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Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey Paperback – November 6, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Popular biographer Weir (Eleanor of Aquitaine, etc.) makes her historical fiction debut with this coming-of-age novel set in the time of Henry VIII. Weir's heroine is Lady Jane Grey (1537–1554), whose ascension to the English throne was briefly and unluckily promoted by opponents of Henry's Catholic heir, Mary. As Weir tells it, Jane's parents, the Marquess and Marchioness of Dorset, groom her from infancy to be the perfect consort for Henry's son, Prince Edward, entrusting their daughter to a nurse's care while they attend to affairs at court. Jane relishes lessons in music, theology, philosophy and literature, but struggles to master courtly manners as her mother demands. Not even the beheadings of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard deter parental ambition. When Edward dies, Lord and Lady Dorset maneuver the throne for their 16-year-old daughter, risking her life as well as increased violence between Protestants and Catholics. Using multiple narrators, Weir tries to weave a conspiratorial web with Jane caught at the center, but the ever-changing perspectives prove unwieldy: Jane speaking as a four-year-old with a modern historian's vocabulary, for example, just doesn't ring true. But Weir proves herself deft as ever describing Tudor food, manners, clothing, pastimes (including hunting and jousting) and marital politics. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The title of this complex yet completely absorbing novel reflects the author's point of view as she reconstructs the life of the unfortunate Lady Jane Grey. That this is popular historian Weir's first novel is publishing news (see the adjacent Story behind the Story). Lady Jane Grey was a great-niece of King Henry VIII of England, and the term political pawn could have been invented for her. In alternating voices, each distinctively authentic, Weir lets Lady Jane and other individuals involved in her life and fate tell their sides of the story, and what a story it is. King Henry, it will be remembered, had succession problems: namely, until his marriage to his third wife, he had no male heir. Added to that was the age's seemingly irresolvable conflict between Protestants and Catholics. Therein lay the trouble for the teenage Lady Jane. She was thrust by her power-hungry and caustically Protestant parents into a plot to place her on the throne upon the death of the little king Edward VI, the late king Henry's Protestant son, instead of the legal heiress, the Catholic princess Mary. Mary won the day and throne, and Lady Jane went to the block. Weir finds Jane an intelligent individual, a thinker in her own right; but, tragically, given the times and the power available to the "grown-ups" around her, she ultimately could not resist the political currents swirling over her. A brilliantly vivid and psychologically astute novel. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 407 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (November 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345495349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345495341
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (236 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #262,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Innocent Traitor and The Lady Elizabeth and several historical biographies, including Mistress of the Monarchy, Queen Isabella, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of Elizabeth I, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII. She lives in Surrey, England with her husband and two children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Lilly Flora VINE VOICE on April 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was both thrilled and slightly apprehensive when I heard that Alison Weir was publishing her first novel. I was thrilled because she has long been one of my favorite historical writers (especially when it comes to the Tudor era) and her books have always been extremely readable, leading me to think she might be a good fiction writer. I was also thrilled because of the subject matter, Lady Jane Grey, the Nine day Queen of England who is easily one of the most interesting and tragic figures of the Tudor age; yet very few fictional books have been written about her. I was apprehensive because I theorized (correctly it turned out) that as a writer who has previously only published non-fiction it seemed that Ms. Weir might have a tendency to be dry and not emotionally expressive in her fictional writing.

Nonetheless for a first novel this a very good book, packed with historical detail (you'd expect nothing less from this author) and various first person viewpoints (mostly female) including: Jane Grey, Frances Brandon (her mother) Mrs. Ellen (her nurse), Queen Catherine Parr, Mary Tudor and John Dudley the Duke of Northumberland. Each person has a very distinctive voice and so the story varies from being told from a cynical viewpoint to a religious one, from a loving nurse to a harsh ambitious parent.

You get a great feel in this book for Jane's life as the unwanted daughter of highly ambitious parent's desperate for a son who compromised by trying their whole lives to marry her off to the boy King Edward. It didn't matter that they made her miserable in their quest to make her a perfect royal bride.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Linda Pagliuco VINE VOICE on September 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"A beautiful daughter, my lady," announces the midwife uncertainly. "Healthy and vigorous." I should be joyful, thanking God for the safe arrival of a lusty child. Instead, my spirits plummet. All this-for nothing.

So begins the story of Lady Jane Grey. Historian and gifted author Alison Weir, in her first foray into the realm of fiction, has brought the world of Tudor England vividly alive in her version of the events that took place after the death of Henry VIII. Through first person narratives by Jane herself and a number of the other central characters, Jane's brief, tragic life unfolds. Known today as the Nine Days Queen, this maltreated girl was the innocent, unwilling pawn of her parents' political ambitions and victim of the vicious religious conflict that tore England apart during the 16th century. All the pageantry, plotting, and maneuvering of the royal court swirls around Jane as she grows, until the age of 15 when she is horrified to find that she has been declared Queen of England in place of the rightful heir, the Catholic (soon to be "Bloody") Mary. Vibrant characters, a plot that's hard to believe but true, and accurate period detail make this first novel an enthralling page-turner.

If Jane had been the hoped-for son , would her fate have been different? Would her brother's? Somehow, with the the Marquess and Marchioness of Dorset as parents, that's doubtful. The dearth of male heirs was a plague on the house of Tudor.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By HeatherHH on April 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
It's an interesting concept for a historical novel, sharing the story of Lady Jane Grey, teenaged queen of England for only a few days before being confined to the Tower and eventually beheaded. What events brought her to that point? What kind of person was she? The author tries to answer some of these questions while entertaining the reader. In general, I think she did better at entertaining than at answering those questions.

In general the read was enjoyable, but there were some significant negatives:

1) There is a gratuitous rape scene with explicit descriptions. It's speculation as to whether such a thing occurred, but even if it did, it could easily have been handled by seeing her in the morning bruised and bleeding. This was a big negative for me.

2) The use of a large number of 1st-person narrators, approximately 10 (though the vast majority of the narration is confined to a smaller number). Every few pages the point-of-view changed to someone else, all speaking in the 1st person and not always well distinguished in voice. You have to be careful to look at the section header to know who is talking. I think it would have been better if the list had been narrowed down a bit, or perhaps to have used a 3rd person omniscient narrator.

3) The language was quite modern at times. Turns of phrase that it's quite obvious were not from the time period.

As for answering the questions about Lady Jane Grey, the author does very little to make it clear what is pure speculation, what is educated guesswork, and what is established from source material from the time period. Beyond the basic framework of the succession of the throne from person to person, there was very little I knew that I could accept as truth.
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46 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Huston on March 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Longtime history author Alison Weir has taken on one of the more tragic tales of Tudor kings and queens in her latest work, Innocent Traitor, which takes a close look at the Nine Days Queen, Lady Jane Grey.

The story starts with two women in childbirth. The first is a highborn lady, Frances Grey, who is desperately wishing for a son after her first two children have died. But it's a girl, and Frances has nothing but disappointment and bitterness for the child, and is more than happy to give her over to the care of a nurse, Mrs. Ellen. The other woman is none other than Henry VIII's third wife, Jane Seymour, who finally gives birth to the King's prayed for son, Edward. But Queen Jane dies within weeks of her child's birth, and Frances notes that there might be a link between the two infant children, and she names her daughter Jane in honor of the late queen.

We first see Jane through the eyes of her mother, and Mrs. Ellen. Mrs. Ellen is devoted to her charge, and tries to make life as bearable as possible for Jane, who not only is precociously bright, but is subjected to physical abuse by her parents, and at best, indifference. Both Frances and her husband, Henry Grey, the Marquess of Dorset, are ruthlessly ambitious and see their daughter as something to use, and treat her with behavior that today would be called mental and emotional abuse. Frances in particular sees nothing wrong with slapping, pinching and whipping her daughter whenever poor Jane makes a mistake, and the only time the child has any comfort is when she travels to the King's court.

It's here that the novel starts to fall into place. Young Jane, with her Tudor colouring of red hair and grey blue eyes is a favorite of her great-uncle, the king, and his last wife, the scholarly Katherine Parr.
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