- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (February 26, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0465018319
- ISBN-13: 978-0465018314
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 57 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #975,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses 1st Edition
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Everyone knows about the Wars of the Roses; but what about the women behind that fight over the English throne? This question is asked and answered by Gristwood in this multiple biography of the Plantagenet women—wives, daughters, and mistresses—who played often pivotal behind-the-scenes roles in the “cousins’ war.” As the York and the Lancaster men prepare to square off, the lives, loves, loyalties, and fortunes of the major female family members are chronicled in juicy detail. Seven women (Marguerite of Anjou, Elizabeth of York, Margaret of Burgundy, Cecily Neville, Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, and Anne Neville) make the final cut, as a delicately spun dynastic web is irreparably shredded by suspicion, greed, and ambition. Recommend this digestible collective biography to Philippa Gregory fans who want to delve deeper into the tangled Plantagenet-Tudor world. --Margaret Flanagan
The Wars of the Roses are often remembered for the men who seized thrones and led battles, but in this lively history the women take the reins. Arguing persuasively for the existence of a female network,’ Gristwood details the paths of seven royal women who transcended their roles as diplomatic pawns and heir producers.”
Alison Weir, BBC History Magazine
Once again, Sarah Gristwood proves that she is at the top of her field with Blood Sisters . In this gem of a book, she effortlessly interweaves the dramatic, often tragic, lives of seven royal women . In telling their stories in this original way, and focusing on their diverse roles in the conflict between Lancaster and York, Gristwood reveals how they influenced a male-dominated world. Her text is further enlivened by incisive analysis, exquisite detail and an elegant and witty style . It’s the book that I wish I had written.”
The Spectator (London)
Sarah Gristwood’s sensitive approach marks out Blood Sisters as much more than the narrative of an age . It is an exploration of what it meant to be a medieval queen . In describing what these noble women had in common, Gristwood is able to paint a compelling portrait of this bloody age, complete with the heartbreak and triumphs that went with it .. Medieval queens were far from being mere pawns in the game of thrones.”
Sunday Times (London)
Most of the leading players in the Wars of the Roses have traditionally been thought to be the men. Historian Sarah Gristwood stands this on its head. She examines seven women, whose lives were bound together across the best part of a century, and tries to see the wars from their points of view . Gristwood successfully evokes the lives of all these women, and in doing so brings a new and welcome perspective on the Wars of the Roses.”
While most historians focus on the men of the Plantagenet dynasty who tore their families and nation apart during the Wars of the Roses, Gristwood weaves a dizzying array of Yorkists and Lancastrians into an engaging and coherent history by focusing on seven women...who played crucial roles in the bloody feuds known as the cousins’ war.’”
[Gristwood’s] is a revolutionary approach. For too long, history has been the purview of men, of kings and their battles, wars, conquests, murders and thirst for power.... Gristwood’s perspective and lively writing are refreshing.... Certainly there have been individual biographies of each of these seven powerful women but by tracing the connections among them, Gristwood digs into motives and aspirations of royals too long overlooked.... Through them, she gives us an unconventional history of the wars between relations, arguing that their actions mattered as much as battles, and certainly played a significant role in ending the war and establishing the peace.”
Entertaining and vividly drawn . This is the true story of the most important women of the period, their travails and suffering; but also of the links between them, their friendships and ambitions, their cooperation, their courage and pragmatism. It is a different way of looking at this complex period, and Gristwood weaves the story with considerable skill. The battles and bloodshed that led to the loss of so many of the old nobility of England form a backdrop to the narrative, but the real emphasis is on half-a-dozen women whose extraordinary experiences of triumph and disaster, often in a bewilderingly short period of time, brought them to the edge of despair but did not, in the end, lessen their commitment to their families. They provided continuity as the world fell apart around them . Gristwood is to be congratulated for her highly readable account of their lives”
Asbury Park Press
Gristwood crafts a compelling narrative about these fascinating women, not by straying from the truth, but by filling in details and by deducing plausible motives from what little is known. In her pages, these Annes, Elizabeths and Margarets live and breathe and plot once more.”
Gristwood has written a compelling narrative of what went on behind the scenes and away from the battlefields . [Blood Sisters] is an engaging, well written, and thoroughly-researched page turner that should delight academics as much as fans of Philippa Gregory’s historical novels about several of the same notable women.”
[Blood Sisters] deftly navigates a period of shifting alliances in a clear, concise fashion. Highly recommended for any academic or casual reader interested in the Wars of the Roses. Fans of Alison Weir’s historical fiction and nonfiction works, as well as fans of Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction series, The Cousin’s War,’ are likely to enjoy this.”
"As Gristwood amply proves in this shrewd, rewarding study, alliances and ambitions involved women as much as men . [Gristwood] nimbly makes sense and relevance out of the confoundingly entangled dynasties of the Yorks and Tudors."
Open Letters Monthly
[A] nimble, engaging new book.... [Gristwood’s] a lively enthusiastic recounter of the violent turnovers of the age.”
[Blood Sisters] brings new perspective to a history largely dominated by males.... Gristwood leads the reader though the intricacies of political managing and palace intrigue, where enemies and friends changed sides, often without notice, and frequently to the detriment of their former allies.”
Top customer reviews
Gristwood has certainly done her research and her book is replete with information. She is fortunate in the fact that several excellent biographies have been written about Margaret of Anjou, Margaret Beaufort, and Elizabeth Woodville. I enjoyed reading the book but can understand why some readers might get confused with the plethora of Margarets and Elizabeths. (I learned to give them nicknames some time ago: Margaret the Virago (of Anjou), Margaret the Loyal (of Burgundy), Elizabeth of York the Sacrificial Lamb, and Margaret Beaufort the Cobra....all of which shows my bias.) Despite its completeness, the book is not the most appropriate book for someone just beginning to read about the Wars, and a more general summary might be the best introduction.
I also think that Gristwood is a tad too sympathetic to Margaret of Anjou and to Margaret Beaufort and that may reflect an Alison Weir influence. Margaret of Anjou was certainly courageous and valiant in fighting for her husband and son but did not show much intelligence in many of her actions. As for Margaret Beaufort, Gristwood appears to give her the benefit of the doubt as to whether or not she was involved in Buckingham's Rebellion or was actively engaged in manipulating events for her son so early. Why should there be any doubts? She showed herself to be highly focused on her goal and opportunistic in "catching the nearest way". Perhaps the Tudors really should be called the Beaufort dynasty because of her efforts; her son, grandson, and great granddaughters certainly took after her in many ways. Cecily Woodville is a fascinating character and deserved more attention. And as for Anne Neville, she comes across as a cipher. It is true that we know very little about what she was like but in this interpretation she seems to be the cowed victim of her father, her mother-in-law, her brother-in-law, and finally her last husband, Richard III. Reading this book made me an active participant because I found myself either shaking my head in disagreement or nodding in agreement with a number of Gristwood's interpretations. That made it highly enjoyable.
One of the criticisms I have noticed of this book is that a great deal of it is written from a speculative point of view, as in "she might have felt...", etc. Unfortunately, as I felt the author made clear, we do not always have a complete picture of each of these women for a variety of different reasons. Because of this, it is sometimes necessary to imagine or "fill-in-the-blanks" as to what the motivations or feelings might have been behind some of the documentation that we do have. In this case, the speculation did not bother me because I felt like Gristwood did very well with the material she had available.
Other reviewers have mentioned getting lost among the similar names and tumultuous politics. I have been reading up on the Wars of the Roses for several years now and believe that it is one of the most confusing times in British history-- add in the fact that every third person seems to have the same name and it can be really difficult to follow along at times. It might be good to have a little basic knowledge of the families before starting this book, but when you do, please read it because these women deserve to finally have their stories told and Gristwood tells them well. You won't be disappointed!