Historical fiction is a blessing on these cold, miserable winter nights and I hope that those of you who are in the UK and snowed in have got a good supply of books! I have been lucky enough to have read some fabulous historical fiction over Christmas and I have just reviewed Robin Maxwell’s “Virgin: Prelude to The Throne” over at our Tudor Book Review Site – a fantastic book about the teenage Elizabeth and the charismatic sociopath, Thomas Seymour.
Kelly Gartland, a student who is an avid reader of historical fiction and non-fiction, received “The Lady Elizabeth” by Alison Weir for Christmas so I asked her to review it as I haven’t got round to reading it yet. It is Alison Weir’s latest fictional novel and, just like “Virgin”, it is about the teenage Elizabeth and her relationship with Seymour, although Weir takes the relationship a bit further than Maxwell. Click here to read Kelly’s review.
Over Christmas I also read Robin Maxwell’s new book which is due out in February. “O, Juliet” is a retelling of Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet” in a book form and it really is wonderful. As a Shakespeare fan and previous English literature student, I wasn’t sure what I would think of it but it was a joy to read and I read it in one day – always the sign of a good book. I will be publishing my review in the next week or so.
Another book I enjoyed over Christmas is Karen Harper’s “The Queen’s Governess” which is a novel about Kat Ashley, governess, friend and confidante of Elizabeth I. It is interesting to read Elizabeth’s story through Kat’s eyes and also learn more about Kat herself – a brilliant read. I will be reviewing this book and publishing a guest article by Karen Harper in the next few days.
Top Elizabeth I Books
What, in your opinion are the best Elizabeth books on the market, both fact and fiction? Here’s my list, in no particular order of ones that I have enjoyed:-
- Elizabeth I by Anne Somerset
- Elizabeth I by Alison Plowden
- Elizabeth by David Starkey
- Elizabeth I by David Loades
- Elizabeth, the Queen by Alison Weir
- Elizabeth’s Women by Tracy Borman
- Elizabeth and Leicester by Sarah Gristwood
- Elizabeth I by Richard Rex
- Virgin and the Crab by Robert Parry
- The Virgin’s Daughters: In the Court of Elizabeth I by Jeane Westin
- The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell
- Virgin: Prelude to the Throne by Robin Maxwell
- The Queen’s Bastard by Robin Maxwell
- The Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory
- The Queen Elizabeth I Mystery Series (9 books) by Karen Harper
- The Queen’s Governess by Karen Harper
I’m bound to have missed some out so please add your favourites in the comments below.
We have our very own Elizabeth Files Amazon UK and Elizabeth Files Amazon US stores packed full of Elizabeth I fiction and non-fiction so do check those out.
11 thoughts on “New Book Reviews and Top Elizabeth I Books”
I really enjoyed “The Virgin’s Lover” by Philipa Gregory. I actually have enjoyed all of her books. I am currently trying to get through “The Other Queen.” I’ve had it since the summer, but with my teaching job starting up in August & I was coaching volleyball–I really haven’t made it too far through it. It’s good though! I received “The Lady Elizabeth” by Alison Weir for Christmas and look forward to reading that, especially since I enjoyed her other fiction novel “Innocent Traitor.” My mother accidentally ordered “The Lady Elizabeth” in large print, so it was the running joke that she and my aunt can now enjoy reading it as well. 🙂 🙂 🙂 I also got “The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn” & am looking forward to reading that as well.
See i didn’t know you could get them in large print…..this is a new revelation i could have done with years ago and saved me a lot of headaches haha! Oooh the secret diary of anne boleyn sounds really good, might read that!
Wolf Hall was a most interesting phenomenon being an historical novel that became a Man Booker winner. Lots of interesting Tudor books came out in 2009, fiction and non-fiction – and thank you Claire for covering so many of them, and so well.
My favourite historical novel for 2009, however, (my favourite reading experience overall for 2009) was ‘Virgin and the Crab.’ The full spectrum from Fact to Fantasy all under one cover!
I’ve got Wolf Hall, bought it with Christmas money, but haven’t read it yet. I too loved Virgin and the Crab, I keep recommending it to people and I bought it for a friend recently. I so hope to see it become a best seller!
My favorite non-fiction is Elizabeth’s Women by Tracy Borman, since it goes above and beyond the normal repeating of the facts of Elizabeth’s life.
For fiction, I have read many but none stick out as a favorite. I have “I, Elizabeth” by Rosalind Miles which comes highly recommended by Amy of Passages to The Past, so I hope that it does become a stand-out for me once I get to it.
One of my favourite non-fiction works on Elizabeth is rather old, being from 1974, but it still very good. It is “Elizabeth I: A Study in Power and Intellect” by Paul Johnson. It has some really neat facts about her, and goes into some detail about some of the lesser known issues, but of course still covers the basics. One little tidbit is the discussion of the likely accents of people of the court based on real comments. This includes Elizabeth’s own accent, which one Frenchman mocked because of her drawling “a”s when speaking French.
My newest favourite Elizabeth fiction novel is “The Virgin Queen’s Daughter: A Novel” by Ella March Chase. It is simply awesome! I could not put it down and finished it in 24 hours, a record for me! It is about Elizabeth’s illegitimate daughter’s life at her court. In my opinion, what makes this book so fascinating is it presents Elizabeth in a different light compared with other fiction written about her. The Elizabeth presented here appears rather harsh and vain, but yet totally understandable and human. I did not always like this Elizabeth, but she was a very strong and admirable character, whom I fear is very close to what the actual Elizabeth must have been like, especially concerning her relationships with her ladies.
Also, without giving too much away, I love the fact that concerning the big issues in the novel, Elizabeth never confessed her real feelings to anyone; instead, she neatly evaded them or flat-out refused to address them. This is how the real-life Elizabeth operated. No matter how much we would love to believe she secretly confided in someone or even confided her secrets out loud to herself, considering her position and the dangers she had faced, it is entirely in keeping with her character that she would admit nothing to anyone, least of all herself.
Margaret Irwin’s Elizabeth trilogy was reissued recently after being out of print for many years so I treated myself to them over Christmas. And I wasn’t disappointed! The titles are: Young Bess; Elizabeth, Captive Princess; Elizabeth & the Prince of Spain, and I would highly recommend them :-).
They cover Elizabeth’s early years and stop more or less at her ascendancy to the throne. They were written during the 40s & 50s but have (I think) really stood the test of time. I hadn’t read them since I was a teenager, and it was wonderful to immerse myself in them again. It was certainly a great way to start the New Year!
Another oldie but goodie reissue of an out of print book, and one that has historical fiction fans buzzing, is Susan Kay’s Legacy. I haven’t read it yet (never been able to find it) but others keep telling me that it’s by far the best historical novel written about Elizabeth. And with a recommendation like that, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy but unfortunately, it’s UK release date isn’t until sometime in July…so we’ll all just have to be patient…for just a little bit longer.
I just finished “Legacy” by Susan Kay, which was recently re-printed by Sourcebooks. All I can say is: is you are a Tudor fan-GET THIS BOOK! To me, this was one of the best novels on Elizabeth I I have ever read-I couldn’t put it down! This is one book that is well worth a reader’s time.
Oooh, I’ll have to get that one, Linda, thanks for the recommendation.
I read “Legacy” many years ago and have recommended it to several Anglophiles…no one was ever disappointed. If you didn’t ‘love’ Elizabeth 1 before reading it, you will after.