I was first introduced to the story of Richard III and the different opinions about him after reading Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne In Splendour. When I picked up this book I had no idea it was about Richard III, I decided to read it just because I had heard so many good things about Reay Tannahill and had never came across one of her books.
Reay Tannahill's enthralling new novel is a family saga in the grand tradition....
At the heart of it all is the dangerous, complex human being known to history as Richard III, a king whose reign is forever darkened by the murder of the young Princes in the Tower, but who also found a touching love with the woman he married, and possessed immense physical courage. Here, brought vividly to life in this most moving novel, is a man who inspired loyalty and hatred in almost equal measure, until at last the implacable enmity of one woman brought about his downfall.
I found this book to have a more rational, less emotional approach to the story thank the Penman book even if we will never know the actual truth.
Tannahill chose to portray the adult Richard. An austere man, with a strong moral sense, he believes in doing the right thing even when that’s difficult and dangerous. He marries Anne Neville for political and economical gain, even if they are showed here as loving each other deeply.
His life is first dominated by his loyalty and respect for his brother Edward IV and then dominated by his need to do what he believes is right, by duty. He is sometimes ruthless in the pursuit of that objective and I found that in context with the period he lived in even if he did seem very intolerant at times. However there isn’t much character development and we hardly ever know what the characters are thinking. The episode of the death of the princes in the tower is approached only briefly which I found a bit odd since it’s what is usually mentioned with connection with Richard’s life and deeds.
Although I actually liked Tannahill’s approach to the story I think I would have liked a bit more characterization, a few more insights into the characters. She does that a lot better with Francis Lovell, Anne and Constantia than with Richard. Since this is an historical fiction novel I think I would have liked a bit more fiction.
It's interesting to read Ana's thoughts now, because it has been several years since I read this book (and it was pre blogging days so I don't have anything written down about it). Like Ana, I picked this one up after having read Penman's Sunne in Splendour. I'm pretty sure I would have been disappointed with whichever book I read about Richard III after the fantastic Penman, but I do remember really struggling with this book.
Of the things that Ana mention, my memories of this book are probably most associated with Francis Lovell. Other than that I can't remember getting completely immersed in this book at all.
I do realise that it is probably very unfair of me to compare this book to Sunne in Splendour, but given the time frame and the characters...I can't help myself. I have since read other books on Richard III and enjoyed them, but there was a significant time lapse.