Thursday, August 12, 2010

For The Love of Philippa Gregory

Question: Why do you love Philippa Gregory?

I love Philippa Gregory for many different reasons. One of the main reasons is that when I first got into historical fiction it was right around when the movie “The Other Boleyn Girl” came out in theaters. I happened to pick up a book at my local store that was by Robin Maxwell on Anne Boleyn and after I had finished it in one day I went forward from there. My first author I went for after Robin was Philippa Gregory because she was in leading the front line of the main stream historical fiction. I completed the "The Boleyn Inheritance" first and later went on to read all of her other novels in a fury. I think I had completed all of her novels in less than one month because I enjoyed them all that much. I read all of them before I started my blog and when I really started tracking my favorite authors I had picked up that Gregory was working on a new series. You can only imagine that since I started my blog I have been in high anticipation for the releases of Philippa’s new series The Cousins’ War. I have noticed that because Philippa is many readers first love in HF she is the driving force that has lured many new comers into the historical fiction reading world and that is more than enough reason for me to be grateful that she keeps on writing.

Controversy seems to follow PG like a little looming black cloud on the horizon. It is like you know it is coming but there is nothing you can do about it but wait for it to roll in. It seems to me that Gregory has a knack for striking up this controversy for one reason and that reason is that sometimes she takes writing liberties to the extreme. Some view it as bad liberties that go way beyond the realistic means of actual historical events. I however do not and will not ever see it this way. As many of you might have already picked up on, I am not one that has to have absolute historical accuracy but I do drawn the line at some things. I feel that if you as a reader need to have complete historical accuracy then you should be reading biographies and non-fiction not historical fiction. One of my favorite aspects of historical fiction in general is that it is fiction and yes writers do take liberties but that makes it even more fun to find out what the actual history was after I finish a novel.

It has been argued that “The White Queen” for example was said to be “fluffy” and historically inaccurate at points but I once again would have to disagree. I enjoyed the fact that Elizabeth Woodville was “nice” in the read. I figured that was probably more how her own family saw her because you have to admit that there was something that was alluring enough about her to attract a king and keep everyone else around her on high alert after Edward was gone. Elizabeth Woodville as a witch with magical powers, some think that is too far but if you think about it logically then it just might make sense. What we modern day thinkers think of as a witch is not what was considered a witch back in the 15th century. Maybe it just might be possible that she was what we would call today a psychic or a mystic. I see it as anything is possible and bravo for Gregory for adding a new spin on Elizabeth because I did read it and I did enjoy it. Is there anything that we as readers could ask for in a good book, action, scandals, love, war, and family feuds at its best.

The Red Queen” I waited so patiently for because really I have not found another fiction book that is completely based on Margaret Beaufort. I was not disappointed with the historical accuracies on this one but I do have to bring to light that Margaret herself is not a very like-able person. I called her the all time “Tudor Villain” in my review because I can not see her as anything else but evil. I can only imagine how hard it is to write about a person that is so unlikeable and my hat goes off to Gregory for bringing villainous Margaret to life for me. I enjoy reading about the War of the Roses because it was such a traumatic time in England. But I do have to point out that there are so many different points of view on this war of who said what, who did what and there was so much done it is hard to sift through the history of it all. For me it boils down to this you are either sympathetic to Richard or not, did he or did he not have something to do with Elizabeth Woodville’s lost princes, I am not sure we will ever completely know the truth. It is one of histories greatest cold cases which you can read more about here,  As for me I am kind of in a limbo I feel I can not pick a side until I have more knowledge on the era, and let me tell you there is so much to know. I am not sure I will ever be able to come to a conclusion on it which is why I stand by the sidelines and see what others think on it. I think it is just is pointless to argue over a read that is fiction because it is fiction and if you do not like it do not read it. Gregory continues to draw in new historical fiction readers and brings mainstream ideas to a almost hidden world. I say it is hidden because in truth I had no idea this online world of HF book lovers existed until I stumbled upon it by mistake and if Gregory gives to new readers what she gave to me then I am a firm supporter of her and her novels.
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  1. I'm glad that you posted your opinion of Philippa. Although I have most of her books, I have not read them yet and this is not because I've heard the bad hype and listened to it. You know how daunting the TBR "library" can be (I use this term because I have a library of 1700+ fiction that probably 200 have been read...give or take)...yes, I'm a book hoarder. I need a t-shirt! Anyway, I agree with you about the historical inaccuracies. While I really appreciate an extremely historically accurate novel, I can also appreciate one that is not as accurate (with some exceptions). I also agree that if you want complete accuracy, you should stick with non-fiction or biography.

    I'm going to segue from books to movies to give an example. My favorite movie of all time is Braveheart. I have been maligned many times on forums by people who hate the movie because of historical inaccuracy...especially Scottish people. While I understand their point of view, it is a movie. A very well made, well acted, Academy Award winning film. For complete historical accuracy, please watch a documentary...thank you!

  2. I love Philippa Gregory because historically accurate or not, no one can bring a historical figure's character to life like she can.

  3. Lizzie,
    What brilliant observations about Ms. Gregory; I too have read about the controversies concerning her taking historical liberties. However, WE may never the details and full truth concerning the lives of these people, and what has been documented, as in all writing, is the documentor's perspective.
    I love her work because she brings this people to life, and at times we can even relate to their human foiables, even though they were royal.


  4. I read quite a few books of Philippa's and was quite a fan, but then the writing seemed to get inconsistent, and the controvery arced up.

    Nowadays I am not really sure where I stand on her and part of that is because I am not really sure that if I was to reread those books that I did enjoy previously whether I would get the same enjoyment out of them again.

  5. Thanks so much for this awesome post! I completely agree with you!

  6. It is Ms Gregory's view that we are seeing in her books. Thats ok with me.

  7. Michelle, I know the TBR is a never ending pile. I think I got to them so fast because I was a newbie and I felt I had to get up to speed. If I had to pick only one of her books to read it would be The Queens Fool. That one is my favorite.

    I loved Braveheart too but figured out real fast when I got into the whole blog thing that the movie is not accurate. I did not understand what the fuss was it is just a movie and I really like it. If I enjoy it I do not see what the problem is.

    Kaitlyn, I have to agree with you on that point she vividly portrays all her characters, it is part of the reason she is so popular.

    Lisa, It just proves everything in history is open to speculation. It is one of the reasons I love HF, every author can have a different stance. That is what makes it fun to read about the same people over and over. If they were all alike imagine how boring that would be.

    Marg, I have to admit red queen was not my favorite but I have to hold onto my hope that when she releases the book about Elizabeth of York it will the best one in the series. For me it is like this I used to read Anne Rice's vampire series but I think just like our taste buds our reading tastes buds change as we become more exposed to new things. Excellent point Marg.

    Almybnenr, Great minds think alike, I can not wait for the giveaway to post.

    Mystica, it is okay with me too because it is always a unique perspective she has.

  8. I like historical accuracy in my books. If it will not hold to the facts, I'd like to know that ahead of time. As another blog discussing romance put it, is the book HISTORICAL fiction or historical FICTION. I am looking for a well written book with great characters and a good story. Stretch the history a bit, but not to the breaking point. If she is pulling readers into the historical fiction camp, that is a good thing. They will develop their own feel for the historical accuracy in the books they read.

  9. Library pat, you and I are like minded I prefer historical accuracy but if it is not I would like to know in advance that way I can mentally prep myself for it. I think like you and everyone needs to develop their own feelings on what they will like or dislike in regards to historical accuracy.

  10. You're right about Margaret Beaufort being an unlikeable character, and how tough it is to pull off a book built around someone who is not likeable. Kudos to Gregory!
    I make a similar point in my blog about The Red Queen at

  11. ilanadebare, right on you caught that too, I am glad I am not the only one who made that point Margaret was evil and I just will never be sympathetic to her. Thank you for sharing the link will check it out.

  12. I had no idea that there was controversy around Philippa Gregory and her books! I enjoy reading them and am aware that they are fiction. I've read that people think that Philippa hates Anne Boleyn but I don't see it. The Other Boleyn is her interpretation of the characters based on her research, I read it and have my own opinions is what Anne Boleyn was like but don't get offended because Philippa's view is different. I am just sick of people criticizing her work and acting like they know who Anne Boleyn was personally. I majored in history in university and am working towards my PhD now and even I know that regardless of the amount of evidence and artifacts we find we can never truly know what the true characters of these people were bc guess what?! We weren't there!!!! So how the heck can we truly know?!?!?! Unless you personally were her lady-in-waiting don't criticize Philippa for giving her own portrayal of a historical character...that's why its labeled under FICTION and not used as a historically accurate textbook in Universities. *Phew* rant over! ^_^

  13. Kaycee, I have to agree with you if anything PG loves Anne Boleyn and has drawn inspiration from her in the past. I say all HF is speculation because like you said we were not there and really we do not know what they were thinking so it is all relative. I loe PG and I think my all time favorite of hers was one I never expected it to be...The Queen's Fool was so so so good. Good luck with your degree and glad I am not the only one who sees HF from a rational point of view.


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