Saturday, September 24, 2011

I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles


Historical Fiction (618 pgs.)


Publicly declared a bastard at the age of three, daughter of a disgraced and executed mother, last in the line of succession to the throne of England, Elizabeth I inherited an England ravaged by bloody religious conflict, at war with Spain and France, and badly in debt. When she died in 1603, after a forty-five year reign, her empire spanned two continents and was united under one church, victorious in war, and blessed with an overflowing treasury. What's more, her favorites--William Shakespeare, Sir Francis Drake, and Sir Walter Raleigh--had made the Elizabethan era a cultural golden age still remembered today.

But for Elizabeth the woman, tragedy went hand in hand with triumph. Politics and scandal forced the passionate queen to reject her true love, Robert Dudley, and to execute his stepson, her much-adored Lord Essex. By turns imperious, brilliant, calculating, vain, and witty, this is the Elizabeth the world never knew. From the days of her brutal father, Henry VIII, to her final dying moments, Elizabeth tells her story in her own words.


Elizabeth I is quite possibly my favorite historical figure of English history. I adore and respect this powerful woman who brought the world to her feet in a time when women were extremely undervalued. If there was ever a school project to do on a famous historical person, I always chose Queen Elizabeth I.

Because she is such the famous Queen of England, there are many interpretations of her that exist today. Rosalind Miles did an excellent job of blending all of these different personas to create a person out of all of the history; a living, breathing human being.

The historical accuracy of this novel is very good. So good, in fact, that I found myself scrambling to keep track of all of the characters! I enjoyed the fact that Rosalind Miles managed to give the reader a great sense of historical presence without having to slap on paragraphs and paragraphs of lengthy description, which can really become too overwhelming at times.

Rosalind Miles succeeded in capturing the art of historical fiction: crafting a driving, engaging story out of pre-determined events. Some authors err on the side of history, and make their stories too textbooky; others err on the side of fiction, making their story too unbelievable. But Rosalind Miles managed to capture the best of both worlds.

I also enjoyed the fact that Miles was able to blend two distinct personas of Elizabeth I: the Queen, and the woman. Even though Elizabeth I is famed for her wise and powerful rule of England, history tends to turn a blind eye to the woman behind the Queen. Because like any other woman, or human for that matter, she would have had her faults. This novel was a refreshing reminder of the person that Elizabeth I truly was... and even she could not escape her biggest downfall: her own heart.

This novel, albeit a very hefty 600+ pages, was a journey; a journey with Queen Elizabeth I. It is truly a window into her mind, her heart, and her soul, and I am glad to have read it.



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