22 August 2011

The Lady of the Rivers

By Philippa Gregory
Published by Touchstone
A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Available 11 October 2011
ARC courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada

This novel begins in France with a young Jacquetta of Luxembourg befriending an "odd trophy of war", Joan of Arc. Joan is being imprisoned at the castle of Jacquetta's great-uncle, Lord John of Luxembourg. We learn of Jacquetta's talents when she reads Joan's cards and realises she can see into the future.

This ability leads the widowed Duke of Bedford to wed a seventeen-year-old Jacquetta. The duke believes he can find a way to turn iron into gold and he wants Jacquetta to work with his alchemists and astrologers, to scry, and to look into the future. Their marriage is loveless and childless.

When the duke dies, Jacquetta marries Richard Woodville, the duke's squire. They are madly in love, marry without the king's blessing and, according to some historians, go on to produce sixteen children. Their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, eventually becomes queen consort of Edward IV of England.

The novel centres around Jacquetta's presence in the court of King Henry VI and Queen Margaret. Jacquetta and Queen Margaret have a very close relationship and Jacquetta and her husband are faithful to the House of Lancaster. Although Jacquetta has vowed not to read cards or perform any sort of witchcraft, she is naturally born to it and cannot help the visions she sees. While she tries to help the queen and guide her during the War of the Roses, Margaret usually pays little attention and reads into the visions what she herself wants to see.

This fictitious account of Jacquetta of Luxembourg and her presence in the court of England is compelling reading. As always, Gregory hits all the right notes with her combination of history and story-telling, bringing another little known female historical figure to light.

If you would like to hear Philippa Gregory talk about this book, click here.

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