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Alison Weir – The Lady Elizabeth

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Alison Weir is an English historian who has been writing for a couple of decades. Most of her books are focused on the Tudor period of England and the eras just before it. She has done ample research into the life of Lady Jane Grey, Henry VIII’s niece and based her first novel on her. The Lady Elizabeth is her second work of fiction.

Publisher: Arrow Books
Pages: 481
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-0-099-49382-2
First Published: 2008
Date Reviewed: 24th September 2009
Rating: 3/5

The Lady Elizabeth reached the chart list and received a lot of praise from the critics. It was released in hardback a year before the paperback edition hit the shelves.

For the story, Weir has kept to the basic facts of Queen Elizabeth’s youth but padded it out and exaggerated some parts where little is known. She’s also taken the rather bold step of having Elizabeth pregnant and miscarry, using the information about Elizabeth’s time at Chelsea with Catherine Parr and Thomas Seymour as her springboard. As she points out herself in the notes at the back of the book, she is being bold in her suggestion but there is a possibility that such a thing happened. Using the idea has also lent itself to making the book more fiction than fact.

Weir is a brilliant historian and her factual books beautifully written. Her biographies read like novels, omitting footnotes and discussing all sources used in the introduction. Thus her books are not bogged down in references like most authors and are a good choice for people who struggle with multitudes of dates and places. The problem here is that she has taken too much of her factual writing style to use in The Lady Elizabeth. It’s inappropriate and causes the book to be rather choppy. In addition Weir demonstrates a difficultly in handling this new genre as her afore excellence in articulation has been lost, much like Elizabeth’s proclaimed innocence. A reoccurring flaw in Weir’s books is her obvious love of the word “hitherto” which she uses as much as possible. It’s seen in this book too, and just as much as in her previous publications. Of similar note is Weir’s lack of descriptive language, the needed element for full immersion.

The story is fascinating but the telling is poor. On and on it goes back and forth which while an echo of what really happened does not make for good writing. Weir also repeats herself as if with no confidence of her reader’s memory. What should rightly be a thrilling tale full of frustration turns out to be a bore.

This is a good book for history-lovers looking to glean more information on Elizabeth but other than that I’d advise looking elsewhere for historical fiction on Anne Boleyn’s daughter.

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April 24, 2010, 9:19 am

I think I have a problem with most Elizabethan era fiction (I know this is before her birth, but I’m not sure what to call it). I’ve yet to enjoy a historical fiction novel that’s set in the period.

Charlie: Hi Iris, in regards to the era as a whole it would be the Tudor period, with Elizabethan as a sub division. I’ve always thought it funny that she was the only one to have a name given to her specific ruling time. Elizabethan was never my favourite either as my knowledge of the Tudor period stops at Mary, but recently I’ve found Elizabeth herself to be an intricate and interesting person to study.

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