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REVIEW: The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory

by Assessor

A Riveting Tale of Intrigue and Destiny


Dear Mrs. Gregory,

After thoroughly enjoying “The Other Boleyn Girl,” I eagerly purchased “The Queen’s Fool” when it first hit the shelves three years ago. However, life got in the way, and despite its prominent position on my table, I only managed to start reading it now. Despite a hectic day that involved a vet visit for my cat and a minor car issue, I devoured all 500 pages of your novel in just two days. I found myself captivated by the story and left wondering why I haven’t explored more of your impressive body of work. I am determined to rectify that.

A Captivating Plot

In “The Queen’s Fool,” we are transported to Tudor-era England, a period of intense rivalry between Queen Mary and her half-sister Elizabeth. We follow the journey of Hannah Green, a fourteen-year-old Jewish girl fleeing Spain with her father from the clutches of the Inquisition. However, Hannah possesses an extraordinary gift—the ability to foresee the future, an invaluable skill in the tumultuous Tudor court. She is taken under the wing of the charismatic Robert Dudley, son of King Edward’s guardian, who introduces her to the court as a “holy fool” for both Queen Mary and, later, Queen Elizabeth. As a spy masquerading as a fool, Hannah finds herself torn between her duty, her forbidden love for her master, and the ever-present danger of persecution for heresy and witchcraft. Amidst treasonous plots, bitter rivalries, and unrequited love, Hannah must navigate her own desires and make a life-altering choice between the safety of a commoner and the allure of the treacherous royal family.

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A Window into History

As a history enthusiast, I have always been fascinated by the Tudor dynasty, spending countless hours immersed in biographies of its key figures. I must commend you on your remarkable ability to make the complex political and religious landscape of Tudor England accessible to readers. Throughout the novel, I never found myself lost or needing to retrace my steps to remember who a character was or what they had done. The seamless way you guide Hannah through significant events is truly skilful.

A Sobering Perspective

Your novel serves as a poignant reminder of the freedoms I enjoy as a woman in the 21st century. Reading “The Queen’s Fool” made me appreciate the privileges that I often take for granted—freedom to read, write, hold a job, and practice my religion without fear. It is disconcerting to contemplate the concept of having my soul at stake, enduring torture and persecution for my beliefs. Through Hannah’s eyes, you bring these chilling fears to life. I particularly appreciate how, through the perspective of a servant, we gain a comprehensive understanding of everyday life in Tudor England and English Calais before it fell back into French hands.

A Fresh Perspective on Queen Mary

Queen Mary is often overshadowed by her younger sister, Elizabeth, in historical accounts. She is frequently reduced to a religious fanatic responsible for steering England away from Catholicism. However, your portrayal provides a more nuanced glimpse into the remarkable journey of a woman who experienced dramatic shifts in fortune. From beloved daughter to reviled illegitimate child, Mary’s resilience and courage shine through in her pursuit of her rightful place on the throne. While my sympathy for her deepened, her attempts to impose a single religion on the country only reinforced my conviction that Church and State should remain separate.

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A Flawed Heroine

Despite my overall appreciation for the narrative, I found myself grappling with the protagonist herself. Hannah begins the story as a fourteen-year-old burdened by traumatic experiences—witnessing horrors, leaving her mother behind, and fleeing across Europe. Even in England, her life is plagued by constant danger, where discovery of her Jewish heritage or suspicions of heresy could endanger her loved ones. However, I couldn’t help but lament some of her ill-advised actions. She repeatedly thrusts herself into perilous situations, and her infatuation with Lord Robert Dudley occasionally comes across as a teenage crush on a pop star. While I understand that youth and first love can cloud judgment, Hannah’s repeated indiscretions felt somewhat inexplicable given the burdens she carried. It was a relief to witness her eventual maturation toward the end of the book, but it took too long for her to wisen up. Navigating her early teenage naivety, coupled with her burdensome backstory, proved to be a trial at times.

Final Verdict

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the historical context of “The Queen’s Fool.” Hannah’s perspective provided a unique lens through which to explore Tudor England, and I applaud your ability to breathe life into this captivating period. While I had some reservations regarding the choices made by the protagonist, they did not diminish my appreciation for your storytelling prowess. Consequently, I rate this book a solid B.


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