three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
53-July-Aug-2011
user_rating: 
0

missing imageBest known for her epic fictional biographies, Margaret George's works include Helen of Troy (2006) and The Autobiography of Henry VIII (1986). Her novel, The Memoirs of Cleopatra (1997) was also adapted into an Emmy-nominated miniseries.

The Story: Set in the late 16th century, Elizabeth I is the story of two formidable, ambitious women who share a tumultuous past. The daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn is now in her 50s and suffering from memory loss and hot flashes. Her trusted advisors are dying off one by one, leaving her to rely on others as Spain prepares a massive Armada. Lettice Knollys, Elizabeth's cousin, was once banished from the court for secretly marrying the queen's great love, Robert Dudley. Passionate and scheming, Lettice harbors great ambitions for her son, an unstable earl who threatens Elizabeth's throne.
Viking Adult. 688 pages. $30. ISBN: 9780670022533

Ft. Worth Star Telegram 4 of 5 Stars
"By carefully blending the rich historical detail that is available with her own equally rich imagination, George presents a fascinating portrait of a smart, brave and politically savvy leader who was nevertheless also human and emotional." Catherine Mallette

Washington Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The Elizabeth of this book is frequently and realistically annoying, but appealingly vulnerable in her personal solitude, and admirable in her dedication to her destiny. The world probably doesn't need another book about Elizabeth, but this one is well worth reading." Diana Gabaldon

Boston Globe 3 of 5 Stars
"[A]t the risk of being trite, it's an Elizabeth I to meet the needs of the baby boomer set. ... While the sections narrated by Lettice feel less central to the story of Elizabeth, they add fun (and some ribaldry) to a novel that does, at times, get bogged down in state dinners and a soup-to-nuts account of the reign." Alison Lobron

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 2 of 5 Stars
"George leaves no detail unexamined, but toward the middle of the novel I wished she had. I wished for a swifter pace, for characters to do more and report less, for a plot shaped to build suspense." Carole E. Barrowman

Critical Summary

Critics described Elizabeth I as a realistic portrait of an aging monarch and an evocative glimpse into the politics and society of Elizabethan England. Despite the praise, most also acknowledged that the book suffered from a glut of research. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, for example, "wished for more novel and less biography," and other reviewers felt the dual narration between the two women slowed the book down significantly. It's not a quick read, or an easy one, but by choosing to set her story in the last decades of Elizabeth's reign, Margaret George offers a rare look at the life of England's Virgin Queen.