57. The Marriage Game: Alison Weir

the marriage game elizabeth I

This book was very gratefully received from Random House UK/ Cornerstone via NetGalley for review.

The Marriage Game is the story of the reign of Elizabeth I but with particular focus to the lengthy, ongoing negotiations to find her a husband. Starting with her ascent to the throne, the book traces her intimate relationship with Robert Dudley and her attempts to keep her various other suitors from around Europe believing that her intention to marry them is sincere. All the key historical moments are covered, such as the threat of Mary Queen of Scots and the Spanish Armada for example, as seen through Elizabeth’s eyes (although not as a first person narrator).

I requested this book because I thought that as a historian Alison Weir might have produced a historical novel which avoids some of the weaknesses I’ve found in others, such as The Other Boleyn Girl which I would describe as little more than Tudor-set chick lit. Sadly, I was a little disappointed to discover that The Marriage Game does not fully achieve this. As I have said before on reviews of Succession and Bring Up the Bodies I am not very knowledgeable about this period of history so I will have to take Weir’s Author’s Note on trust that she has based events and conversations on accurate historical documents, nonetheless a lot of the dialogue and Elizabeth’s inner thoughts just felt too modern for me. Another factor which stopped me enjoying this novel was its portrayal of Elizabeth I who came across as vain and over-emotional. Whilst this may be true to history it does not make for a sympathetic central character. Finally, again it may be accurate to depict the seemingly endless to-ing and fro-ing of the various ambassadors, Princes and Robert Dudley himself in their quest to secure her hand in marriage it does become a little tedious for the reader who knows from the outset (surely not a spoiler?!) that the Virgin Queen never takes a husband.

2 stars


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