book review: the white queen

image from photo.goodreads.comThe White Queen by Philippa Gergory is the first in a series about the War of the Roses in England.  

The story is about a woman, Elizabeth Woodville, a widow of the House of Lancaster.  She has two sons who are left fatherless as a result of the war with the Yorks.  

Elizabeth marries the newly crowned King of England, in secret, which becomes a problem later on the the story.  Once their marriage is made public, Elizabeth goes to live in the Tower of London with her two "York sons."  

Elizabeth gives her husband two sons, who become the center of a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries, the missing princes in the Tower of London.  

This story is full of accusations of witchcraft, double crossing brothers, and complex relationships amongst family and friends where it is difficult to determine who is a friend and who is a foe.  

Throughout this book, King Edward has to constantly fight to keep his throne from the former King Henry and his plotting wife, Margret de Anjou. Even Edward's mother tries to dethrone him by telling claiming he is actually an illegitimate child and thus has no claim to the throne. After Edward dies, Edward's sons, the Prince Edward and his brother Prince Richard in danger of their lives from their uncle who swore to be an adviser and protector until Prince Edward could rightfully rule by himself, now this uncle is a claimant as King himself.

The one thought I kept having while reading this book was "why would anyone want to be king of England?"  Everyone always seems to be plotting how they can kill the king (or prove he is illegitimate and not actually supposed to be king), and how they can get rid of all the heirs (or whoever else stands in the way) so they can become king.  It's really quite ridiculous.  

I thought this book was very good and explores an interesting historical person who is not well known.  I did have a hard time getting past the web of plotting and scheming and often had a hard time keeping track of the characters since they all had the same name (Richard, Edward, and George).  I think I would have appreciated this book more if I had a better understanding and knowledge of the history of England (mostly the rise and fall of royalty), but seeing as I don't, I'm sure a lot of the significance was lost on me.