It’s been a month and a half since Michelle and I began our #TudorFest2013 celebration and I thought it’s about time for an update.
As a little pre-TudorFest listen, I picked up The Lady of the Rivers from my local library. It was the last published book in Philippa Gregory’s Cousin’s War series that I had left to read (just learned that there will be another book about Margaret Pole to come called The Last Rose). I admit that I might never have read this book were it not for how much I loved The White Princess. I didn’t find the Melusina aspects of The White Queen that interesting. I also have grown tired of witchcraft trial books. I was worried that witchcraft and escaping trials would be the overriding theme. As Bianca Amato is a terrific narrator I felt I could at least give the book a try. While it’s not my favorite book in the series, I found myself enjoying The Lady of the Rivers much more than I expected. While witchcraft wasn’t absent from the book, it was not “in the way” of the story for me. I am glad that I both read it and selected the audiobook format. I wish I had read all of them in audio.
The White Princess and The Lady of the Rivers put me in a good place to begin Winter King, which was the official kick off of #TudorFest2013. This biography of Henry VII’s reign was written by Thomas Penn. The audiobook was narrated by Simon Vance. What stood out for me the most about this book was what the author chose to emphasize. The author focused a great deal on Henry VII’s financial policies and fines especially as they characterized the later years of his reign. By the end of the book my ears glazed over when money was mentioned. The earlier and more turbulent years felt glossed over to me. There was scant mention of Henry’s uncle Jasper. If his death and any impact that might have had on the King were mentioned, I missed it entirely. His wife Elizabeth, who the author indicates Henry loved very deeply, was hardly mentioned at all until she was dead. His Queen was then recounted as if to reminisce. I did enjoy the sections dealing with Prince Henry, the young Duke of Cornwall and then Prince of Wales. I found the details of their relationship interesting. Simon Vance was my saving grace toward the end. When it was feeling long, just listening to Vance’s voice was pleasant. Had I read this book in print I am sure I would have skipped around and only read the parts that weren’t dry. Henry VII’s reign was a turning point in British history and I finished the book thinking that there must be a better biography out there somewhere.
The original plan had been to listen to Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel as a follow up to Winter King. When Michelle found out that I had yet to read Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle, she strongly encouraged me to read that instead. I was happy to oblige as I’d already picked up the audiobook, which is narrated by Georgina Sutton. As much as I loved Simon Vance’s performance in Bring Up the Bodies, I’m so glad that I listened to this audiobook. I really enjoyed what Fremantle did with Katherine Parr. I enjoyed watching how her character developed over the course of her relationships with both Henry VIII and Thomas Seymour. I also enjoyed the secondary characters of Parr’s step-daughter, her physician, and her maid, Dot. The section that particularly stood out to me pertained to Katherine’s faith and her desire to be a Reformation Queen. I could see her and her companions sitting by the fire aflame with religious fervor, especially when doing so was dangerous on every level. Georgina Sutton was an excellent choice to narrate this audiobook. Her accents and her tone fit very well with the story, adding to the feeling at times that I was in the room with Katherine. I was happy to read a book that did Katherine Parr justice where the men in her life did not.
Finally, a little update on My Own Personal Henry. Here is a picture of where I am to date. I haven’t picked him up much at all since TudorFest began. Fall seems to bring out the crocheter in me. Those projects have taken center stage recently, but I plan on picking Henry back up as I finish my current TudorFest2013 listen, Elizabeth I by Margaret George.