SHORT & SWEET REVIEW: THE KING’S CURSE BY PHILIPPA GREGORY

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).  The King's Curse Over the past year I’ve read quite a few Philippa Gregory novels and for the most part, enjoyed them. Standouts for me were The White Queen and The Other Boleyn Girl.  The King’s Curse fits somewhere in the middle, beginning with the defeat of the Plantagenets and the marriage of Katherine of Aragon to Henry VIII’s elder brother, Arthur. With Plantagenet survivor Margaret Pole as narrator, the story chronicles Katherine’s later marriage to Henry and her inability to give him a male heir. Here’s the blurb:

From the bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Princess comes the riveting story of Margaret Pole, daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, and was one of the few surviving members of the Plantagenet dynasty after the Wars of the Roses. Plantagenet, once carried proudly by Margaret like a crown upon her head, is now, at the end of the 15th century, the most dangerous name in England…

The King’s Curse is a hefty read, rich in historical detail. Situations were precarious for many in the Tudor court, seesawing between being part of the inner circle and at risk of treason accusations. Margaret Pole’s fortune took a sudden dive following the death of her husband and the loss of income from court after she refused to be drawn on whether Katherine’s first marriage was consummated. Her fight to survive on a meagre income, turning her into the kind of landlord her tenants would have despised, was gripping; her decision to send one of her sons to a monastery to secure his future would forever taint her relationship with said son. I could imagine her sadness and helplessness, even as I told myself I could never do that. Although I found the political machinations intriguing, the aspect dealing with Henry VIII and Katherine’s deteriorating relationship most interesting. And again, sad. Katherine’s helplessness and intense sadness at being unable to deliver a son, and Henry’s constant disappointment, painted a picture of an incredibly bleak marriage. Despite these emotional factors, The King’s Curse has a relatively dry tone, sharing little of the narrator’s true feelings and reflecting a reserve built on advice given to Margaret in the first paragraph:

‘Why should I not grieve?

‘Because they won’t like it,’ he says simply.

One for historical fiction lovers. Available from good bookstores. My copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.