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Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey Paperback – November 6, 2007
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Praise for Alison Weir
“Compelling, gripping and believable . . . a highly readable tour de force that brings Queen Isabella vividly to life.”
–The Washington Post Book World
“Insightful . . . the acclaimed Weir offers well-researched surprise after surprise about the sensual, rather avaricious but eminently admirable Isabella.”
Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley
“The finest historian of English monarchical succession writing now is Alison Weir. . . . Her assiduousness and informed judgment are precisely what make her a writer to trust.”
–The Boston Globe
Eleanor of Aquitaine
“Extraordinary . . . exhilarating in its color, ambition, and human warmth. The author exhibits a breathtaking grasp of the physical and cultural context of Queen Eleanor’s life.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Evocative . . . a rich tapestry of a bygone age and a judicious assessment of her subject’s place within it.”
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor of Aquitaine; Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley; The Six Wives of Henry VIII; Queen Isabella; and several other historical biographies. She lives in Surrey with her husband and two children.
From the Hardcover edition.
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The entire book is written in the first person but from the viewpoint of several people, including Lady Jane Grey; Mrs. Ellen, her loving and trusted nursemaid; Frances Grey, Duchess of Suffolk, Jane's hateful mother; Queen Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII who took an interest in Jane; and John Dudley, the man who wrested the crown, albeit temporarily, from Princess Mary, the rightful heir.
The book is filled with the gossip, intrigue and conspiracies of court life with such vivid descriptions that the story just pops--making you feel as if you're living in the middle of it. In the author's note at the end of the book, Alison Weir writes: "It is my sincere hope that the story that has unfolded in these pages has both enthralled and appalled you, the reader." It did both magnificently.
Lady Jane Grey is one of the Brit rulers of whom very little has been written, so with a touch of fiction she fills in the spaces and turns poor Lady Jane into a realistic personage. No research has been spared to do this, and like a few other history novelists, at the end of the book she explains where fiction was needed to flesh out the story.
Alison Weir's "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" became the first history book I can remember voluntarily reading, not for a school related assignment, in my entire life. It was an introduction which gave me a much stronger interest in reading history books, especially Tudor related works. I'm not as much of a stranger to historical fiction, having loved reading young adult books set in places like Salem, Massachusetts during the famed witch trials as a teenager, for example. When it recently came time to finally settle on a new book to read, and the Tudor bug was biting me again, this novel seemed like the perfect one to pick up. Written by an author whose historical works I already knew I enjoyed, and written about a period I can't get enough of. Perfect!
It was a bit disheartening to me when I began this book and, well, kind of disliked it. Weir used frequent point of view narrative changes, which I found pretty annoying. The story felt like it skipped around too much between characters, some of whom seemed like ridiculous caricatures instead of actual people, and all of whom seemed to have almost the same voice despite their disparate social conditions. I was really surprised by how ridiculous the people seemed, given the fact Weir comes across as a well researched historian. Surely she wouldn't write ridiculously off-base portraits of historical figures on whom she'd done research for non-fiction works, right?
However, being the absolute Tudor addict that I am, the fascination of watching the story of Lady Jane Grey unfold kept me reading. Setting aside some of my objections to how Weir had people think and behave, I was able to get wrapped up in thinking about the lives of the people involved, which is the part I enjoy most about historical fiction works. About three quarters of the way through this book I actually started to do some fact checking on the main players. I was unsurprised but a bit sad to read that, largely, Weir's character representations seem to be the dramatized, likely based on rumor, and prejudice versions of people that have floated around since the actual Tudor era, rather than a more temperate and factually based representation. The worst of this character assassination was of Frances Brandon, Jane's mother. Especially the earliest parts of this book, it felt like Weir was making Frances over the top cruel with no basis in reality, and it was really hard to believe any of it was accurate to how the woman would have actually acted. Then I reminded myself this is historical fiction book, and if I wanted a thoroughly researched account with multiple citations to sources I needed to read a non-fiction work on the people from this story. Which I probably will now!
After moving on from some of the more unbelievable and clearly fictionalized early portions of this book I found the portions detailing the rise and fall of Lady Jane incredibly interesting. Weir's perspective on how figures like Mary Tudor may have behaved privately during this time saved the book for me. I teetered on the edge of rating this between 2 to 3 stars on Amazon's system, but the ending portion of the book, as Lady Jane faced the music for all that had been done to her, put this book over the edge from just ok to my liking it.
I would recommend "Innocent Traitor" to Tudor historical fiction lovers, if only as an introduction to the period of Tudor history that starts after King Henry VIII dies. I'm excited now to start branching out to both non-fiction and historical fiction pieces dealing with the periods before and after Henry VIII's reign, though it may give me pause on this book again to learn how much more of it was fiction than I thought.
Most recent customer reviews
I was not even aware of Jane Grey's existence until I read this book. That she was Queen of England for a week between the death of Edward and the...Read more