Philippa Gregory takes us back to the Wars of the Roses in this entrancing novel. In Elizabeth she has alighted on an intriguing subject. She won the lecherous Edward through beauty and sex appeal. Theirs was a love story. But Elizabeth also believed herself to be a seer with magical powers who could curse her enemies … Gregory is very good at describing the bitchiness of the women in this tale of dynastic rivalry. Even Elizabeth turns shrew. Nothing, however, exceeds the exquisite spitefulness of the letter Margaret writes when Elizabeth’s daughter, Elizabeth of York, jeopardises her proposed marriage to Henry Tudor by her incestuous passion for her Uncle Richard.
Queen has fascinating characters, a touch of witchcraft and plenty of sex. But there's a problem: Henry VIII's court was a soap opera with endless gossip and the occasional beheading to liven things up. Women mattered. Edward IV's court was a boys' club involving non-stop bloody battles. Every other nanosecond, Edward was off battling rivals and rebels. The upshot: Elizabeth spent most of her time waiting for her husband to show up while the real action took place elsewhere. Gregory's gift is her ability to write about women in the past, not battles. Can she turn her readers into mad devotees of Elizabeth Woodville, Plantagenet sexpot? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fault, dear Philippa, lies not in the writing but in the material.
Thanks to Ms. Gregory, we see a great deal of treachery during Elizabeth's time as the ‘white queen’...There is, in short, endless maneuvering for advantage in a desperately uncertain world, one in which everyone is alert, watchful and scared of getting the thing wrong … Ms. Gregory navigates herself faultlessly through the period with a fine sense of what was distinctive about it … In lesser hands, recounting this slice of history might have been a tiresome exercise from start to finish, but The White Queen is something more than that. High English literature it certainly isn't; nor is it merely a medieval bodice-ripper. It is something betwixt and between, rather like the heroine's own life.