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Elizabeth I: A Novel Hardcover – April 5, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 133 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Personal and political conflicts among such larger-than-life historical figures as Francis Bacon, Walter Raleigh, Francis Drake, and Will Shakespeare intertwine in George's meticulously envisioned portrait of Elizabeth I during the last 25 years of her reign. Unlike most contemporary depictions of the Virgin Queen, this one is actually a virgin; she's married to England, whose interests she pursues with shrewdness, courage, and wisdom borne of surviving the deaths of her family. Readers see the queen through her own eyes and those of her cousin, Lettice Knollys, wife of Elizabethan heartthrob Robert Dudley, aka the earl of Leicester. Elizabeth's antithesis, thrice-married and much-bedded Lettice, is driven by passion and self-interest, easily evidenced by the story's beginnings: it's 1588, and Elizabeth meets the threat of the Spanish Armada head-on while Lettice calculates how her son might benefit. Like her heroine, George (The Autobiography of Henry VIII) possesses an eye for beauty and a knack for detail, creating a vibrant story that, for nearly 700 pages, enables readers to experience firsthand Elizabeth's decisions, triumphs, and losses. Rather than turn Elizabeth I into a romantic heroine, George painstakingly reveals a monarch who defined an era. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Having already tackled Henry VIII (The Autobiography of Henry VIII, 1986) and Mary, Queen of Scots (Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles, 1992), George now turns to Elizabeth I. Narrating her own story, Elizabeth is in late middle age, still formidable, but having hot flashes and keeping notes as a memory aid. Robert Dudley, the love of her life, dies early on, and one by one she loses most of her other trusted councillors as well. Dudley�s ambitious and wayward stepson Robert Devereaux, the Earl of Essex, arrives at court and becomes her last great favorite. As she did in The Autobiography of Henry VIII, George adds an extra dimension by providing a second narrator; here it is Devereaux�s mother (and Dudley�s widow), Lettice Knollys. Banished from court because of an irregular marriage, Knollys conducts an adventurous sex life (one of her lovers is Will Shakespeare) and schemes to push Devereaux into power and restore the family fortunes. George�s mastery of period detail and her sure navigation through the rocky shoals of Elizabethan politics mean this lengthy novel never flags. --Mary Ellen Quinn

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670022535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670022533
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #803,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Holly Weiss VINE VOICE on April 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Article first published as Book Review: Elizabeth I by Margaret George on Blogcritics.

Be awed by the presence of Elizabeth Tudor, the woman behind the sovereign, as you explore the humanity of the indomitable Virgin Queen of England through the pages of Elizabeth I. Margaret George's meticulously researched first person account of the last thirty years of the queen's life is an enthralling breath of fresh air. Biographies of Elizabeth I abound. George gives the Tudor-loving world a unique novel, written in both in Elizabeth's voice and also that of her childhood nemesis, Lettice Knollys.

What was Queen Elizabeth I really like? The novel opens in 1588 when Elizabeth Tudor faces her greatest challenge, the Spanish Armada. Written with a consistently regal tone, the book gives us a mirror into the humanity of Elizabeth, the woman. Yet, the author masterfully incorporates the thoughts, actions and attitudes illuminating the greatness of The Virgin Queen who ruled England for forty-five years. Glimpses into the brilliance and machinations of Shakespeare, Francis Bacon and Sir Walter Raleigh abound. Skillfully woven into the book are both the human and regal facets of the queen who "ruled as much from the heart as from the head."

We see the regent's success and love for her people. Queen Elizabeth's ability to stand for long periods of time seems a metaphor for her triumph as regent. She manages uprisings in Ireland and continued assaults from Spain. She masterfully chooses advisors for her privy council perfectly suited to their jobs. In a nation beset with famine, the queen imbues calm. In an attempt to keep the plague under control, Elizabeth closes theaters and concerts and sends provisions to survivors.
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Format: Hardcover
Margaret George delivers her fictionalized account of Elizabeth Tudor's waning years with the same clarity and attention to historical detail as her Autobiography of Henry VIII, her novel grounded in fact, a character study that fleshes out the Virgin Queen in all her splendor and her vanity. Beginning with Philip of Spain's imminent threat by sea in 1588 ("The great size of the Armada, meant to ensure a safe passage, can be its very undoing."), a pivotal battle in Elizabeth's long reign, to the queen's infamous relationship with Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, the queen in middle age is as formidable as in her youth, painfully conscious of the price of ruling England on her own. George beautifully illustrates the tender, if often fractious commitment between Elizabeth and Leicester, the queen literally bereft when Dudley dies, then Francis Walsingham, old friends and counselors falling away from the ship of state, claimed one by one by mortality.

It is no surprise, then, when Elizabeth is increasingly enchanted by the volatile Essex. And though popular fiction makes much of the passion between Elizabeth and Essex, George reveals the deeper and more ambitious tensions of a young man without vision and an excess of pride, Dudley's devotion sadly lacking in an arrogant earl who fancies himself Elizabeth's equal: "Essex was eager to gallop off to glory, but he had no destination." Lettice Knollys, Elizabeth's cousin and Essex's mother, provides the Devereux perspective. A woman long given to enjoying the amour of younger men, especially since Leicester's death- a marriage that earns Elizabeth's enduring enmity- Lettice wallows in her own self-obsession, nurturing her son's hopes and providing a breeding ground for his ultimate betrayal.
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Format: Audio CD
I chose to listen to the unabridged audiobook of this newest Margaret George historical fiction novel about the latter half of the reign of Elizabeth I and it was, perhaps, not the best choice. Although the narrator did a fine job, the novel is so buried in every conceivable historical detail that it bogs down the story. If one was reading the actual novel, it would have been possible to better "skim" when needed (such as the 20 minute descriptions of some obscure courtiers funeral, of which there are many). By the time the mundane details are laid out, one forgets where we actually were in the storyline.

But there are some very, very good things about this novel, chief amongst them the alternating first person POVs between Elizabeth I and her romantic rival and cousin, Lettice Knollys. Lettice, of course, married Elizabeth's favorite courtier, Robert Dudley and was mother to Robert Devereux, who Elizabeth would later have executed for treason.

The entire novel focuses on Elizabeth's later years, during which Robert Devereux rose in her favor and then later sunk into rebellion. These moments of the novel are the most compelling, along with the fictional relationship between Lettice and Shakespeare himself.

I do recommend the novel (especially for you Elizabeth fans out there!), but I recommend in the paper version. I think you'll get much more enjoyment out of it than with the audio version.
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Format: Hardcover
This book portrays Elizabeth I from 1588 (when she was in her 50's and just before the legendary Spanish Armada debacle) until her death in March of 1603. It is a truly wonderful book written from the viewpoint of Elizabeth I with some insertions from the viewpoint of her cousin Lettice Knolleys who is almost a mirror-image of Elizabeth (although younger by 10 years). Elizabeth I was "Virgin Queen". Her cousin was married three times and the mother of three living children). Letitia married Elizabeth I's erstwhile lover (in name only), Robert Dudley, and it was a deed that Elizabeth could never forgive her for. After I finished the book I felt as though I knew these wonderful and strong women. Ms. George does a remarkable job of depicting their characters. We see Elizabeth as the brilliant monarch who still was uncertain of herself in so many ways in her personal life. We are introduced to so many historical figures like Sir Walter Raleigh, William Shakespeare, Sir Francis Drake, and so many others too numerous to mention. I just can't get over how Ms. George manages to bring these people and this era to life! This book is a remarkable achievement, and I feel honoured that I was entrusted to review this book before it's initial release. I highly recommend it
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