Friday, November 9, 2007

The Captive Queen of Scots

I finally finished this one today (sorry, it's been that kind of month).

The Captive Queen of Scots, as the title implies, begins shortly before Mary, Queen of Scots is imprisoned at Lochleven and covers her flight to England, her captivity there, and her eventual execution.

Like most Plaidy novels, this one isn't for those who like a lot of action. Most of what there is here consists of Mary moving from one stronghold to another, and although there's some intrigue and plotting, most of it takes place offstage. Instead of sweeping drama, we mostly see the domestic interactions between Mary, her faithful followers, and her captors, though there are a few catty scenes involving the vain, jealous Elizabeth. As Plaidy well illustrates, having a captive queen in one's charge was by no means an easy task, and we see how the job of jailer affects various families, from that headed by the Earl of Moray's doting mother to that headed by the strong-willed Bess of Hardwick.

Mary as portrayed by Plaidy is an appealing character, impulsive, generous, and fatally unwary. A number of other people move in and out of the novel, and Plaidy made several of them, such as Bess of Hardwick, sufficiently interesting so as to make me want to read more about them.

Hearing today of Reay Tannahill's death made me think of how her novel on Mary. Fatal Majesty, compares to Plaidy's. In one respect, the two are mirror opposites. Whereas Tannahill's novel is concerned, at least in the latter part, more with the machinations regarding Mary at Elizabeth's court and in Scotland rather than with the captive Mary, Plaidy's novel always has Mary at its center. So those who prefer intrigue should go for Tannahill; those who prefer a quieter look at Mary herself should go for Plaidy.

On another note, I'll be volunteering at the county library's book sale next week, which is not a particularly onerous task because volunteers get to buy books at a discount (not to mention get to them ahead of the crowd). Last year I scored lots of Plaidys; this year, I'm hoping for similar success.