Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Time for the Best Reads of 2012!

Happy New Year!  Time for me to reflect on some of the best books I've read in 2012.  Sadly, there were no new non-fiction/fiction books revolving around Piers Gaveston - and very little on Edward II.  Dan Jones' 'The Plantagenets' proved a huge disappointment.  So, in no particular order, here are what I consider to be the best reads of 2012.

1.  'Blood Sisters' by Sarah Gristwood, which tells the stories of the women involved in the 'Wars of the Roses'.  I really enjoyed this book, in particularly the stories of Cecily, Duchess of York, Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth of York.  These women suffered such tragedy in their lives, in particular Elizabeth Woodville, but they were resilient and I have to admire their strength in carrying on with their lives and ensuring the survival of their families.

2. ' Elizabeth of York - Queenship and Power', by Arlene Naylor Okerlund.  This was a great read with lots of details about Elizabeth's complicated life and the uncertainty she encountered.  It also portrays a happy marriage with Henry VII.  Of particular interest was Elizabeth's personal household  accounts which shows her charitable interests. 

3.  'Her Highness the Traitor', by Susan Higginbotham.  One of those books that once you start, you can't put down.  A sympathetic and warm portrayal of Frances Grey, the mother of lady Jane Grey and Jane Dudley, the wife of the Duke of Northumberland.  Very little has been written about Jane Dudley in fiction/non-fiction, and she emerges as a gentle, family-orientated woman who enjoyed a happy marriage and who showed great humility and courage in pleading of the lives of her family.

4.  'Song of Achilles' by Madeline Miller.  OK, this book started out really well, telling the story of Achilles through his lover Patroclus.   However, after about three quarters through, it seemed to lose it's way and I had to force myself to finish it.

5.  Notices of the Historic Persons Buried in the Chapel of St. Peter Ad Vincula in the Tower of London (1877)  by Doyne Courtenay Bell.   A gem of a book based on the project carried out in Queen Victoria's reign.  The chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula is the chapel in the Tower of London which is the burial place of some of the most important victims of the Tudor period.  The chapel had begun to decay and fall into disrepair, and Queen Victoria ordered it to be repaired, and that as the floor of the chapel was in such a bad way, it be lifted, and those remains which could be identified were to be re-buried appropriately.  The book details the remains found and how some of them were identified, and how the authors came to the conclusions they did. 

6.  'Bring Up the Bodies' by Hilary Mantel.  Continuing the story of Thomas Cromwell.  Even though I am pro-Boleyn, I really enjoy this portrayal of Thomas Cromwell.  The big flaw for me, however, were Cromwell's reasons for selecting the victims to bring down Anne Boleyn.


22 comments:

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Anerje, thanks for the recommendations. Blood Sisters and Elizabeth of York seem especially well worth reading. Next to the 12th century and the Angevins, the Wars of The Roses is another period of English history that remains of great interest to me. And here, again, I would like to recommend Sharon Kay Penman's novel, the Sunne in Splendour. It's an absolute must-read for all those who chose to support Richard III :-)

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

And thank you for paying a visit to Henry's blog :-)

Anerje said...

Hi Kasia, I'm afraid I'm no supporter of Richard III - quite the opposite in fact. It is a fascinating period of history though.

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Anerje, perhaps Penman's novel would change your view. At least a little :-) IMHO, Richard III, next to Edward II, is the most maligned of the English kings. I used to take the Shakespearean Richard for granted until I read Paul Murray Kendall's biography of Richard ten years ago. Since then everything changed.

P.S. The discovery at Leicester is the most important event of 2012, I daresay.

Anerje said...

Kasia, I did my dissertation on Richard III and his reputation. Whether he had a hunched back or not has no bearing on his crimes, so I enjoy Shakespeare's play for entertainment. Paul Muuray Kendall's book is very much out-dated and is now often rejected by Ricardians. I've been to the Richard III museum in York and Bosworth field and read many, many books on Richard. He deserves his reputation as a usurper and a tyrant. We'll have to disagree about this king, I'm afraid.

Kathryn Warner said...

Happy New Year, Anerje! Yes, a very disappointing year Edward and Piers-wise. :/ Now that I'm back, I'm really looking forward to watching Uncertain Proof, yay! :)

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Anerje, you're right! We'll have to disagree :-) When I wrote "Shakespearean Richard", I did not mean his hunched back- Richard's scoliosis is a fact- and I don't deny the usurpation of his nephew's throne, it's a fact too, but I will never side with those who accuse him of his nephews' death.

As for Kendall's biography, I suppose it must be out of date now, it was pretty "old" when I read it, I cannot argue, I just wrote it changed my view on Richard. Besides facts are facts, and one can distinguish facts from the biogrpher's subjective view.

I cannot understand one thing, you wrote John was your favourite of Eleanor and Henry's sons. You call Richard III a tyrant. Please, do take a closer look at John's methods of dealing with his enemies and... his own family.

To sum up, I highly recommend all Penman's novels :-)

Anerje said...

Welcome back Kathryn! Can't wait to hear what you think about 'Uncertain Proof'. And yes, let's hope for an Edward/Piers 'good' novel!

Anerje said...

Kasia - I am well aware of 'bad King John' and his reputation and acts. I studied the Anjevins at Uni, and wrote a paper in part defending John's reputation. For sure he did some terrible things - just like his brother Richard, his father Henry II - but that doesn't mean he deserves to be demonised for things which weren't his fault. And just because he has a 'bad reputation' doesn't mean I have to like other kings with 'bad' reputations, like Richard. IMO, Richard was involved with the murder of the princes, and as time has gone on, I've ceased to be so appalled at the crime, until the events at Leicester this year reminded me that they were innocent, young children - 12 and 14, a terrible crime, far worse than anything John ever did - even to Arthur.

I'd recommend Susan Higginbotham's 'The Stolen Crown' - superb reading.

Anerje said...

I hope this is all making sense - I find John's life fascinating and interesting, and although he has a bad reputation, and I accept what he did, not everything that happened was his fault.

Many Ricardians have pointed out that Richard's deformities, such as a 'hunched back' were invented by the Tudors/Shakespeare to blacken his name, because they associated dark deeds with deformity. They've been quite vigorous in suggesting that his 'hunched back' is an invention - it makes no difference to me whether he had a hunched back, withered arm, etc and I do find Shakespeare's Richard III very entertaining.

Richard has too many awful crimes for me to have any sympathy for him - as well as the Princes, the murder of Hastings is appalling, as was his involvement in the dragging of Lancastrian supporters seeking refuge in Tewkesbury Abbey.

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Anerje, I did not mean Arthur's murder. Here, John's actions can be explained, at least to some extent, for he had had a "political" reason, although his treatment of both Geoffrey's children had been cruel indeed. No, I did not mean Arthur, I rather meant the Braoses.

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

I can see, we're getting a little bit excited :-) Hope we won't exaggerate. After all, I'm the Young King's champion, you Piers Gaveston's :-)I cannot side with that Johnny-boy, although sometimes I do feel sorry for him, bec. of his parents' mistakes in bringing him up. The same can be said of all Henry and Eleanor's sons.

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Oh, one more thing. I always try to focus on facts. If a king has a bad reputation I don't take it for granted, but try to find out more about him. This is how I've decided to take the Young King under my wing.

As for John, I have to admit, he did inherit nothing but problems from his illustrious brother(the lionhearted one, of course :-)), but, on the other hand, he had given his other brother, the Young Henry too many a sleepless night (I wrote about it in response to your comment on Henry's blog)that I cannot defend him.

Gabriele C. said...

I'm not a specialist on either, though I do know a bit more about the earlier Plantagenets, but I enjoy your discussions.

Anerje said...

Hi Kasia - sometimes, we have very little facts - and we have to either rely on the interpretations of others or make our own. I doubt we'll ever find out who killed the princes - I'd love those bones in Westminster Abbey to be re-examined, but our current queen won't allow it. But judging on the evidence I've read/interpreted, I'd accuse Richard. I also think it's wrong to say for example 'Richard Ist, good king', 'John, bad king', - as you know, history is never that simple. And quite often, my history favs have flaws, sometimes a lot of flaws, but that doesn't stop my interest. So Piers Gaveston - arrogant - yes, rude/obnoxious to others, definitely, Machiavellian, no, power-crazed, no, greedy - yes, loyal, yes, brave, yes, foolish, yes.

Richard III - positives - commanded loyalty in the north, could be pious, but then he was hypocritical in religion and showed extreme disloyalty to his brothers.

Anerje said...

Likewise John - inherited debt from Richard Ist, so blamed for heavy taxes, refused to pander to the Papacy, so an interdict placed on England, but John turned this to his advantage by fining the clergy and making money from it. John developed the navy, but only in light of losing Anjou. The Anjevin empire was too big to be ruled by any one ruler, so it was bound to break up. Far too much is made of Magna Carta - it only achieved prominence in the 17th century, when it was hastily resurrected to bring down the Stuarts.

Anerje said...

Hi Gabriele - glad you enjoy our discussions:> I guess in this one, I'm saying no king can merely be called 'good' or 'bad'.

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Anerje, I was trying to say that too :-) But you are so unyielding when Richard III is concerned. I, at least, try to show some understanding to John :-)

P.S. Richard disloyal to Edward???? I can think of only two actions that could possibly proved it to be true. Hastings and the princes (if, of course, he had something to do with their disappearance), but, as far as I can rememeber, when these things happened Edward was already dead. When still alive he put great trust in his younger brother and, as far as I can recall Richard never failed him. On the contraty. He must have been trustworthy indeed, for despite his young age his brother always relied on him and delgated many important tasks. Still, perhaps Richard's motto should have bound him even after Edward's death.

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Gee, I can see no end of this exchange :-) Perhaps we should move to Henry's blog, to increase a chance of a record number of comments for us all:-)

Anerje said...

Kasia's, I have friends who are members of the Richard III society, and they accept I have my point of view. I don't get why if I'm partial to John, I Should be to Richard III. I wrote a 15,000 word dissertation on his life of political crime - I still read books about him, David BAldwin's was the last. I'm not going to change my mind unless I find a signed confession by someone else:) and yes, I meant Richard was disloyal after his brother's death by claiming Edward himself was illegitimate as well as his children, and I strongly believe he must have been involved in the decision to kill Clarence. It's best to say we have strong views on the subject on which we don't agree.

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Anerje, of course I accept your point of view! And I'm not going to dwell on the subject any longer :-) I promise. I just commented on your above statement that'I'm saying no king can merely be called 'good' or 'bad'. I noticed it did not concerned Richard III :-) To end this up, I'm too deeply involved with the Angevins at the moment and try to devote as much of me free time to Henry's blog as I can. Have no time for Richard III and his reputation.

I am partial to Henry the Young King, although I am perfectly aware of all his flaws :-)so I can understand your partiality to John. I've been never the one to condemn anyone :-)The opposite, I tend to defend those considered to be the bad ones. I'm not sure why :-)

Kasia Ogrodnik said...

Sorry for the typos above :-) I'm looking forward to reading your next posts.