Mary Tudor sees how her father gradually casts aside her mother Catherine of Aragon because she cannot give him a son. His eye falls on Anne Boleyn and Mary herself is later forced to take care of her daughter Elizabeth. Nevertheless, she will become Queen of England and during the last week of her life she tells her story to a young maid.
This was my first book by Judith Arnopp and also the very first time that Mary Tudor is at the centre of a book I read. Much more is written about Elizabeth. Arnopp writes in first person tense and only from the perspective of Mary, both the young version and the queen who tells her story a few days before her death. So the narrative style wasn’t quite my thing and especially the added value of the older perspective completely escaped me. It kept the pace out of the story for me at times.
Mary Tudor has undoubtedly had a miserable life. She’s portrayed here as a proud princess with great loyalty to her mother, Spain and the Catholic Church. With a weak immunity and a stubborn character. She loves her sister Elizabeth and brother Edward, but cannot always reconcile this with her ambitions to make England Catholic again. In itself, this is a good characterisation, but I had problems with just about every other character.
To begin with, her whole life from childhood to death is told in about 300 pages. Stepmother after stepmother is briefly reviewed and nothing is portrayed with any depth. Some things are omitted, others are said in just one sentence.
From page two onwards, Anne Boleyn is already portrayed as an adulterous witch. And I understand that Mary may not have liked her, but she was a child at the time and this lifelong hatred of Anne seems a bit harsh. Jane Seymour is a saint. Anne of Cleves is hardly worth mentioning. Catherine Parr is a nice one according to Mary, but too weak because she is in love with Thomas Seymour.
Elizabeth is a vain master manipulator. Edward is an innocent child who has nothing to say during his reign. Jane Grey is Dudley’s puppet queen. Philip II of Spain an uninterested man who’s barely worth two pages. The book is simply full of ‘last century clichés’. There is no nuance at all. As a result, I did not find Mary a sympathetic main character. Even though Arnopp wants to focus very hard on all the dramas in her life. And I certainly feel sorry for her. But this is life at the Tudor court from a caricature and I found that a pity.
I don’t know if I’ll read another book by Arnopp. Mainly because of the narrative style and the characters. But it was certainly not a bad book. It’s a good introduction to Mary’s life. But also not more than that.
This is book 5/20 for ‘20 books of summer‘.
Have you read anything by Arnopp? Do you know other books that feature Mary Tudor’s reign?
2 thoughts on “The heretic wind by Judith Arnopp”
I don’t think I’ve read any books with Mary as the main character either! I’m sorry to hear this one was a bit disappointing. It sounds as though it needed to be a longer book so there would be time to go into more depth.
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Yeah, this book could’ve been a lot longer so that the story got be taken a bit slower.