Saturday, February 23, 2008

Review - Plain Jane

This is the third book in Laurien Gardner's Queens of England series - one hopes that the other three Queens (Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr) will also be worthy of attention.

So, as you may, or may not have gathered, "Plain Jane" is the story of Jane Seymour, third wife and third Queen of King Henry VIII of England.

The story begins with 9yo Jane, and her early childhood in Wiltshire. We soon are introduced to 17yo Jane as she begins her journey to take up a position as lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine of Aragon. This is around the time of Anne Boleyn's ascendancy at court - two rival Queens and one King.

And so, the familiar story of Jane's progress from lady of Queen Catherine to becoming a member of the court of Anne Boleyn, following through to Anne's coronation as Queen and her ultimate downfall. We then witness Jane's favour from the King and her own brief reign as Queen - her life ending after the birth of Henry's son and heir.

But what of the character of "Plain Jane" ?? Jane Seymour is often depicted as a young woman of chaste character, of pious devotion, and of obedience to family and King. But was Jane truly the innocent as she is often portrayed?? Was she entirely devoid of any understanding of the game of courtly politics?? Or was she in truth a keen observer, who, when the time came, decided to learn from the mistakes of those who came before her, and was determined not to loose her own head. Jane, at times, comes across as more cunning and more astute than those around her give her credit.

Jane certainly gave Henry the one thing that both Queens Catherine and Anne could not - a son and heir - but a what cost - she too gave her life in satiating the King's one desire.

I am not particularly a fan of the Tudors - yes, the irony is not lost, this is the second book on the Tudors that I have recently read - and my next book is also set in the reign of King Henry VIII. But until someone decides to write about other historical notables, the Tudors seem to be flavour of the month - well, for quite some months now actually.

I quite liked this novel on Jane Seymour - and think I will track down the other two novels: "The Spanish Bride: A Novel of Catherine of Aragon" and "A Lady Raised High: A Novel of Anne Boleyn".

No comments: