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The White Queen

January 11, 2010

In the darkness of the forest the young knight could hear the splashing of the fountain long before he could see the glimmer of moonlight reflected on the still surface. He was about to step forward, longing to dip his head, drink in the coolness, when he caught his breath at the sight of something dark, moving deep in the water. There was a greenish shadow in the sunken bowl of the fountain, something like a great fish, something like a drowned body. Then it moved and stood upright and he saw, frighteningly naked: a bathing woman. Her skin as she rose up, water coursing down her flanks, was even paler than the white marble bowl, her wet hair dark as a shadow.

She is Melusina, the water goddess, and she is found in hidden springs and waterfalls in any forest in Christendom, even in those as far away as Greece.

She bathes in the Moorish fountains too. They know her by another name in the northern countries, where the lakes are glazed with ice and it crackles when she rises. A man may love her if he keeps her secret and lets her alone when she wants to bathe, and she may love him in return until he breaks his word, as men always do, and she sweeps him into the deeps, with her fishy tail, and turns his faithless blood to water.

The tragedy of Melusina, whatever language tells it, whatever tune it sings, is that a man will always promise more than he can do; to a woman he cannot understand.

And with this telling of Melusina, ‘the Queen of Royal fiction’, Philippa Gregory opens her latest book, “The White Queen”; which is the first of a new series set amid the deadly feuds of England known as the Wars of the Roses.

(Now….there’s a movie that I’d like to watch again and which is strangely absent from the shelves of all the local DVD rental stores: The War of the Roses with Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny de Vito).

The excerpt in the previous post also comes from this book, which plays heavily on the mythical Melusina ancestry of Elizabeth Woodville, who historically was the Queen consort of Edward IV, King of England from 1464-1483.

Despite being, IMHO, not as well-written as other books I have read by Gregory, The White Queen is a page-turner with the weaving of the Melusina myth and the historical propaganda surrounding Elizabeth being a sorceress and having bewitched Edward IV into marrying her.

The book is a clever fictionalized account about a rather unstable time in English history. Particularly if you were a peasant-farmer and  were constantly being called upon to trot off with your pitch-fork and do battle with other peasant-farmers trotting to meet you with their scythes.

Surprisingly, there was no famine in England in the 15th Century although one did catch up with them in 1555.

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One comment

  1. Oooo, I used to love reading historical fiction about English history. My favourite periods were the Wars of the Roses, the Tudors and the English Civil War. Sounds like it’s time again to get back into reading some more! So thanks for the info about Phillipa Gregory’s White Queen. Based on the excerpt in your previous post, I’m adding it to my “To Read List.”



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