‘The Lady Elizabeth’ by Alison Weir is a historical novel that focuses on the life of Elizabeth I prior to her ascension to the throne. I do not often read historical fiction – it is often hard to find a book of this genre that keeps the facts, is entertaining and makes the people involves realistic. This, I found, was not one of those.
It is not terrible, I will say that. The events used were a good choice; they had enough suspense and overhanging threat to make them interesting, while being spread out enough so that they were not overwhelming. The writing itself was good, although it did falter in places and it was incredibly difficult to get into the book. In fact, it was a struggle to read the whole way through.
The main fault, for me, was the characters. Elizabeth herself was written like a ‘Mary Sue’. I don’t quite know what it was, or what she was like in reality, but I found her incredibly hard to relate to. This was partly due to the book hardly spending any time on showing her faults, instead just telling the reader what they were. I found the young Elizabeth almost insufferable with the fact she was amazing at everything she did, better even than the boys she fenced with despite hardly having done fencing before. Despite this professed intelligence, the older Elizabeth rarely showed it. Both of which are a stark contrast from the Elizabeth that textbooks talk about. However, she was not the only character to suffer. Mary went on a complete personality change with nearly every mention, although it was more pronounced between when Elizabeth was a child and when she became queen. Again, I know very little about the real people involved, but within a story context, this was very disconcerting.
There were also a couple of points in the story that seemed off to me. The first was the supernatural element of Anne Boleyn’s ghost. This appeared quite out of place within the tone of the book and jilted me out of the story. The second was the pregnancy. A quick browse over the internet showed me that this did not necessarily occur, while the author herself stated that she included it to add further tension and as a ‘what if’ factor. While I can understand artistic license, I found the pregnancy a bit forced.
Overall, I was not really impressed with ‘Our Lady Elizabeth’. Others may enjoy it more, but I found it quite tough to get into and enjoy. More often than not the characters, particularly Elizabeth, were infuriating. I would not recommend reading this.