Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Her Mother's Daughter - Julianne Lee


Her Mother’s Daughter
A Novel of Queen Mary Tudor
Julianne Lee
Berkley

Historical Fiction

Most people think of Mary Tudor as a bloodthirsty, intolerantly Catholic woman who killed off her enemies then went mad. As usual, there’s so much more to the story. This novel begins with Mary at age 6, when she was the “pearl” of her father’s world. Being the pearl of King Henry VIII’s world should have been a happy and secure place. But, given the politics of the time, it was far from that. When Henry divorced Mary’s mother, Queen Catherine, he started a cascade of events that nearly overwhelmed England and everyone in it.

This novel does a very good job of telling the story of Mary’s life, from age 6 until her death, by using the viewpoints of various nobles and commoners. To add to the mix, there are paragraphs from Mary’s first-person viewpoint scattered throughout. They read almost like diary entries and illuminate her relationships and feelings towards her father, Lady Jane, Anne Boleyn, and many others. It makes the book feel a bit more personal and allows Mary stand out a bit among the overarching themes of political infighting and religious battles.

In the end, Mary emerges as a very sympathetic person. She’s a woman born into a time when noble women were married off to form alliances, with no thought to their wishes. She was raised by Catherine, a devout Catholic, and grew up in a time of religious persecution. She, like her mother, desperately wishes to be a wife and mother, but events conspire against her until quite late. The only drawback to this novel is the questionable framing device that consists of a group of current-era girls at a slumber party, playing “Bloody Mary.” While this serves to show how Mary Tudor is remembered today, it’s jarring and, to me, an odd choice. I think the book would have been just as good without it. As it is, it is an historical novel written with an easy flow that places the reader beside some of the greatest figures of history, and tells the story of the first Queen of England.

Rating: 8
December 2009
ISBN# 978-0-425-23008-4 (trade paperback)

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