Tuesday, November 21, 2000

Book Review: Nine Days a Queen

Nine Days a Queen: The Short Life and Reign of Lady Jane Grey
Anne Rinaldi
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
You might like this book if you like history, especially English royal history, or if you like interesting female characters, or if you like learning about peripheral or lesser known individuals surrounding really famous people.

I had never really thought about Lady Jane Grey, later Jane Dudley and, very briefly, Queen Jane. I had heard about her, but most of my knowledge about the tumultuous times of the Tudors was limited to Henry VIII and Elizabeth. Apparently, Lady Jane did not like that situation and has managed to make herself known to me in some interesting ways. Some weeks ago, I was having a night of insomnia and started poking around the free movies on demand from my satellite provider. I found an unfamiliar film from 1985 or so called Lady Jane and starring Cary Elwes and Helena Bonham Carter, two favorite actors. I loved it, it got me through my insomnia, and I started trying to find out more about this Jane person. A few weeks after watching the found movie, I was at a friend's house inspecting her bookshelves, as I am wont to do, and found this book. Had it not been for my recent foray into the life of this poor girl, I would have had no idea what the title meant. Newly savvy, I was immediately interested in another telling of the story.

It's a good one. It is the story of a girl-relative of Henry and Elizabeth who, by no fault of her own, was caught up in the machinations of the Royal Family of the time. As a result, she ended up being queen without any ambition to become so.  We already know that Royals, shall we say,  have many obstacles to normal relationships, and this book just proves it in spades.  Since it is YA, it is accessible, easy to read and focuses on the feelings and observations of the eponymous young person. Jane tells her own story and I really liked the way the author imagined what it was like to be a doomed teenager. She manages to tell her story without  sentimentality, but I found myself really caring about her.  If you do watch the movie and read the book, know that neither is exactly right, of course, but the book is closer to the truth. The movie ramps up the romance, which is good with two such lovely actors, but the book is easier to swallow as far as how things probably really were. It was a delightful read and a serendipitous follow-up to the movie.As a side-note, I appreciated that it was a clean book. The sexual shenanigans of the royal family were handled in a way that might invite a young reader to ask questions but nothing was described in any visual or graphic way.

In the end, while it stands on its own as a good read, it rekindled an interest in reading more about the realities of that time in history, and its always a good thing when one books leads to another.

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