« titles don't count, of course | Main | Happy Fourth! »

Book Report: The Virgin’s Lover

Your Humble Blogger has a bit of a weakness, I’m afraid, for historical novels. Too much Mary Renault when young, perhaps. I’ve read some lovely books, and some dreadful ones, and quite a few dull ones. Philippa Gregory’s The Virgin’s Lover falls into the last group, with distinct tendencies towards the middle one.

Aside from spending pages upon pages building up suspense on the question of whether Elizabeth (the first of England) will or will not invade Scotland (She does! She did! We know she did!), the main problem with the book is that it manages to make its three main characters distinctly unlikable, and not interestingly unlikable, either. The Virgin Queen herself (snigger snigger) is all right when she is being flirtatious, calculating and ambitious, but she spends most of her time in helpless thrall to Sir Robert Dudley. She makes weak decision after weak decision, allows herself to be both sexually and politically dominated by a fellow who is obviously not only greedy and ambitious but self-absorbed, short-sighted and easily gulled. The third in this little triangle is Sir Robert’s wife, a pathetic (if not bathetic) little dreary drip of a thing, useless and hopeless and without even the saving grace of being interestingly jealous. So. We know how it turns out, at least in the big plot points: Queen Elizabeth is famous for not marrying anybody, so we know she doesn’t marry Sir Robert.

And the resolution is altogether unsatisfying, much in the way it sort of has to be, given the characters as she’s made them. Sir Robert doesn’t have his wife killed, because that would be too interesting. The Queen doesn’t have her lover’s wife killed, because that would be too interesting. No, the Queen’s political right-hand man has her killed, with the Queen’s (extremely) passive permission, because that’s the least interesting way it could possibly end.

And, of course, that’s fairly likely to be what actually happened, because life is not actually as interesting as I want a novel to be.

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,
-Vardibidian.

Post a comment

Please join in. Comments on older posts will be held for moderation. Don't be a jerk. Eat fruit.