Monday, July 25, 2011

Let's Do...A Book Review: The Constant Princess

Hello, dear readers,

It's been a bit of a while since my last book review. Considering my monumental goals for summer reading, I can't say I've actually made a huge dent. Just being honest. I'd really like to read more; truly, I would. The problem is that I'm so tired after work that it's easier to just paint my nails, read a magazine, or watch a video before working out showering and going to sleep. That's my general routine on the evenings during which I don't see my friends.

I've only fully read four books since May, which is really quite sad. Part of the problem is I always have five or six books going, so it takes forever to finish one of them. Such is my current situation.

I'm into The Other Woman, by Jane Green, at the moment. Green is my favorite adult chick lit author, and I'll be done soon with another book review up and running.

I suppose I should get into the review of the book I've actually just finished: The Constant Princess, by Philippa Gregory.

This is the prequel to The Other Boleyn Girl, reviewed here, which was actually written afterwards, I believe. This novel tells the story of Katherine of Aragon, the first wife of King Henry VIII.

Here's what the website has to say:

Splendid and sumptuous historical novel from this internationally bestselling author, telling of the early life of Katherine of Aragon.
We think of her as the barren wife of a notorious king; but behind this legacy lies a fascinating story. Katherine of Aragon is born Catalina, the Spanish Infanta, to parents who are both rulers and warriors. Aged four, she is betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, and is raised to be Queen of England. She is never in doubt that it is her destiny to rule that far-off, wet, cold land. Her faith is tested when her prospective father-in-law greets her arrival in her new country with a great insult; Arthur seems little better than a boy; the food is strange and the customs coarse.

Slowly she adapts to the first Tudor court, and life as Arthur’s wife grows ever more bearable. But when the studious young man dies, she is left to make her own future: how can she now be queen, and found a dynasty? Only by marrying Arthur’s young brother, the sunny but spoilt Henry.
His father and grandmother are against it; her powerful parents prove little use. Yet Katherine is her mother’s daughter and her fighting spirit is strong. She will do anything to achieve her aim; even if it means telling the greatest lie, and holding to it.
Philippa Gregory proves yet again that behind the apparently familiar face of history lies an astonishing story: of women warriors influencing the future of Europe, of revered heroes making deep mistakes, and of an untold love story which changes the fate of a nation.

I knew very little about Katherine of Aragon going into this book, and I came out knowing her better and understanding her as more than the quiet, strong-willed queen that appeared in The Other Boleyn Girl.

In this novel, she's fearless and extremely determined, convinced she has God's "especial favor," and almost annoying at times in her conviction. This novel is written alternatively in first and third person. The sections in italics are written in first person, and I found them immensely more interesting to read than the third person sections.

Much more is known about Katherine of Aragon than of Mary Boleyn, so the only real fiction is the personality given to Katherine and the hypothesis that she must certainly have lied about never consummating her marriage to Arthur, her first husband. I suppose their relationship is fictionalized greatly as well, but I felt like that was just another facet of the issue of consummation. By now, most historians agree the marriage was consummated.

Katherine is born Infanta of Spain and Princess of Wales, betrothed to Arthur since birth. Initially she hates him, and he her, but they slowly but surely become passionate in their love for each other. Arthur tragically falls ill at a young age, somewhere around a year after his marriage to Katherine, and he makes Katherine promise to marry his brother Henry and to name their children Mary and Arthur.

And then Katherine waits. For seven years, precisely. I felt like I was reading the book for seven years until she finally became princess of England, and, subsequently, queen. It went much faster once she became princess and queen. Even after marrying Henry, she had to wait longer and longer until King Henry VII died.

I was unaware before reading this book that King Henry VII, father of her infamous second husband, actually proposed to Katherine and took his revenge by making her wait when she instead agreed to marry his son.

I suppose it was only fitting that it felt like seven years reading this novel, as I suppose that's what Katherine went through, but I didn't find it as immensely enjoyable as The Other Boleyn Girl. The writing was rather repetitive, and I think it was clear enough from the beginning why the novel is called The Constant Princess. It really wasn't necessary for the word "constant" to appear 7,000,212,323 times. Seriously.

The writing in this book was not as interesting, though I could see that it was consistent with the tone of the novel. I just don't think the language needed to be that redundant, and it was a little bit of a sluggish read.

Am I glad I read it? Yes. Do I think it's a good way to get a historical account of Katherine with her personality injected into it? Yes. Is it my favorite historical fiction novel? No. And it was really hard to get to at times. We can only read so much about waiting without being bored to tears.

Philippa's writing was much better in the first person sections, as I mentioned before, and this is where I think she excels. The characters in her books are so much more personal and vivid in these sections than in third person.

I will continue to read the rest of the Tudor history, as documented and fictionalized by Gregory, but so far I prefer The Other Boleyn Girl. I still do recommend this if you'd like to get a full picture of the Tudor history, but I'd advise reading it first so you can fully appreciate the improvements in writing and storytelling in The Other Boleyn Girl.

I hope you got something out of this review, longwinded as usual.

Hope you're having a lovely day/evening!


Image from

No comments:

Post a Comment