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Where does The King's Curse rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
This books ranks somewhere in the middle of all the audiobooks I have listened to, and that is probably because I have been listening to great books and wonderful audio performances as of late, so the middle is not bad at all. When listening/reading, It is very important to give Philippa Gregory her due as a writer, with an excellent grasp of York/Tudor history, and a wonderful imagination that she expertly uses to weave fiction through established historical facts. Philippa is a very effective writer....so effective that she keeps those of us who already know the end of her stories, reading until the last page. My somewhat tepid reception of this book probably has to do with the fact that I was too eager to get my Tudor fix and was expecting this to be one of the best books of the Cousin's War Series and (in my opinion) it was not.
What other book might you compare The King's Curse to and why?
This book covers most of the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII (in other words, the establishment of the Tudor dynasty). Margaret Pole, the narrator of this story, is the niece of Richard III and the grand daughter of the Earl of Warwick (the King Maker) and thus a scion of the House of York - the house that the Tudors supplanted when Henry VII defeated Richard III in battle. Margaret is also a cousin of the "White Princess" and niece (by marriage) of the "White Queen" (both have their own novels in the series). It is not unfair to compare the book, then, to other books in the series. In my opinion, "The White Queen" was the best, with the "Red Queen" following a close second. The central characters of these books, Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beauford were extremely compelling women and unique for their times, and this probably helped the author when writing the novels. Margaret Pole, regardless of her exquisite pedigree, was certainly not as interesting and not one of the power players, although she is ideally positioned to witness many of the key moments at the end of the Yorkist era and a good part of the beginning of theTudor age.
Personally, I did not like Margaret's in this book; she comes across as haughty, arrogant and shallow (which in itself says something about Philippa Gregory's skill in making the character believable---she made me believe in the character enough to dislike her).
My favorite Philippa Gregory novel is "The Boleyn Inheritance", which I found to be better written and more original in outlook than "The Boleyn Girl" (which for me was a guilty pleasure since it was almost all fiction and no history). "The King's Curse" is not as original as "The Boleyn Inheritance" and certainly less entertaining than "The Boleyn Girl". But it is still much better than most of the Tudor fiction out there.
Have you listened to any of Bianca Amato’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
I did not like Bianca Amato on this narration as much as I have liked her in her other works. Again, this may be because I developed a dislike for Margaret Pole...the character that she lends her voice to in this book.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
I must say that I was more than a bit annoyed by the fact that the dynasties involved in this book (York and Tudor) are presented in a very black and white fashion. I don't know if Philippa Gregory presents them this way because this might be the way Margaret Pole would have seen then. She certainly knows better....the sons and daughters of these dynasties were all but cardboard cut-outs! Edward IV (York) was charismatic and very courageous in battle but he was also a womanizer and a rascal (actually Herry VIII- his grandson and a Tudor- resembled him quite a bit). Henry VII is depicted as a neurotic wreck and mama's boy! (for a great, realistic portrait of Henry VII, see "The Winter King"). He had many talents. Politicians at the highest levels were as ambitious and ruthless in the 15th and 16th century as they are today.
Any additional comments?
This is a worthwhile listen if you are a Tudor junkie; if you have read the previous 5 books then it is a must. You will enjoy it if you are willing to accept Margaret Pole's haughtiness as part of the overall picture. My low overall rating here has to do with the fact that I expected better from Philippa - and because I was probably thinking of Hilary Mantel ;)- And after this book I know for sure that Philippa Gregory is a Yorkist and possibly a Ricardian!!
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
OK......I know this book has received overwhelmingly positive response thus far, but I'm not at all impressed after waiting through a pre-order period to buy it. I'm a big fan of Philippa Gregory and a devotée of the Tudors and Henry VIII. I've listened to all of "The Cousins' War" series and enjoyed them all. But 24 hours of Lady Margaret Salisbury, written in this manner, is just way too much! I'll just have to "take one for the team" and amass a collection of "Not Helpful" votes. Oh, well, I'm calling it like I see it.
This COULD have been a good book and a perfect ending to the "Cousins" series. But Gregory made Lady Margaret Pole incredibly unlikeable. In the hundreds of book that I've read about this era, I always felt sorry when elderly Margaret was executed. But, in THIS book, I wanted to execute her myself about 4 hours in! Pole is depicted as narcissistic, ungrateful, snobbish, ungracious, devious, duplicitous, haughty, evil, and hateful. I got so sick of her whining about the Plantagenets being undermined by the Tudor dynasty that it was a wonder that Henry The SEVENTH didn't behead her for treason!!! Did she forget that there WAS once a Plantagenet dynasty and that dynasties all eventually END?
Pole, an overt snob, claims to know what is in the minds of the common people during King Henry's crazed years. Gregory has her giving long discourses into the feelings and thoughts of the English commoners - all while looking down her long nose at anyone who doesn't have royal blood. I don't think she even allowed her tenants to enter her orbit, much less a tinker or tanner in the local pub. Her conceit is unparalleled! In first person singular, Pole tells us how good looking she is, how accomplished she is, what a great mother she is, what a fabulous estate manager she is - on and on and on - in ad nauseum!
I'm not one for abridged books, especially in fiction. However, this would have been a much better book if it was about 12 hours shorter. So much is repeated over and over in this story. Margaret whines and complains for hours about stuff she considers to injustices or depravation but to others would be blessings. When she is widowed, left virtually penniless (by HER standards), and is unable to feed her children, she begs Bishop John Fisher for help in finding a religious order to take in her family. But when he finds a perfect situation for her and her 2 youngest children, along with a place nearby for her other young son Reginald, at first she bitches about it all being way "beneath a Plantagenet"! Marge! You are broke! You can't house or feed yourself! Royal blood don't buy milk and bread, heifer!!!
Just about everyone who would find this book interesting already knows a little bit about King Henry, Queen Katherine of Aragon, Princess Anne, and Anne Boleyn. But Gregory has to give the "4-1-1" on every little thing of all of the key players like we didn't know a thing about the Tudors. To harp incessantly on the minutiae of those figures in a book which is supposed to be about the life and times of Margaret, Countess of Salisbury is unnecessary. Especially since this is the 6th in a series that many of us have already read. In addition, Pole seems to appear everywhere in this story like a Tudor-era "Forrest Gump"! When did she have time to be a wife, run several estates, making herbal potions and drugs, physically micro-managing the tenant farms, give birth to a half dozen children, be a "governess/companion/BFF" to Arthur, Katherine, Henry, and Mary, all while overseeing more political intrigue than MI-5?! On top of that, Gregory has everyone aging appreciably except Margaret, as if she was some kind of "Dorian Gray" character. As a grandmother, she admonishes her middle aged son, Lord Montagu, for his grey hair, claiming it made HER look old! As if he had access to "Grecian Formula"!
Another issue I had is with the narrator, Bianca Amato. She is usually a fantastic and capable artist. Here she makes a great Lady Margaret, although her voice soon becomes irritating reading this unusually long and mawkish story. She narrates like she's giving a funeral eulogy! But that's the fault of the author and the length of this audiobook. A funeral lasts a comparatively short time. And why didn't Amato give Queen Katherine a Spanish accent? Katherine's cultured clipped tones are what makes her such an enduring historical favorite. That accent is as critical to her persona as her stoic dignity and unwavering faith in God. One cannot imagine her without that voice after seeing "The Tudors" on cable television.
I made it a point at about 50% into this torture to just look up Pole in Wikipedia. In real life, she was a force to deal with, in and out of favor with King Henry, but seemed to do her best to keep her nose clean. Even then, with all of connections, one would think that she would have been a bit more cautious in her dealings with the King and his posse. Her biggest mistake was not remarrying a peer and keeping her family together. Abandoning young son Reginald to the church later caused the entire Pole family undue hardships. Although he became a scholar, a canon, a papal Legate and Archbishop of Canterbury and was an integral member of Henry's court, he later broke completely with the King, making any communication between him and his mother and brothers treasonable. Margaret and her entire family have a great story to tell on their own strength, but Gregory gave too much weight to ancillary characters and inserted improbable scenarios which stretched the credibility even allowed by the literary license of historical fiction. She also sets up Margaret up for a well-deserved march to the executioner's block by putting her in the middle of every scandal and act of treason possible.
Others may enjoy giving up 24 hours of their life to this tome. Personally I found this to be a disappointing end to an otherwise MOSTLY great series. OFF WITH HER HEAD - in 12 hours or less!!
25 of 30 people found this review helpful