Books: Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

With historical fiction, you know how it ends. At least, usually. I mean, I suppose there's a chance you would pick up a historical fiction book and, if it looked interesting enough, read it without knowing anything about the people involved. But my guess is most people read historical fiction about people and time periods they at least have a passing acquaintance with. And if one were to pick up a novel about a historical figure, and it was someone you knew very little about, or even nothing about, how tempted would one be to look the people up on Wikipedia and find out what happened before even finishing the book?

Okay, so anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying that I went into Queen's Gambit knowing very little about Katherine Parr. I knew, of course, that she was Henry VIII's last wife, the one that survived him. And that she was younger than him but also older than others he chosen before her. And that's pretty much the extent of it.

Fremantle is a new voice in the very thick chorus of historical fiction novelists. I've enjoyed some Gregory, and I do really like Alison Weir, and Fremantle is a worthy member of the ranks. Queen's Gambit is well written and engaging, though there were times it focused more on Katherine's maid Dot than I liked. While I could empathize with Dot, there were just passages that seemed to go on a tad too long. Meanwhile, Katherine's portions were snappier, probably due to the character herself.

Katherine Parr had, it would seem, a very interesting life, which makes for good novelization. Married to a man with a notorious temper, who also had ultimate power to do whatever he liked . . . Katherine was just clever enough to keep from going the way of some other wives. Watching her carefully negotiate a treacherous court is absorbing, and she is depicted as someone admirable, but also human.

In any case, it's a good book for those who enjoy those of this stripe. I will probably pick up Fremantle's other book at some point, too.

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