7 October 2017

Book review ~ The Queen’s Mary, by Sarah Gristwood


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Mary Seton is lady-in-waiting to the legendary Mary Queen of Scots. Torn between her own desires and her duty to serve her mistress, she is ultimately drawn into her Queen's web of passion and royal treachery - and must play her part in the game of thrones between Mary and Elizabeth I. Mary Seton is lady-in-waiting to the legendary Mary Queen of Scots.Must she choose between survival, and sharing the same fate as the woman she has served, 
loyally and lovingly, since a child?

I recently visited the V&A Museum in London and studied the small tapestries made by Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (Bess of Hardwick) during her imprisonment. They seemed to suggest a more whimsical side to Mary which made me want to find out more about her.

Tapestry in the V&A London
Sarah Gristwood describes Mary as ‘the most written about woman in history,’ so it is quite an achievement to show her life in such an original light and raise so many pertinent questions on the way.

We see Mary’s world through the eyes of her long-suffering lady-in-waiting Mary Seton (one of four attendants all named Mary and the Queen’s Mary of the title) A wonderfully flawed character, in turns insightful and naïve, much of her life is speculation - but this is where historical fiction helps to shine a light on important but less well known characters from our past.

Interestingly, Sarah Gristwood’s choice of Mary Seton was inspired after discovering a long-forgotten letter from Mary to King James, which gave a tantalising glimpse of the mind of the real woman.

I particularly liked Sarah’s use of metaphors such as the way the lives of the ‘Marys’ are likened to the steps in a dance, which brings them closer, then apart as they dance to another’s tune. Mary Seton is also likened to a hooded hawk, returning to her keeper even when she is allowed to fly free.

The narrative switches to the first person in the epilogue and I began to feel Mary Seton's presence and was left wanting more, which is always the test of a great book. Highly recommended.

Tony Riches

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About the Author

Sarah Gristwood  is a best-selling Tudor biographer, former film journalist, and commentator on royal affairs. After leaving Oxford, Sarah began work as a journalist, writing at first about the theatre as well as general features on everything from gun control to Giorgio Armani. But increasingly she found herself specialising in film interviews – Johnny Depp and Robert De Niro; Martin Scorsese and Paul McCartney. She has appeared in most of the UK’s leading newspapers – The Times, the Guardian, The Telegraph (Daily and Sunday) – and magazines from Cosmopolitan to Country Living and Sight and Sound to The New Statesman. Turning to history she wrote two bestselling Tudor biographies, Arbella: England’s Lost Queen and Elizabeth and Leicester. Sarah was one of the team providing Radio 4’s live coverage of the royal wedding; and has since spoken on the Queen’s Jubilee, the royal baby, and other royal stories for Sky News, Woman’s Hour, Radio 5 Live, and CBC. Shortlisted for both the Marsh Biography Award and the Ben Pimlott Prize for Political Writing, she is a Fellow of the RSA, and an Honororary Patron of Historic Royal Palaces. She and her husband, the film critic Derek Malcolm, live in London and Kent. Find out more at Sarah's website 

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