I haven’t been up to too much these days. I’ve started and stopped a couple of books that I didn’t care for and I’m working my way through The Two Towers. I’ve just gotten back to Frodo and Sam’s journey after traveling through Rohan to Helm’s Deep and Orthanc once again.
I did buy a new book, though. I got a gift card for my birthday, so I decided to get one I’ve been wanting since I saw the film Arrival.
Ted Chiang’s short story collection contains the work that Arrival was based on, and because I loved that movie so much I wanted to read the story it came from. It’s going to be one of my five books on my April To Read list.
March’s To Read list isn’t faring so well. I started and quickly stopped reading Arthur’s Britain by Leslie Alcock, as it’s far drier and more academic than I want to delve into. I also stopped reading The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. It’s less of a book about books and learning and more about how to learn and the histories of the various disciplines such as history and literary criticism. It’s a very helpful book if your education was a bit lacking, but my hometown’s public school system was wonderful, so The Well-Educated Mind wasn’t so helpful for me.
I attempted another Philippa Gregory book. That was a mistake. I thought I’d give her another try, since it’s been a few years since I threw The Other Boleyn Girl at the wall. I mean, she’s a popular writer. Her books can’t all be as terrible as that one, right?
I tried The Taming of the Queen. It’s about Henry VII’s last wife, Kateryn Parr, who was in love with another when she received the king’s offer of marriage, which she couldn’t pass up. Literally.
Now, the book’s synopsis talks about how well educated Kateryn Parr was, but that wasn’t evident in the text. Gregory turns Kateryn into a somewhat ditzy country woman from the north of England who is out of touch with courtly manners and gossip and has to be told the consequences of her actions by her sister, Nan, whose sole function is to explain everything to Kateryn and the reader. It makes for wearisome explanations between sections of purple prose and a couple of ill-advised sex scenes. Again, literally ill-advised. Henry VIII makes the offer of marriage to Kateryn, who promptly goes off to have sex with the man she really loves, Thomas Seymour. For a soon-t0-be queen to do this was tantamount to treason at the time, and a woman as intelligent as Kateryn would have known this. Two of Henry’s queens were executed for having affairs or merely being rumored to have affairs, so it baffles me that Kateryn would have gone off and slept with Thomas Seymour, regardless of how much she loved him.
Gregory’s anti-Tudor bias is evident, as well, in the way that she describes nine-year old Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth I), and she constantly refers to poor Katherine Howard as ‘that little slut’ or ‘the whore’. I would think that a writer who calls herself a ‘feminist historian’ would be less prone to slut-shaming a seventeen year old girl (as Katherine Howard was when she became queen) and more likely to chick her own bias when it comes to writing about historical figures.
So that ended up being longer than I anticipated. At least I didn’t throw this book across the room. A good thing, since it was on my e-reader.
Suffice it to say that I won’t be reading any more of Philippa Gregory’s books. I am 0/2 on them. Luckily, there are plenty of other writers of historical fiction who don’t suck, so I’ll be able to find plenty of novels set in the medieval and Renaissance eras.