Thursday, November 30, 2006

Myself My Enemy

I got on an English Civil War kick a little while ago, and when I started to look around for some novels to read, one of the first I came across was Myself My Enemy, Jean Plaidy's 1983 novel about Henrietta Maria, wife to Charles I.

Myself My Enemy is written in the first person, and traces Henrietta Maria's growth from a headstrong young girl to a more reflective older woman, one with many regrets.

This isn't the best novel about the English Civil War I've ever read. Plaidy's prose isn't particularly memorable, and she always tends to tell more than to show. Nonetheless, Plaidy has a gift for getting inside her characters' heads and making the reader care for them, and I thought she did that well with Henrietta. Fiercely loyal to her husband, deeply committed to her Catholic faith, suffering myriad tragedies, and just as often doing the wrong thing as the right one, Henrietta is an interesting heroine, and Plaidy succeeds in making her an appealing one despite her manifest flaws, of which Henrietta is all too aware despite her best efforts to rationalize her actions to herself. Her wavering between self-knowledge and self-justification is depicted particularly well in the scene where Henrietta mourns her son Henry, whom she had alienated before his untimely death by attempting to convert to Catholicism.

Plaidy depicts Charles I sympathetically, without idealizing him, and the relationship between him and Henrietta is moving. Charles II, blithely ignoring his mother's advice, and not without good reason, is also well drawn.

Judging from the reading I've done since about Henrietta Maria, Plaidy seems to have researched Henrietta's life thoroughly and stuck to historical fact, a refreshing contrast to some more recent novels I've read about other historical figures.

All in all, an interesting introduction to a beleaguered queen, and one that got me scouring the library to learn more about Henrietta.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Plaidy on Literature Map

I pulled up something called Literature Map today, which answered the question, What else do readers of Jean Plaidy read? Supposedly, the closer the name appears on the map to Plaidy's, the more likely a reader who likes Plaidy is to like the other author's books. I say "supposedly," because when I tried it, I got a different result each time--on one occasion, a writer named Elizabeth Ogilvie was smack next to Plaidy, while on another, Ogilvie's name was at a much greater distance.

Still, it's fun to play with (watching the names jounce around is sort of like watching fish swim) and running the query (it works with other authors too, of course) pulled up some names I didn't recognize and will have to look up one of these days.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Fun Cover to Get Us Started

If you've seen my other blog, you know that I frequently review historical fiction on it. Because I prefer to read about English history, I quite often read Jean Plaidy novels. Even though many are out of print, they're easy to find and usually quite cheap.

I've reviewed some of the Plaidy novels on my other blog, but face it, Plaidy was so prolific, if I tried to review them all there, it'd soon turn into a Jean Plaidy blog, which would be a bit of a bore for readers who aren't all that interested in her books. Hence the present blog, where I can post as much as I please about Plaidy without guilt.

Jean Plaidy, of course, was the pseudonym for the author Eleanor Hibbert, who also wrote novels as Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr (among others). My focus here will be on the Jean Plaidy books, but I may venture into the Holts as well, depending on what grabs my interest.

So now to get started.

As you may know, a lot of Jean Plaidy's novels are being reissued, with classy new covers. Some of them are quite lovely, but I have a soft spot for some of the older ones, like this one from The Vow on the Heron, a 1980 novel about Edward III.
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This cover is from a 1984 paperback edition, and one of the things that has baffled my existence is wondering who the Farrah Fawcett-like blonde on the cover is. Queen Philippa would seem to be the most likely candidate, but the woman isn't crowned, and in any case, Queen Philippa by most accounts wasn't the hot number that this blonde is. Alice Perrers? Maybe, but if so, Edward III's way too young, as he took up with Alice late in life. Joan of Kent? The Countess of Salisbury? Possibly, but what on earth are they doing on a ship, anyway?

The mind boggles.

If you have suggestions, I'd love to hear from you.