Friday, December 10, 2010

The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory

The Wise WomanThe Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Royal Reviews' Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2010

Who is the Wise Woman?

This novel by Philippa Gregory, set during the time of the English Reformation, revolves around Alys: Abandoned as a child by unknown parents, she is raised by the local wise woman of Bowes-Moor, Morrag, until she is enticed away by the glistening riches of a nearby Abbey and the tenderness of Mother Hildebrande, and becomes Sister Ann.

With the destruction of the Abbey, Alys returns to Morrag and Bowes-Moor. Wanting to remain true to her faith, her idea is to live life as a herb girl until she can find a safe nunnery to escape to. However, a twist of fate sees her taken to care for the feudal Lord Hugh, later becoming his scribe. Alys grows increasingly infatuated with Lord Hugh's son, Hugo, an otherwise selfish and brutal man, and another woman's husband, known for his lustful ways.

Alys eventually gives in to her desires and turns to dark magic to win the young Hugo's affection, and then to increase social status and power. However, magic has no master, and it soons become clear to Alys that she treads a perilous path, at the end of which is always death.

Although The Wise Woman is set during the reign of Henry VIII of England and the Reformation of the Church, it is not a Tudor Court novel. There is no Courtly romance and little political intrigue, but instead a lot of deceit, lies, manipulation, and magic.

One of Gregory's earlier novels, The Wise Woman is significantly different to her more popular Tudor fiction (The Other Boleyn Girl &c.), both in context and style. It is reasonably well-written and the storyline is intriguing, yet I must admit that The Wise Woman is not of the standard that I was expecting from a Philippa Gregory novel, and that left me feeling a little unsatisfied.

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