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Mary Queen of Scotland and The Isles: A Novel Paperback – April 15, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Personal and political naivete lead to Mary Stuart's downfall in George's massive, painstakingly researched novel, a Literary Guild selection in cloth.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

By the author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII (1986), another vast involvement with a legendary royal. The Scots queen (1542-1587), crowned at nine months, shipped out for a French marriage at seven, became queen of France at 16 for a year and a half, then returned to Scotland after the death of the French king- -to four years of early triumph and then tragedy, two marriages, warfare, betrayal, power struggles, dazzling escapes, and, at the last, a flight to England--and doom. George has created a lively, gallant Mary of intelligence, charm, and terrible judgment--in outline true enough, and fictionally persuasive. Unlike cousin Elizabeth I of England, Mary enjoyed a richly cosseted and loving childhood and youth; arriving back in Scotland then--a Scotland bristling with religious ferment, plots, and a history of regencies--is a shock, at first bewildering, then exhilarating. But there are the trumpet blasts of Reformed Kirk theologian John Knox against a female ruler (and a Catholic to boot) and the obvious intent of the Queen's inner circle of lords to rule for her. There's also Mary's stubborn, disastrous choice of a husband--the ``blue and gold lad,'' Lord Darnley, soon slipped into drink and debauchery and even murder. Mary's second husband after Darnley's murder (George absolves Mary of a conscious plot) is the Earl of Bothwell, here given an unusually heroic cast. Throughout, there are astonishing escapes, nick-of-time rescues by Bothwell, fleeting interludes of lovers' joys--as well as betrayal, sieges, and abuse, sadly from the people who once cheered her (``the people...with all their pitchforks, fervous and bad breath...mutable...but stronger than granite''). At the last- -another truly terrible decision--Mary flees to Elizabeth I for sanctuary, and is imprisoned for 20 years while the dismayed English queen makes up her mind. With a seamless use of original letters, diaries, and poems: a popular, readable, inordinately moving tribute to a remarkable queen. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 870 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 4th ed. edition (April 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312155859
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312155858
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (191 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Margaret George specializes in epic fictional biographies of historical figures, taking pains to make them as factually accurate as possible without compromising the drama. Her THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HENRY VIII will have its 25th anniversary this September, and continues to be popular. ABC-TV based its 1999 Emmy-nominated "Cleopatra" miniseries on her THE MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA. All of her books have been bestsellers, with twenty-one foreign translations.

Margaret's father was in the Foreign Service and so she lived overseas for her early life, in such different places as tropical Taiwan, desert Israel, and cold war Berlin, all of which were great training for a novelist to be. She started writing 'books' about the same time as she could write at all, mainly for her own entertainment. It was a diversion she never outgrew. Her published works are: THE AUTOBIOGAPHY OF HENRY VIII, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTLAND AND THE ISLES, THE MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA, MARY CALLED MAGDALENE, HELEN OF TROY, ELIZABETH I, and an illustrated children's book, LUCILLE LOST.

Margaret lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and Washington DC, and has a sextagenarian tortoise as a pet.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By India Russell on January 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
Margaret George's novel on Mary Queen of Scots has everything one could hope for in a historical novel. The romance and tragedy of the famous queen's life make for a gripping story. It is all there: beauty, power,wealth, love, danger, intrigue. It is also a looong story. Just the heft of the book is enough to give one pause. One might ask oneself: Will I really read this whole thing?

Well, I read almost the whole thing. The book slows in the last third as Mary's confinement makes for less interesting reading than her wild rides in the Scottish highlands with her lover. Still, I finished the novel (well, almost finished it) with a better understanding of Scotland and England during the Elizabethan Age. And George fills out the story beautifully with factual information on European royalty, geograpical setting,architecture,food,clothing, music, pastimes, etc..

So, it's a great story,entertaining and educational, just a little overlong for my taste. It could be a four rating if one is a patient reader and interested in detail. It's definitely a feast best enjoyed in small bites and chewed slowly. Hit and run readers look elsewhere. History buffs brew a cup of tea and settle in!
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67 of 77 people found the following review helpful By rebelmomof2 VINE VOICE on April 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
I chanced upon this book in a used bookstore in a little Ohio town and thought of my best friend who expressed she wanted to read it. Only, I read it first and couldn't put it down. Then it passed onto two more friends ~~ only they couldn't put it down. It is probably one of the best impulse buys I have ever made.
Margaret George wrote an intensive book on the queen of Scotland, who was also related to Elizabeth I somewhat distantly. George did a great job of telling Mary's story ~~ a story of a rash, flighty woman who didn't stop to think before acting. Who thought with her emotions (such a different queen than her English cousin!) ~~ defied the normal conventions and rules set upon her by her advisors and did whatever she thought she wanted to do. Naturally, we all know how the story turns out in the end ~~ but George does a wonderful job of epicting "what might have happened" throughout this novel. And she does a wonderful job combining facts within the novel ~~ so you might pick up a few things here and there about Scottish history.
For those of you who want to read about the royalty but are too intimidated to read the historical tomes, I suggest you read this one. It's long ~~ but the writing itself will keep you interested and propells you onto the way to learning more about history. When you finish the last page, you rest in confidence that you tackled such a hefty book ~~ and you walk away just a little smarter about history. If a book can get you to do that, then the praises should rest on George's head.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
The life of Mary Queen of Scots is perhaps history's greatest soap opera. It is impossible to make her story dull, although, when reading this novel, I sometimes had the feeling that George was trying her hardest to disprove that fact. True, Mary was a prisoner for twenty years, but did George have to spend what felt like twenty years describing it? I wish the author had spent less time on the latter half of Mary's life, and more on her years in Scotland, particularly where her relationship with the Earl of Bothwell is concerned. Bothwell, to me, is one of history's more fascinating personalities, and I felt that, even though he is the book's hero, George rather gave him short shrift. I also felt she made numerous factual errors, that, though mostly minor, were distracting. For instance, while I agree with her that Darnley himself was responsible for mining his house at Kirk o'field with gunpowder, her overall scenario for his murder is unconvincing. Also, it is annoying that she seems to dither about the authorship of the Casket Letters. Before she wrote the book, she should have made up her mind on the subject, one way or another. All this aside, however, George is not untalented as a writer, and as a look at Mary's life and times, it is still an improvement over Antonia Fraser's book, which is one of the stupidest biographies I have ever read.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By esagman on April 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Editorial Review does a magnificent job at describing this book, so I need not duplicate.
My comments are limited to how much I truly enjoyed reading this book and learning of the details of the life of Mary, Queen of Scotland. After reading the book, it was weeks before I could put her day-to-day life, and death, out of my mind.
If you enjoy history, written in novel format, you will love this book. I read it in one week and am just about to delve into Margaret George's "Henry VIII" book...and then her book on "Cleopatra". I LOVE THIS AUTHOR'S STYLE!
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Susan Higginbotham on September 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a very long book--it takes Mary literally from the cradle to the grave. Nonetheless, it reads quickly and holds the reader's attention; I seldom found myself skimming.

Most of the novel is told by a third-person narrator, although there are some long stretches of journal-writing by Mary in the last fifth or so. Though Mary's viewpoint is the predominant one, the narrator occasionally travels to Elizabeth I's court and into the minds of various other characters as well, including Darnley, Bothwell, and sundry ill-fated spies.

Certainly the outstanding quality of this historical novel is George's ability to draw characters. Mary herself is depicted sympathetically without ever being idealized; at crucial times in her life, there's almost always someone to tell her that she's making a mistake, and she listens to them far too seldom. More important, George avoids making caricatures of figures such as Darnley and John Knox. The latter is especially well rounded; harsh as he is on the pulpit, we also see glimpses of him as a loving husband and father.

George has a nice eye for small detail, as when Mary on the last evening of her life prays, only to be distracted by her dog thumping his tail. "It was that everyday sound, the summation of all the everyday things she was leaving, that brought tears to her eyes."

I did have some reservations here and there. One of the few parts of the novel I found myself skimming was that detailing the love affair between Mary and Bothwell, where the dialogue takes on a decidedly hackneyed tone. When Bothwell uttered the line, "'Put your arms around me, and whatever happens, do not let go,'" I found myself anticipating the couple's impending separation not at all with regret.
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