I’m sure we are all familiar with Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction, which is very popular with teens and especially with girls. The Other Boleyn Girl (Touchstone, 2001) and sequels are still her most popular books in my library.
The Women of the Cousins’ War is Gregory’s first nonfiction title. It all began when she realized that no biography of Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford exists. As long as she was researching a novel based on Jacquetta’s life, why not publish her findings? Gregory explains it all herself on a video available on the Simon & Schuster Educator’s site. The entire introduction to The Women of the Cousins’ War is posted on the same webpage, and on the author’s website.
I should point out that this volume is generously illustrated with maps, timelines, portraits, and family trees (thank goodness!), including a few pages in color.
Gregory’s novel based on Jacquetta’s life, The Lady of the Rivers, is coming from Touchstone on October 18th. (Check back here for a review.) Wouldn’t it make for an interesting project to read both and analyze how the author uses historical research to enliven her fiction? History or literature honors project, perhaps?
GREGORY, Philippa & David Baldwin and Michael Jones. The Women of the Cousins’ War: The Duchess, The Queen, and the King’s Mother. 299p. charts. diags. illus. maps. photos. bibliog. notes. Touchstone. 2011. Tr $26. ISBN 978-1-4516-2954-5. LC number unavailable.
Adult/High School–For teens who cannot get enough of Gregory’s historical fiction written from the perspective of medieval women, this nonfiction title fills in many of the facts. The author states in the introduction that readers of The White Queen (2009), The Red Queen (2010), and the The Lady of the Rivers (October, 2011, all S & S) have asked for the true stories upon which she has based her novels set during the Cousins’ War, otherwise known as the War of the Roses. Gregory notes that until very recently, women were rarely mentioned in historical documents of the time. Nonetheless, it is entirely reasonable to assume that they were present at many significant events and that they probably wielded more power, especially behind the scenes, than has been evident. Gregory invited two noted historians to write about the lives and influence of the White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, (David Baldwin) and the Red Queen, Margaret Beaufort, (Michael Jones). She herself wrote the essay on Jacquetta of Luxembourg about whom no work of nonfiction has previously been published. All three historians relied on primary-source documents. In the introduction, Gregory presents an excellent discussion on the difficulties that historians encounter when writing about the role of women in history from medieval times up to the present. Her discussion of “What is History?” and “What is Fiction?” leading into how they interact in the writing of historical fiction is a worthy read for young adults.–Vicki Emery, Lake Braddock Secondary School, Fairfax County, VA