched and vivid historical setting. Publications to date include:
2014 'ELIZABETH - The Virgin Queen and the Men who Loved Her.'
2013 'WILDISH - A Story Concerning Different Kinds of Love'
2011 'THE ARROW CHEST - A Victorian Mystery'
2009 'VIRGIN AND THE CRAB - Sketches, Fables and Mysteries from the Early Life of John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor'
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A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for providing it.