Sunday, April 1, 2012

Book Review: Sister Queens

Author: Julia Fox
Title: Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile
Publisher: Ballentine Books
Publish Date: Jan 31, 2012
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley
Book Blurb: The history books have cast Katherine of Aragon, the first queen of King Henry VIII of England, as the ultimate symbol of the Betrayed Woman, cruelly tossed aside in favor of her husband’s seductive mistress, Anne Boleyn. Katherine’s sister, Juana of Castile, wife of Philip of Burgundy and mother of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, is portrayed as “Juana the Mad,” whose erratic behavior included keeping her beloved late husband’s coffin beside her for years. But historian Julia Fox, whose previous work painted an unprecedented portrait of Jane Boleyn, Anne’s sister, offers deeper insight in this first dual biography of Katherine and Juana, the daughters of Spain’s Ferdinand and Isabella, whose family ties remained strong despite their separation. Looking through the lens of their Spanish origins, Fox reveals these queens as flesh-and-blood women—equipped with character, intelligence, and conviction—who are worthy historical figures in their own right.

When they were young, Juana’s and Katherine’s futures appeared promising. They had secured politically advantageous marriages, but their dreams of love and power quickly dissolved, and the unions for which they’d spent their whole lives preparing were fraught with duplicity and betrayal. Juana, the elder sister, unexpectedly became Spain’s sovereign, but her authority was continually usurped, first by her husband and later by her son. Katherine, a young widow after the death of Prince Arthur of Wales, soon remarried his doting brother Henry and later became a key figure in a drama that altered England’s religious landscape.

Ousted from the positions of power and influence they had been groomed for and separated from their children, Katherine and Juana each turned to their rich and abiding faith and deep personal belief in their family’s dynastic legacy to cope with their enduring hardships. Sister Queens is a gripping tale of love, duty, and sacrifice—a remarkable reflection on the conflict between ambition and loyalty during an age when the greatest sin, it seems, was to have been born a woman.

Review: I don't often read biographies, but since I started reading Phillipa Gregory's Tudor books, I found I wanted to know more about the players in her novels. Sister Queens is the biography of Katherine of Aragon and Juana of Castile.

These are two women you can come to feel great sympathy for, Juana, though more than Katherine. Katherine's life may have had much tragedy, but it also had much happiness. She did get be Queen of England. She was also Henry's wife for the longest period of time.

The more I read about Katherine of Aragon, the less I like Henry. This book helped reaffirm that for me. I think it is generally because I can't fathom someone casting aside a woman that you've been married to for over 20 years.

Juana's story is equally as sad. Her husband and father scheme to take the throne that is rightfully hers. When her husband dies, she wants to have him buried in Granada, but the process of getting him there feeds the rumor mill that she is insane. This helps her father and later her son to keep her locked away from the world and kept from governing.

Juana's story is definitely more interesting to read about, because there's so much out there about her younger sister, Katherine.

Julia's biography of these two women is an easy read but it does drag a bit, especially the last chapter about Mary Tudor becoming Queen of England. One thing I found peculiar in that, is that she felt Anne Boleyn won out, because her daughter held the throne.

To be perfectly honest, having read about Katherine of Aragon here and in other historical novels, I don't think there are any clear winners. Henry's children from his wives were the last of the line. I'm sure Henry VII would have been displeased. None of his sons children had any issue.

That was not the case with Juana, she had many children, though most could learn a thing or two about honoring their mother.

This book has piqued my curiosity about Juana, it also gave me a great respect for Katherine of Aragon. It also made me really annoyed at Phillipa Gregory for her portrayal of her in The Constant Princess.

Rating: 4 flowers


alreem @ (AlreemBookChapters) said...

AWESOME review!! this book sound interesting ,,, Glad you like it :D

Amber at The Musings of ALMYBNENR said...

Lovely review. I really want to read this one (you know, it counts for the Tudor Reading Challenge)!

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