….or what to expect when you don’t expect much! I was taken aback by this book. I started reading it with the idea that most surely it will be a light, romanced novel, perfect for the lazy summer days of my holiday and finished it with eagerness and enthusiasm. I actually wrote down some of the information from its pages while reading in order to keep track of all the characters and their ancestry. As we all know the English history is not at all a simple one. Plus, the shifting points of view made the novel more interesting. There are three voices, that of the main male character, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norkfolk, and of Elizabeth, his wife and Bess Holland, his mistress.
The central idea of this book has to do with Norfolk’s quest to weave the Howard name (that of his family) into the royal bloodline in a time when the shifts of the kings and queens took place in an instant. However, this action mostly takes place under the reign of Henry the VIII, a close acquaintance of the Howards and the shifts remained available only for the queens, wives of Henry. Norfolk sets all his hopes of finding a good match for the king that would offer him a more important position to the court, not as if he already didn’t have one, So, that’s why he married twice the king with two of his nieces. Unfortunately for the girls, it was but a mere disaster ended with death.
Another aspect of the novel regards the position women at that time had. The more intelligent the woman was, the more problematic she was considered. The perfect ones were the those who were silly, obedient, beautiful and who gave birth to male heirs. Bess Holland, Norfolk’s lover is such an example. As a veritable opposite, Elizabeth Howard, his wife, is witty and questions everything around her which is deprived of morality not taking into account the excuses used by her husband who blames the times as such difficult that one shall rise irrelevant of the people left behind. She is fervently devoted to her Queen Catherine( Henry VIII’s first wife) even if this is what makes her marriage an unhappy one, whereas Thomas didn’t love his king: he considered him simply a channel for his ambition.
As for this marriage, it was one with many turning points which included domestic violence, passion and anger. At the end of the story, it is still difficult for the reader to say if there was the least amount of love between the two or not or if they find forgiveness for each other by the novel’s end or if it was merely a deathbed truce. Thomas Howard was remarried for the second time with Elizabeth and all his life he mourned the loss of his ‘Princess’, his first wife, the one he truly loved and their four children. The weding with Elizabeth was only intended for the Duke to have future heirs. He didn’t get too attached to his children with Elizabeth, except for his second daughter with her, Mary, who seemed to be the reincarnation of his first wife. Another aspect is that of fear of the loss. After losing his dear ones, children and wife, Norfolk tried to be as distant as possible from his children as they all seemed to die and it was too painful to bear. He had enough servants to take care of them. He didn’t even let his wife, Elizabeth, to attend to their children and repeated the history with Bess when she gave life to a baby daughter. Both women hated him for that and eventually testyfied against Thomas at his trial. It came as a surprise for Thomas that Bess testyfied as he belived she loved him with loyalty, but during all these years she grew as a woman and human being and realized that this man destroyed her future and put her at a big distance from her much- desired child.
I also liked very much the ways in which the portrait of Elizabeth was made, she represents a true obstinate and ambitious female character. The portrayal of the Tudor times and the atmosphere is also great. King Henry VIII’s parade of wives, the dreadful Tower of London, its prisoniers, the wars and the times, life at court, its richness, all of them make this novel a beautful one.
…of all the things holy and unholy to lie in wait for him, God would never be one of them.
…our rise to power through justifiable treachery and shameless flattery.
What else have we to cling to but our faith in the unknown, our faith in something bigger and better waiting for us on the other side? If we have not that, we have nothing.
That an unquiet peace can be more miserable than a decisive battle. One can live a whole lifetime in a state of unquiet peace.
‘Do you believe in the will of God?’ I ask him.
He shrugs. ‘It is what we have been taught.’
‘It is the easiest explanation,’ I say. ‘Easy to say God is responsible for this and that and not us.’
One of us has to be cognisant of the fact that we are married to each other and not to the ones occupying our hearts.
‘You are very young. You see the world as a child. Good or bad, night or day. One must always remember that there is twilight. One cannot see as well as in the twilight. Things we thought to be certain of in the hours of the sun become so much less defined.’
It seemes sons are destined to lead lives of glory; to them we hand our fortunes and our names and our titles. But the daughters, they are a mother’s salvation. To them we hand our hearts.
It is a dangerous thing, pride. Of all the sins, perhaps it is the worst. It leads us to believe in our own illusions of power and rightness of our own misguided principles.
The living cannot waste their time mourning something they cannot change.
Happiness is rarely found and we must seize it when it is made available to us.
When you are away I am…undefined.
Do you really think there is something at the end of the path? what if…what if there is nothing there?
I never stood up…instead I stood by.