Epitaph for Three Women

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RATING: 3/5

BLURB: “On the death of Henry V, a nine-month-old baby is made King of England. Ambitious men surround the baby king, including his two uncles, the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester, who both have plans. In Lancastrian England and war-torn France, there are three women whose lives are to have a marked effect on the future. Katherine de Valois, haunted by an unhappy childhood, finds love in an unexpected quarter and founds the Tudor dynasty; Joan of Arc leaves her village pastures on the command of heavenly voices; and Eleanor of Gloucester is drawn into a murder plot and becomes the centre of a cause celebre. Murder, greed and ambition flourish alongside sacrifice, dedication and courage. These are turbulent times as the defeated become the victorious…”

REVIEW: I chose to read this book firstly because I own many of Jean Plaidy’s books and have, on the whole, found them highly enjoyable – I would particularly recommend ‘Mary, Queen of France’ and ‘Victoria Victorious’ – and also because I freely admit that what little I know about this period in history is taken from Shakespeare (which, as much as I admire him, doesn’t necessarily point to any degree of historical accuracy!). Although I enjoyed some sections of this book with as great an enjoyment as some of her other works, I did not find it as gripping as I had found some of the previous novels. The story of Katherine of Valois was well-told, simple enough for understanding and easy to read for entertainment; however, I felt that her romance with Owen Tudor could have been explored much more deeply. It was difficult to see how their love for each other came about – in this retelling, it seemed as though they had barely even met before Katherine fell pregnant with Owen’s child. This therefore made the romance slightly unbelievable and undermined the risks that the couple took to be together. I preferred the section on Eleanor of Gloucester, whose story I knew a little better, as I enjoyed the way Plaidy wrote her – Eleanor is portrayed as being scheming, ambitious and wanton, but at the same time she never pretends that she is anything other than those things, or denies her flaws – something that, strangely, does make her likeable. My favourite part of the book, however, was that of Joan of Arc. Her story was the most familiar – and, indeed, the most enthralling –  to me, and was told with a great deal of sensitivity and understanding of Joan’s problems. Her fate was dealt with somewhat briskly, but not in a way that seemed understated or dismissive. Overall, I found that some parts of the book conveyed more enjoyment than others, but it is still a good creative attempt to demonstrate the period.

 

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