Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: "Sister Queens" by Julia Fox

From Goodreads:  The history books have cast Katherine of Aragon, the first queen of King Henry VIII of England, as the ultimate symbol of the Betrayed Woman, cruelly tossed aside in favor of her husband’s seductive mistress, Anne Boleyn. Katherine’s sister, Juana of Castile, wife of Philip of Burgundy and mother of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, is portrayed as “Juana the Mad,” whose erratic behavior included keeping her beloved late husband’s coffin beside her for years. But historian Julia Fox, whose previous work painted an unprecedented portrait of Jane Boleyn, Anne’s sister, offers deeper insight in this first dual biography of Katherine and Juana, the daughters of Spain’s Ferdinand and Isabella, whose family ties remained strong despite their separation. Looking through the lens of their Spanish origins, Fox reveals these queens as flesh-and-blood women—equipped with character, intelligence, and conviction—who are worthy historical figures in their own right.

When they were young, Juana’s and Katherine’s futures appeared promising. They had secured politically advantageous marriages, but their dreams of love and power quickly dissolved, and the unions for which they’d spent their whole lives preparing were fraught with duplicity and betrayal. Juana, the elder sister, unexpectedly became Spain’s sovereign, but her authority was continually usurped, first by her husband and later by her son. Katherine, a young widow after the death of Prince Arthur of Wales, soon remarried his doting brother Henry and later became a key figure in a drama that altered England’s religious landscape.

Ousted from the positions of power and influence they had been groomed for and separated from their children, Katherine and Juana each turned to their rich and abiding faith and deep personal belief in their family’s dynastic legacy to cope with their enduring hardships. Sister Queens is a gripping tale of love, duty, and sacrifice—a remarkable reflection on the conflict between ambition and loyalty during an age when the greatest sin, it seems, was to have been born a woman.

My Thoughts:  I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  I thought Sister Queens was kind of depressing.  I don't mean this to be negative because the book was really interesting but Juana of Castile and Katherine of Aragon had such difficult and complicated lives and I felt so sorry for them throughout the book.  Sister Queens tells the story of two women who basically got the awesome opportunity to be mistreated by the men in their lives, men who were supposed to take care of them.  It was really awful to see how their father/husbands/son treated them.  I also found it intriguing that Juana's son, Charles, seemed very sympathetic to the plight of his aunt Katherine but had no problem treating his mother like garbage.

I have always wondered if Juana (aka 'Juana la Loca') was really crazy or if she just didn't conform to the ideal of femininity.  This book didn't show me anything that would lead me to believe she was mentally unstable, just feisty, and I felt the author was trying to infer that.  I think Juana is a really fascinating historical figure but she is definitely overshadowed in this book by her little sister, Katherine.  I completely understand why, as Juana was locked up for 20+ years and not much is known about her time there while Katherine's trials and tribulations are very well documented.  I have read a lot about Henry VIII so a lot of the information about Katherine I already knew.  But that's okay because I liked how Fox compared the lives Overall, I thought this book was engaging and easy to read for non-fiction.  I really appreciate when writers make history accessible and fun to read.  I have had Fox's book about Jane Boleyn on my TBR list for a long time and I am definitely more eager to read it after reading Sister Queens.  3 stars. 

1 comment:

  1. Elaine Charles is also featuring this book on her show this week (http://www.bookreportradio.com) think I am going to have to add it to my already huge reading list.

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