You can't resist Jane -- so young, so brilliant, so cruelly used and sacrificed. In the nine days' queen, Weir has found a fascinating and deeply sympathetic figure through which to examine one of the strangest crises of British history.
The Washington Post
Popular biographer Weir (Eleanor of Aquitaine, etc.) makes her historical fiction debut with this coming-of-age novel set in the time of Henry VIII. Weir's heroine is Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554), whose ascension to the English throne was briefly and unluckily promoted by opponents of Henry's Catholic heir, Mary. As Weir tells it, Jane's parents, the Marquess and Marchioness of Dorset, groom her from infancy to be the perfect consort for Henry's son, Prince Edward, entrusting their daughter to a nurse's care while they attend to affairs at court. Jane relishes lessons in music, theology, philosophy and literature, but struggles to master courtly manners as her mother demands. Not even the beheadings of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard deter parental ambition. When Edward dies, Lord and Lady Dorset maneuver the throne for their 16-year-old daughter, risking her life as well as increased violence between Protestants and Catholics. Using multiple narrators, Weir tries to weave a conspiratorial web with Jane caught at the center, but the ever-changing perspectives prove unwieldy: Jane speaking as a four-year-old with a modern historian's vocabulary, for example, just doesn't ring true. But Weir proves herself deft as ever describing Tudor food, manners, clothing, pastimes (including hunting and jousting) and marital politics. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
This first novel by British historian Weir (The Life of Elizabeth I), who addresses the life of Lady Jane Grey, is a treat for fans of meaty historical fiction. Well written and researched, it succeeds as a thoroughly involving novel by bringing a disparate, sympathetic group of characters to life. Lady Jane, known to history as the Nine Days Queen, is a tragic and appealing figure. Abused by her parents, this talented and intelligent girl was bullied into a hateful marriage and pushed into accepting the Crown after the death of King Edward VI. Edward's older sister, Princess Mary (later known as Bloody Mary, and for good reason), rightfully claimed the Crown as her own, and Jane was sent to the Tower of London and eventually executed. Weir tells the story of Jane's short life from multiple viewpoints, which might initially confuse readers unfamiliar with the history, but this is a small fault in an otherwise entertaining and moving novel. Sure to be popular with those who enjoy the works of Philippa Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl), this London Times best seller is highly recommended for all public libraries.-Elizabeth M. Mellett, P.L. of Brookline, MA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High SchoolCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Weir ventures into fiction with this story. In the prologue, Jane is stunned that her trial is over and that she has been convicted of treason, a capital offense. The novel then begins with her birth, a sore disappointment to her ambitious parents who desperately yearned for a son. Various narrators describe the events and fill in the historical background in alternating chapters. Jane is a bright and quick child, but does not enjoy some of the robust activities, such as hunting, associated with her station in society (her mother is the niece of King Henry VIII). For teens, Jane's will be the most compelling voice as she recounts the callousness of her mother, especially compared to the love and support from her nurse, Mrs. Ellen; the idyllic time she spends with the widowed Queen Katherine Parr while plans are made for Jane to marry the young King Edward; then her unsatisfying marriage to Guildford and its brutal consummation. Jane, who has adopted the Protestant faith, is pushed into the line of succession (since Henry VIII was her great-uncle) by those who fear England's return to Catholicism. Readers who enjoyed Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl (2002) or The Constant Princess (2005, both Touchstone) will be drawn to Jane's quiet strength of character as she is used by her parents for their advancement and is condemned to pay the ultimate price.-Teri Titus, San Mateo County Library, CA
Weir's erudition in matters royal finds fictional expression in the story of England's briefest reigning sovereign, Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane is often viewed as merely pathetic. Who better to rehabilitate her than Weir (Queen Isabella, 2005, etc.), author of numerous works of popular history, five of which concern the Tudor dynasty. In setting her first novel around Lady Jane, daughter of Henry VIII's niece, Frances, Weir must surmount two major historical constraints; first, that Jane's fate is known, and second, that Jane, though precocious and unusually well-schooled for a girl of the time, is a necessarily passive character. A minor throughout, Jane is subject to the whims of corrupt and ambitious adults bent on exploiting her bloodline to advance their own agenda. A Tudor Mommie Dearest, Frances hardens her heart against Jane for failing to be born male. Frances brutally punishes her on the slightest pretext, and Jane is happy to escape to the household of Queen Katherine Parr, King Henry's sixth wife. After Katherine's death, Jane narrowly escapes getting caught up in the doomed machinations of the Seymours, protectors of boy-king Edward VI. Frances' plan to betroth Jane to Edward fizzles. The Seymours' replacement, the Duke of Northumberland, seeks to circumvent Henry's will, which provides for the succession of princesses Mary and Elizabeth. As Edward lies dying of consumption exacerbated by a little arsenic, the Duke prompts him to name Jane as his successor. Jane at first refuses the crown, but, a devout Protestant, she's persuaded that the accession of Mary would mean the country's reversion to Catholicism. Jane reigns for nine days, but her court evaporates when Mary musters alarge army. Now Queen, Mary is loath to execute 16-year-old Jane, but succumbs to pressure from her Catholic allies. Jane has one chance to escape the headsman: Convert to Catholicism. But although Protestants don't have saints, they have martyrs, and Jane, in the end, is determined to be one. An affecting portrayal.
Praise for Alison Weir
“Compelling, gripping and believable . . . a highly readable tour de force that brings Queen Isabella vividly to life.”
–The Washington Post Book World
“Insightful . . . the acclaimed Weir offers well-researched surprise after surprise about the sensual, rather avaricious but eminently admirable Isabella.”
Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Murder of Lord Darnley
“The finest historian of English monarchical succession writing now is Alison Weir. . . . Her assiduousness and informed judgment are precisely what make her a writer to trust.”
–The Boston Globe
Eleanor of Aquitaine
“Extraordinary . . . exhilarating in its color, ambition, and human warmth. The author exhibits a breathtaking grasp of the physical and cultural context of Queen Eleanor’s life.”
–Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Evocative . . . a rich tapestry of a bygone age and a judicious assessment of her subject’s place within it.”
From the Hardcover edition.