Sunday, 15 May 2011

Holiday Reading

After going through all the pros and cons, I decided to invest in a Kindle. I’ve far too many books. One room has 6 bookcases, all full, and there are boxes up in the loft. So, I decided to buy novels/paperbacks on Kindle to save some space. Plus, it's handy to take on holiday! The Kindle is very easy to use, and much better than the e-readers some of my friends have. I’ve already got about 25 books on there. Unfortunately, my first read on Kindle was a historical novel that might have been written in the 1970s. It was ‘Isabeau’, by Gemini Sassoon.

Now, I admire anyone who can write a book and get it published – but that doesn’t mean I won’t criticise the content. It’s not so much historical fact that concerns me in this novel, more historical interpretation. ‘Isabeau’ reproduces an awful lot of the stereotypical portrayals of Edward II and his wife Isabella. No surprise with the opening. Isabella thinking back to her wedding day. We have the usual, handsome, disinterested Edward and Isabella, who is naturally described as the most beautiful of brides who no man could resist. Isabella finds her husband really handsome, but is puzzled by his lack of attention to her. No surprise when Edward decides to tell Isabella on their wedding night that he won’t bother her as they have plenty of time for a full married life. So no mention that at 13 she may be way too young. Naturally, some courtiers are already in the know, and Isabella is bewildered.

It’s not difficult to guess what happens when they land in England – a foppish Piers Gaveston greets them richly dressed, in furs and velvet, and waves a handkerchief at Edward, who just has to dash and embrace him. Oh, and of course hands over the wedding presenets. And that’s the tone for the whole novel – Isabella is neglected, humiliated etc and only fights back when her relationship with her children is affected. Oh, and of course when she claps eyes on Roger Mortimer, who yes, is bursting with testosterone:) And who naturally gives Isabella the best sex of her life.

It’s obvious to me Gemini Sassoon really dislikes Edward II – there isn’t one redeemable feature about him. He’s even accused of not loving his children and neglecting them – even endangering them. There isn’t a shred of evidence for this. Edward was known to be a loving and doting father to his children. I found this a very difficult book to read. It was outdated in its portrayal of the marriage of Edward and Isabella, something I would have read when I was barely a teenager. Gemini Sassoon doesn’t seem to realise her particular interpretation is, well, ‘old hat’.

As for the Kindle, it’s definite thumbs up!