Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Mini-Review Roundup



  Mini-Review Roundup

I am so blown away by how much I adore this book. I wasn't expecting to love it like this, but this was the kind of book that as soon as I finished reading it I wanted to turn back to the beginning and start reading it all over again. If I hadn't read a single book this year except this one, I would have counted that a win. I don't think I can do this book justice with a full review, so here are some highlights: 
The length: Yeah, this worried me and is a big reason why it took me so long to finally pick it up. I didn't need to worry. It's compulsively readable and I flew through it. I wish there were more pages and that it would never end. 
The characters: I loved them. I quoted them. I wanted to shake them and hug them and have them in my life. I laughed with them, raged with them, was gripped in terror with them, and cried with them. The character studies alone make this a book worth reading. The movie did an excellent job capturing them, but the book takes them and makes them even more fleshed out, nuanced, and amazing. I can't sing their praises enough.
The history: so well told. I was utterly gripped as the yankees were descending upon Atlanta, I felt the elation and glow of the early days of the war and the anger and frustration and despair of picking up the pieces of life after everything has been shattered. The historical value of the book is less in a play-by-play of events (though you do get a good feel for things) and more for capturing the feeling of life during that time and all of the terror, hopes, fears, despair, grit, adaptation, resolve, and soul searching of a time of massive change and disruption. It's a history of people, and regardless of what side of the war resonates with the reader, it's important to remember that there were people on both sides, and this book shines a light on that human element.
Catherine is one of history's characters who has endeared herself to me. I like her. I feel for her. I admire her. Giles Trimlett's linear narrative non-fiction account of Catherine's life is everything I could have hoped for. You know when you find a version that makes you feel like that's it, you're done, you'll never be able to find a version that tops this one? Yeah, that's what Giles Trimlett has done for me with Catherine of Aragon. 

What sets this book apart is how well Trimlett captures the emotion of Catherine's story. Her tenacity and fear during the lean years when Henry VII held her fate in limbo, the elation of her early years of marriage to Henry VIII, her love for her daughter, her fight with her husband over her marriage-- all of these events are told with all of the passion, emotion, and tension found in great fiction stories. That scene when Catherine testifies at the divorce trial, throwing herself at Henry's feet, delivering that astounding speech, and then walking out was an absolutely captivating, mic-drop moment. Yes, Catherine did these things, and yes, even the driest author can't take away the power of that moment, but Giles Trimlett captured every detail and emotion with the skill of a great storyteller. I knew exactly what was going to happen, and still I was enthralled. 

Giles Trimlett has written a book about Catherine's mother Isabella, and I'll read that for sure. I wish he had written more about some of my other favorite historical ladies. I can only imagine how Matilda or Eleanor of Aquitaine, Cleopatra, or Marie Antoinette's stories would unfold in his hands.

Well, it seems a little unfair to review this book after those two Special Shelf Spectaculars, so let's try to give Enter Three Witches a fair shake. 
Did I love this book? No. Did I enjoy it a whole lot? Yes. Chapters are moderate size, but there are a ton of little chapter breaks within the chapters and each section shifts focus between different characters. The story spins out at a nice pace and it's easy to follow whether or not you're familiar with Shakespeare's version. There's a sense of doom and dread and while none of the characters were super fleshed out, I ended up invested in each of their stories. There's even a nice sense of time and place.
I liked this a lot. It's a creative, engaging take on the tale and I'm glad I read it. I decided to keep my print copy.  

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