Thursday, November 15, 2007

Two Books, Two Reviews

I recently finished the two books that Rachel generously purchased for me. Interestingly enough, I found similar themes in them.

Summers At Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn
044100928X / 9780441009282
A nice easy read, I was quite intrigued by the plot...up until the end.
Much of the story is dedicated to the events surrounding the marriage between the main character's sister and her betrothed. As with many court nuptuals in Elizabethan England and that time, their marriage was simply a political move by both families to form an alliance. Throughout the novel, the protagonist, Corie, discovers that she would rather marry for love, and that she no longer envies her sister's position. Throughout, there is a mystery as to who really loves who, and I found the very end of the book a bland conclusion in the romantic build. After slowly drawing the reader into the story and leaving them on the edge of their seat in hopes of "love conquering all", Sharon Shinn disappoints with a boring, uneventful ending, where the boy DOES get the girl, but a very unromantic way.
A second subplot of enforced slavery of the magical Aliora (think wood nymphs or faeies), only serves to make Corie the selfless heroine that wants nothing for herself, but for others. Her sister, Elisandra, bears a remarkable resemblance to Philippa Gregory's Katherine of Aragon.
All in all, a painless read, but don't expect the delicious romance that is woven into the story to make it's way to the end.
Two and a half balls of yarn

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
0007774486 / 9780007774487
I've been wanting to read this for quite a while now. I'm glad that it didn't turn out to put it bluntly. While I'm not sure just how much of it is fiction and how much is fact, the story of Mary Bolelyn and her sister, the infamous Anne Boleyn, was a fascinating read. Easy to get into, I couldn't put the book down once I'd started. Granted, I had to sleep. However, I stayed up past 3am to finish it last night (this morning). Everything seemed quite believable - the dialogue, the description, the politics and the characters. The rivalry between the sisters for the affection of Henry VIII is complex and very believable. The court politics of the early 1500's were vicious and cut-throat. Family members were no more than business partners, marriages were alliances, daughters were bargaining chips, and sons were prized above all, especially in the royal court. Mary, like Corie in the previous book, eventually learns that she would rather marry for love than for power, and yearns for a "common" life.
Philippa Gregory holds a PhD in 18th century literature, and her expertise shines through with this story of an ambitious family with an even more ambitious daughter. Everyone knows that Anne Boleyn was beheaded by her husband the King, but how many know how she reached that ghastly end?
The Author's Notes include a bibliography, and a small "epilogue" on Mary Boleyn's life. Anyone interested in the Elizabethan era would surely enjoy reading this novel, although I'm sure some would find flaws with the accuracy of history's portrayal. However, for those like myself, who have a strong interest but no real knowledge, The Other Boleyn Girl is an exciting and satisfying read.
Four balls of yarn

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