Monday, February 10, 2014

Philippa Gregory - The White Princess (The Cousins' War)

The White Princess (The Cousins' War,  #5)The White Princess by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have read two books by Philippa Gregory previous to this. The first book I read by her was The White Queen, about Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of Edward IV, mother-in-law of Henry VII. I found the book intriguing, but not too good. For quite a while, despite the popularity of The Other Boleyn Girl, I did not pick up any other book by her.

The Lady of the Rivers, by Philippa Gregory, about Jacquetta, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, was breathtaking! This was an engagingly told story of the daughter of Melusina, who has the gift of sight. She is at the forefront of so many changes in fortunes, of her own and those of the throne.

The deep love she bears for her commoner husband, Richard Woodville is central to the story. Jacquetta is shown as a woman who tries to avoid the cut-throat politics of court and strives to serve the king and queen with loyalty.

I loved the descriptions of the court, and how the couple, Jacquetta and Richard try to lead the life of a normal couple, concerned about their children and their futures apart from the hurly burly of the court. Richard is forever away on some campaign set by the king, and Jacquetta has to be at the court at the Queen’s side.

This lovely book is what made me read the story of The White Princess, (The Cousins' War). This story is about the daughter of Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV, married to the bitter enemy of her parents, Henry VII. He ascends to the throne of England by defeating and killing King Richard of York in the battle of Bosworth.

His wedding to Elizabeth of York is solemnized to cement his claims to the throne of England. This was to end the war of the Roses. The white rose of York is seen as finally merging into the red rose of the Plantagenets. The cousins’ war does end, but not without its cost. Henry VII is tormented by suspicion as to the loyalty of his subjects. He feels the people of England yearn for the return of the Yorks.

The story had a good start, as Elizabeth mourns Richard and is torn between the advantage of marrying the King and the disgust she feels at marrying the man who killed her lover. Later, the pace turns languid as the novel harps on Henry’s suspicions. The appearance of the lost Prince of York injects some life into the story, but the advantage is soon lost.

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Sunday, February 02, 2014

Hanif Kureishi - The Buddha of Suburbia

The Buddha of SuburbiaThe Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book up from the shelf of the Library with some trepidation. Will this novel turn out to be a series of self indulgent rantings by an intellectual author? My fears were un-founded.

The book is about Karim, growing up in the suburbs of London. His father, Haroon, is a muslim of Indian origin, now a civil servant in London. He is married to a British lady and has two sons, Karim and Allie. As the book starts, Haroon is all set to launch himself as the Buddha of Suburbia, going to private parties and giving a spiritual talk to people assembled there. He falls in love with the hostess of these parties, Eva. He leaves his wife and goes to live with Eva.

Karim, who goes to school with Eva's son, Charlie, chooses to accompany his father. He is in the last year of school and sees this break-up as an opportunity to expand his horizons.

Karim goes through many experiences as he tries to gain a foothold in the world, trying to establish himself as an actor.

I fell in love with Kureishi's language. Here is a sample as he describes the class differences in Britain. "For Eleanor's crowd hard words and sophisticated ideas were in the air they breathed from birth, and this language was currency that bought you the best of what the world could offer. But for us it could only ever be a second language, consciously acquired."

Towards the end of the book, as Karim grows older, he finds that the people who influenced him when he was young have shrunk, become inconsequential to him now.

The story flows along wonderfully, I was glued to the book for all of the week, intent on reading it through.

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