If you have looked over this blog at all, you might notice I have a slight interest in British history. Yes, I am an Anglophile. All history fascinates me, but I have a particular love for the British variety, and I will tell you why. It's because it's a great story. There has never been a novel or soap opera written as crazy as the story of the British monarchy and the people of that small island. How did this tiny island in the Atlantic come to rule half the world at one point? It's crazy! And crazy fun.
For the record, I had this odd appreciation for British history long before the recent surge in interest for the royals. I was reading biographies on King Henry VIII when William was still in college, long before Kate Middleton and huge weddings and cute babies arrived. This is not to say that I did not stay up to watch the wedding. I did. I also followed to baby stories. They are a cute couple with a tremendous amount of history behind them. Way more interesting than the Kardashians.
So, in honor of all the crazy royal-ness, I thought I would review an "oldie but a goodie" from my book collection. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey tackles one of the great mysteries of English history: what, exactly, is the story with King Richard III?
The history books paint a particular story about King Richard. They depict as decrepit, hunchbacked, and that pure embodiment of evil. They say he killed Henry VI, his two nephews, and whoever else was in his way. Basically, the version of King Richard from Shakespeare's play.
The Daughter of Time is written like a detective story from the perspective of a modern day (well, sort of, the book was written in several decades ago) detective who is confined to bed for medical reasons. He has nothing to do, so he starts looking at historical pictures, and he is intrigued that the portrait of Richard III does not look anything like the monster of his childhood history classes. This sends him on a chase for the real Richard III, and what he finds is a classic tale of "history is written by the victors." After all, if much of history is taken from Shakespeare's plays, we must remember that Shakespeare was writing during the reign of the Tudors, who defeated Richard and took his crown. It was therefore quite advantageous of him to portray Richard the way he did, and that's the way poor Richard III went down in history. The truth is, much of what is assumed about Richard III is probably not true at all, as the fictional detective Alan Grant discovers. While the story of Alan Grant is fictional, the facts he uncovers are not, and you may be surprised that you do not know as much as you think you know.
This is a great book to read and have your eyes opened to the fallacies of our so-called histories. It will make you question other things about history as well - and, truth be told, much of what we know is wrong, or at least slanted. The book reads like a mystery novel, but look out - you might actually learn something along the way.
****Extra note for the geeks like me:
Personally, I am a huge Richardian apologist. I was very tempted to go on a rant here about how there is NO WAY he had his nephews killed. I love this particular historical debate. For the sake of most of my readers, I held back...but if you would like to know more about Richard, his history, and why he is not the monster of British history, comment here and I will certainly fill you in!!
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
What I'm reading now: The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George
Top Five TBR:
1. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
2. Forgotten God by Francis Chan.
3. Lady of the English and To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
4. The Story of Britain by Rebecca Fraser
5. Crazy Love by Francis Chan