SHORT & SWEET REVIEW: THE MARRIAGE GAME BY ALISON WEIR

Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet). 

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After reading several novels (by different authors) detailing the lead-up to the Tudor era, I thought it was about time I read something about Elizabeth I. A friend recommended Alison Weir’s books so I added her name to my huge want-to-read list. The Marriage Game is the first book I’ve read by Weir. Here’s the blurb:

Their affair is the scandal of Europe. Queen Elizabeth presents herself as the Virgin Queen but cannot resist her dashing but married Master of Horse, Lord Robert Dudley. Many believe them to be lovers, and there are scurrilous rumours that Elizabeth is no virgin at all. The formidable young Queen is regarded by most of Christendom as a bastard, a heretic and a usurper, yet many princes covet Tudor England and seek her hand in marriage. Under mounting pressure to take a husband, Elizabeth encourages their advances without ever committing; a delicate, politically-fraught balancing act which becomes known as ‘The Marriage Game’. But treading this dangerous line with Robert Dudley, the son and grandson of traitors, could cost her the throne…

Here’s a snippet:

In the morning, as was her custom, she said her prayers, kneeling on the padded stool in her closet, surrounded by rich hangings of cloth of gold. Then, removing into her study, which was draped in similar splendour, she sent for Robert. Her manner was brisk and authoritative; there was no trace of the vulnerable Elizabeth who had unburdened her shameful secrets in the dark watches of the night. (p67)

Weir brings the Tudor era to life in all its pomp, circumstance and majesty, telling a complex tale of political intrigue, and yes, romance. Her portrait of Elizabeth I is richly drawn, highlighting Elizabeth’s intelligence and political skill, as well as her vulnerabilities. Readers are privy to an Elizabeth only Robert Dudley knows and discover deeper, emotional causes behind her reluctance to marry. Reading it, however, the intrigue and even my sympathy, wore off after a time and I found myself frustrated (as I’m sure were the advisors of the time) by Elizabeth’s game playing and self-involved manner. It became repetitious and tiring; I don’t like mind games at the best of times, so it became difficult for me to stay engaged and I had to read the book in smaller bursts by that stage. That aside, Weir’s writing is skilled (though the lines between fiction and non-fiction seemed to blur at times), her research demonstrates her expertise and knowledge in this area, and her style is entertaining. As is often the case with historicals, I was led to do some follow-up reading, which always cements the events in my mind more. I’ve since been to the library to borrow another book by this author, given that reviews for this one are mixed.

Available from good bookstores (RRP $32.99). My copy was courtesy of Random House Australia.

Bookish treat: I made an old-fashioned sultana cake (four cups of sultanas!) and enjoyed that with a cup of tea. Not all of it, of course.