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Friday, June 04, 2010

Young Bess by Margaret Irwin

Young Bess by Margaret Irwin

By the time that this book begins, young Princess Elizabeth has had a lot to cope with, including her mother's brutal death, different stepmothers, and her father's changing moods. She has, understandably, become guarded and somewhat distrustful. Now she finds herself dealing with her father's death and her feelings for Thomas Seymour.

Ebullient, handsome Thomas Seymour, played brilliantly by Stewart Granger in the movie, is the real star of this book. Mercurial and ambitious, he has his eye on the Crown and he falls in love with the young Princess. This naturally upsets his sweet wife, the late King's widow. Elizabeth struggles with her feelings, torn between her love for Thomas and her love for his wife, Katherine. Thomas Seymour, has 'wit, but little judgment' and his love for Elizabeth places him in great danger. It also places him in grave danger, from his equally ambitious brother, the Lord Protector.

The rivalry between the two brothers and their different characters is described with great analytical skill. The Lord Protector is cold and jealous, but he is also idealistic and he does a lot to help the common people. Which aspect of his character will win?

Elizabeth comes into her own when her love for Thomas means that she has to fight for her very life. Her courage and brilliance shine in the last section of the book.

Margaret Irwin's book describes the Tudor period in vivid detail and it's sure to please most lovers of historical novels. However, some may find the novel too full of historical detail and the style rather breathless and old-fashioned. She descends into purple prose at times, but some of the writing is luminous and some of the scenes are memorable. These include the scene in which Cranmer walks in the garden and thinks about his late friend and master, his beloved King.

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