The White Queen (The Cousins War No.1) – Philippa Gregory
Simon & Schuster, 2009
As the war for the English throne rages between the rival dynasties of York and Lancaster, those who have chosen the losing side must take wild gambles. Elizabeth Woodville lost her husband in the defence of Lancaster; now she must appeal to the generosity of the newly crowned York king, Edward. To attract his goodwill she has only her beauty and the blessing in her blood, as a descendant of the water goddess Melusina. Edward is fascinated by the proud widow, but by aligning her life with his, Elizabeth is stepping into a world of treachery and intrigue, glory won with grief.
Ever since I watched Philippa Gregory host a documentary about the women of the Cousins War, I wanted to read her version of events. The conundrum of historical fiction is knowing how much to believe; Gregory includes a disclaimer at the end of the book to help make that distinction, but her theories are compelling and the way she shapes the character of Elizabeth Woodville – a woman of ambition and heart, loyalty and malice – is beautifully done. I also liked the fantasy element woven through and the way it kept the women at the centre of the narrative. This is immensely engaging historical fiction, rich and intelligent. The series continues with The Red Queen.