Thursday, 15 September 2016

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory

Reviewer: Gillian Hamer, author of The Charter, Closure, Complicit, Crimson Shore & False Lights. (

What we thought: Quote: “There is only one bond that I trust: between a woman and her sisters. We never take our eyes off each other. In love and in rivalry, we always think of each other.”

I listened to the audio version of Gregory’s new release, wonderfully narrated by Bianca Amato.

I am a huge fan of historical fiction, and Philippa Gregory in particular is one of my favourite authors. Her prose may not be as lyrical, and the narrative not as layered as some other writers in the genre – but what she never ceases to give you us a damn good story.

This book is no exception. Written in first person, present tense, it relates the story of a little-known Tudor queen, Dowager Queen Margaret of Scotland – eldest sister to Henry VIII. Married at fourteen to King James of Scotland, moved from her life at the Royal Palaces of London to the remote and barren land of Scotland, we see Tudor life from a completely different perspective.

The three queens mentioned in the title of the novel are Margaret, her sister-in-law, Catherine of Aragon, and her younger sister Mary, who became Dowager Queen of France. All three of the young princesses were ‘sold’ off for their titles at a very young age, all three of them in constant rivalry at the Royal Court, all three of them went on to face infant deaths and the betrayal of the men they married. In fact, their lives mirror each other’s in so many ways, it’s almost like this is a work of fiction, rather than based on historic fact.

Of course, we all know the story of Henry VIII but seeing it from the outside, from the remote castles of Scotland, and discovering how this strong and independent woman coped in the turbulent Tudor period, and managed to successfully get her son to the Scottish throne, was a truly entertaining experience. Gregory proudly shows the strength and guile of a woman, who although betrayed by men and let down by her role in society, become powerful through her own hard work and guile and owned her own lands and fortune in a time when this was unheard of.

Great story, superbly narrated, excellent pacing and strong characterisation. This is Gregory at her best and comes highly recommended.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: Hilary Mantel, Barbara Erskine, Alison Weir.

Avoid if you don’t like: Royal Courts, scandal, philandering husbands and whores!

Ideal accompaniments: Venison pie and a tankard of small ale.

Genre: Historical Fiction.

Available on Amazon

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