I love a bit of historical fiction (see post on Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly) As the title suggests the book is about the life of Mary Queen of Scots through the eyes of her lady in waiting Ginette – known to all as Jenny. After a brief prologue where we realise that Mary is about to be executed we go back in time to France where the young Mary is to be married to the king of France, Francis. They have a playful relationship which is overshadowed by the King’s mother Catherine de Medici. Jenny accidentally finds herself overhearing a conversation between Catherine and one of her courtiers and decides that she is in a good position to spy on the household to keep Mary safe. There is some romance with another courtier and Jenny, and as Mary is widowed and then travels to Scotland to take up her birth right we follow her.
I liked the feel of this book. It was interesting, factual and made the story of Mary really come alive. Mary’s relationship with Darnley, her second husband and then with the Earl of Bothwell who she went on the marry as well, was really interesting. What it’s easy to forget is that during all this Mary was really young. She was married three times, was crowned and gave birth all before she was 25. She then gives up the throne and goes to live in exile in England before Elizabeth realises she is too much of a threat (and she does keep organising plots so…) and has her executed. This is not a spoiler, it’s just history! The thing that the author does well is weave a fictional plot around the historical facts and makes it all seem much more interesting. If anything it just reminds us how lucky we are to be living in the 21st century and not in the age where men gave their daughters away at 6 months to the most available suitor.
Breslin also really accentuates the monarchies perception at the time that they were chosen by God and that the crown was their birth right. Mary is portrayed as really regal and loved by the Scottish people and makes as much effort as possible to look after them, like they are her children. In all the stuff written about Henry VIII he has the same kind of mentality; he was chosen by God to lead and no one can change that. Mary is portrayed as a little bit of a schemer but who, essentially wants to continue her family’s right to the crown because she feels it is her duty. She also makes bad life choices by marrying Darnley and Bothwell but, what can you do? If you love history, read this. It really makes it come alive.