Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Travel Recap and Book Review: The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

Last night I got home from my visit to upstate New York. It was one heck of a whirlwind three days. It definitely turned out better than I was expecting as I began my trip. See, I woke up Saturday morning to go to the airport and on the way got a call from my mom saying their flight was going to be four hours late. That meant that once I connected in Detroit and got into Rochester, I would have to wait four hours. Let me assure you, my mood was as dark and foul as the weather over Chicago that was delaying my parents flight. I think I told you about this "read and return" thing in the airports. No? I don't remember, so I'll tell you again. At the Reno Airport a few weeks ago, I bought "The Art of Racing in the Rain". They told me about this read and return policy and I was a little skeptical, but I thought I would give it a shot. So I brought the book and the receipt with me to Reagan Airport to buy a new book. The thought of buying a new book did perk me up a little, as it usually does. However, when I got to the bookstore, to my horror, it was closed. Permanently. So take that awful mood and multiply it. I was able to find a news and convenience store and luckily was able to find this book. I've read almost all of Gregory's books, and while I think they have declined in quality, I new it wouldn't be terrible and would at least get me through my first flight.

Then when I got to the Detroit Airport, a news stand there had the Read and Return sign! I was so excited, I found a book that looked fairly decent and went up to the register to pay. I returned "The Art of Racing in the Rain" and got half of the price back, around $7.35! So when I went to buy my new book, it was like $7.80 with tax, meaning I paid $.50 for a new book. How awesome is that! I was really excited and will continue to use this ingenious system, as my travel plans aren't decreasing in frequency (because bf will be in DC and we will be visiting). Right as I was about to board, slightly perked up by my two new books, my mom called and told me they would only be about 45 minutes later than their original arrival time (we had coordinated our arrivals so we could drive to our destination together). I was unbelievably relieved. With this amazing turn of events, my travels were relatively pain free, other than the screaming babies that are constantly on my flight. Seriously, I must be cursed. I was able to finish this book right before my parents got in and then had my second one for the return flight. Perfect.

So on to the review. In general, Philippa Gregory does historical fiction really well. Although frankly, once she wrote The Other Boleyn Girl, I think her work really faded. What made her big hit so successful was the personalities and development of the characters. They were real. Flawed, but likable. Their motivations were also human and understandable. I think this aspect was really missing from The Red Queen. The main character, Margaret, isn't always the most likable. She also is extremely religious- motivated by her belief that she is chosen by God to guide her son to the throne. This point of view is hard to understand for modern readers. It is just hard for people (and me) to lose themselves in the story.

The story also lacked a certain amount of cohesion. It seemed to jump around a lot. Not really back and forth, but skipped several years at a time. While that's not always a problem, in this book I think it broke up the flow of the story. Also, there were aspects of the book that really burned out too early. There was a love interested that really seemed like it needed a little more life to it.

Altogether, the book was enjoyable. It got me through two small flights and a really quick read. But it wasn't fabulous and not even close to Gregory's best work.

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