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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Myself My Enemy by Jean Plaidy

Title: Myself My Enemy
Author: Jean Plaidy
Publisher: Robert Hale, 1983
ISBN: 0709005601
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3.5 Crowns

This is the story of a tragic queen, told as though by herself, during what is undoubtedly one of the most turbulent periods of English history.

Henrietta Maria's father, Henri IV of France, was murdered a few months after her birth and she grew up in a court of intrigue constantly on the verge of conflict, and strongly under the influence of her Catholic mother, Regent for the boy king.
Henrietta Maria grows up to be a pretty , if somewhat frivolous young woman, with a love of fashion and dancing, and a stubbornness that would prove to have disastrous consequences. Her total commitment to Catholicism and her determination to always get her own way made the early years of her marriage to the Protestant  Charles I difficult but from these tempestuous beginnings grew a true and loving relationship.

Henrietta Maria, fiercely loyal in love, ruthless in hatred, stood beside her husband through the sad progress of his reign. Devoted to each other and their children it was a successful marriage but a doomed political alliance. Blindly they blundered through the years as England marched closer and closer to civil war and that final unimaginable day at Whitehall.

Henrietta Maria would spend the rest of her life in France , dependent on her French relatives, and often struggling to find the means to survive. But she never gave up hope her son would be restored to the English throne, which she did live to see, or that her children would return to the Catholic faith.

My thoughts: Jean Plaidy is an author of historical fiction that the reader can trust. She builds her stories on a foundation of solid facts and brings her characters to life by showing their flaws as well as their good qualities which makes them very human and easy to relate to. One can admire the strengths in Charles and Henrietta and become emotionally involved in their sad love story yet still still be incredibly frustrated by their inability to compromise or to see where their decisions were taking them.
It also provides a look at the early years of their children, Charles II, James II, Mary of Orange and the enchanting 'Minette'.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn something of this period and know what they're learning is a balanced and unbiased account - something which is sadly lacking in some recent historical fiction. I don't think it is one of Jean Plaidy's best as it falters a bit in writing style and there were times when I found it repetitious but it was a reread for me so I was less focused on a story I was already familiar with and more interested in how my perceptions of the book might have changed in thirty years. Overall I still found it great reading and think Jean Plaidy's books have a timeless quality which will always make them appeal to lovers of good historical fiction.

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Samita (Book Purring) said...

This sounds interesting, I actually haven't read anything from Charles I just Charles II so now I'm intrigued. Thanks for the review.

Mystica said...

I have read a bit about this period but would like to certainly read more and Jean Plaidy always a very good read.