Saturday, March 7, 2015

The King's Grey Mare by Rosemary Hawley Jarman (1973)

Elegantly written, very lyrical and old fashioned.  Anyone with a passing interesting in the Wars of the Roses is familiar with the story, the romance of Queen Elizabeth and King Edward IV.  It's interesting that Jarman wrote this book many years before Phillipa Gregory's more modern series, but seems to have flushed out some ideas that Gregory later "borrows" -- the witchery of the Woodvilles, for example - although Gregory definitely flushes them out into some more meaty stuff.  What becomes problematic about The King's Grey Mare is Jarman's characters, particularly that of Elizabeth Woodville, zig and zag all over the place.  They don't stay still long enough to develop, and while people may really be that way, in a novel you want characters to act in ways that make sense and further the plot.  Jarman's Woodville is a romantic heroine at one point who turns into this monstrous bitch, and I couldn't figure out when or why.

The King's Grey MareThe King's Grey Mare by Rosemary Hawley Jarman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jarman's book about Elizabeth Woodville came long before The White Queen, but they cover almost exactly the same ground.  Jarman is a more lyrical and old fashioned writer; Gregory flushes out some of Jarman's ideas in a more meatier and interesting way (the witchery of the Woodvilles, for example, is more deftly written by Gregory than Jarman).  This isn't a bad book by any means; if you like the Wars of the Roses, then you'll (mostly) enjoy Jarman's book.  My only beef was the zig and zag  of the characters, particularly that of Elizabeth Woodville herself.  It's like Jarman couldn't decide if Elizabeth was a romantic heroine or a monstrous bitch, and tried to make her into both.  She could have succeeded at that with some transition, but that lack of transition makes Elizabeth into a bizarre and schizo character and not completely believable.  If you want to only read one novel about Elizabeth Woodville, stick to Gregory.  But if you like your Wars of the Roses almost ornate and poetic, give Jarman a try.


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