Tuesday, June 16, 2009


For a summer yarn, this looks close to perfect.

"This is an extremely violent novel, but it seems to accurately reflect the times. The book made me wonder if we do not often romanticize Elizabeth and her reign. I can imagine two reasons that we might. First, although there is much violence in Shakespeare's plays, the beauty of his writing tends to cast a gentle glow over much of the era. Second, Elizabeth has had the good fortune to be portrayed in recent years by Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren, two actresses whose abundant charms might make us forget, as this novel does not, that Elizabeth was a hard woman and that, starting with her execution of Mary, she did little to discourage the bloodlust of the period she personified. As the book reminds us, the heads of Catholics decorated London Bridge, men were disemboweled, drawn and quartered; women and even children were put upon the rack. It takes the better part of a page to describe the four days of torture meted out to one Catholic assassin. Sample: "Pieces of his flesh were torn, to the bone, from six parts of his body with pincers; boiling fat was poured over his back; carpenters' nails were driven under the nails of his fingers." We see in grievous detail the beheading of Mary Queen of Scots, which required two strokes of the ax and some sawing -- deliberate incompetence, some thought."

Posted by David

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