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She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth Paperback – January 31, 2012
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“[Helen Castor is] an accomplished and elegant historian.” (Miranda Seymour, New York Times Book Review)
“A gripping book . . . She-Wolves is a superb history of the powerful women who have surrounded England’s throne, combining blood-drenched drama, politics, sex and swordplay with scholarly analysis, symptahy for the plight of women and elegant writing.” (Simon Sebag Montefiore, Daily Telegraph (London))
“A fascinating biography of four powerful English queens…An insightful look at issues still relevant today, related by an accomplished historian and storyteller.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Castor’s deep research will please European, military, and women’s historians, while [her] tight storytelling makes this unusually fine royal history enjoyable reading for casual readers.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Beautifully narrated . . . learned and exciting. This is medieval history at its best.” (Evening Standard)
“Castor skillfully combines this analysis with driving narratives, using vivd details from contemporary chronicles to bring those distant days alive. She-Wolves makes one gasp at the brutality of medieval power struggles—and at the strength and vitality of the women who sought to wield royal power.” (Jenny Uglow, Financial Times)
“Exceptional, even inspirational reading.” (BookPage)
“Castor has done a masterful job of outlining the burdens these women faced. . . . Readers of popular history of British royals will enjoy their immensely human stories.” (Library Journal)
“A fascinating biography…An insightful look at issues still relevant today, related by an accomplished historian and storyteller.” (Kirkus Reviews)
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Top Customer Reviews
This book was clearly a labour of love - and intelligence - for its author. The subjects Castor deals with are treated with sympathy, but never prejudice or conceit.The colour of court, the religiousity of medieval life, the wars and whims of kings, are all here in this excellent book.
She-Wolves highlights how the political is indivisible from the personal in history, with verve and scholarship. And the past is not so distant where we cannot apply some of the lessons from history to today.
Although her Queens could not quite excel in the ages that they lived in, by writing with such authority and skill the author has excelled to such an extent that we now have a female monarch to rival the likes of such kings of the genre as David Starkey and John Guy.
Really loved this book. Highly recommended.
She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth
There's nothing much to say about this magnificent book that other reviewers haven't already said, except for one minor gripe - it's not documented. There is a nine-page `Note on Sources and Further Reading', which lists the books used to write each subject's life. But if the reader wants to check the source of any statement of fact, that's impossible - there are no citations that can refer the reader to end notes and a source. But then, it is popular history of the sort that reads like a novel rather than analytical studies, so perhaps the author saw no need (she mentions in the Preface that she has `chosen not to punctuate the narrative with footnote references').
Highly recommended. Norton's She Wolves was the very worst sort of popular history; Castor's is the absolute best.
My only complaint concerns the final two women - Jane Grey & Mary Tudor. The chapter feels rushed and almost an afterthought. However as there are many books on the Tudors and far fewer on the book's earlier subjects it's a minor complaint.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the English monarchy or the Middle Ages.
Matilda: Lady of England 1102-1167
Eleanor: An Incomparable Woman 1124-1204 (long lived indeed!)
Isabella: Iron Lady 1295-1358
Margaret: A Great and Strong Laboured Woman 1430-1482
and, as the books returns to the time of the Tudors and the death of Edward VI, in "New Beginnings"
Mary and her disastrous marriage with Philip of Spain. The book ends as Elizabeth I is handed the reins of of government and becomes both the King and Queen of her kingdom.
Each section is preceded by a both a genealogy as well as a map of the Kingdom as it existed at that point in history. Very helpful while you are reading about the constantly changing boundaries of the various countries. The genealogies really made me realize how small the pool of available spouses for royal marriages really was at the time. Papal dispensations for consanguinity matters must have been a steady source of revenue for the Church! Ms. Castor has an uncanny ability to write non-fiction that reads as enjoyably as fiction. I was sorry when the book ended - wanting more of this truly riveting history. The struggle of female rulers really was the the beginning of the fight for women's rights and the fact that these amazing, talented, strong women managed to rule as they did is a wonder.Read more ›
Each of the four are given a straight narrative which takes the reader from post conquest England to the advent of the Tudor new monarchs. This is well supported with clear (and easily understood) references to contemporary writers but does not attempt to provide a complete linear view of the period. However, the four periods examined do coincide with some of the most significant episodes of royal history during the period. And it is "royal history". The focus is on the power politics of those in control. Virtually no mention is made of anyone else or any other social group. This is not a fault of the author but a clear indication of the reality of medieval life. Where its male rulers had personal and political failings the country was generally thrown into crisis which meant baronial strife, conquest and counter conquest of castles and territory with the obvious destruction of crops, villages and property of those not considered by those leading armies to restore "order".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought this book as it was chosen by my book club. The idea behind the book is very interesting, but I found the authors writing style to be a bit tedious (as did the rest of my... Read morePublished 3 days ago by Deb
Simple re-telling of history. Grammatical errors detracted a bit from the narrative, but otherwise, a good history book to lose oneself in on a weekend.Published 2 months ago by Libros1956
4.5* History buffs won’t come across a finer book written as it captures the very essence of four strong minded women, Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, and... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Frances
Girl-Power! What a good book and good to know that even in history a long way back, women could hold their own.Published 8 months ago by bookworm
Superb. Highly engrossing and totally educational. This is the first time I've read about these amazing women as the multi-dimensional personalities they were.Published 9 months ago by Holly Clark
It was a great read for those who like England's history. It is too bad that they named everybody the same name because that makes for a
confusing read when you know you are... Read more