This was actually a book I finished quite a while ago now - just before we left for our trip. I had read another Philippa Gregory book, The Other Boleyn Girl, earlier in the year and while I wasn't exactly in love with it I did enjoy the light style and the ease with which I was able to read it. In the days leading up to going away my brain was finding it very hard to concentrate on anything too in depth and I did want to read books set in the areas in which we were travelling to which is why I picked up The Virgin's Lover.
Queen Elizabeth I is one of my favourite historical figures - not really sure why, she just always comes across as such a strong, independent woman at a time when that must have been extremely difficult to uphold. The Virgin's Lover tells the story of Elizabeth shortly after she becomes Queen and her friendship/relationship with Sir Robert Dudley develops. Historical writing and research seems divided on whether or not there was actually a sexual relationship between the two but literature and films of the modern age seem to jump to the idea that they could have and taken it for a spin.
The Virgin's Lover is no exception and the author in this case really brings home her interpretation of the relationship, in my mind to the detriment of the development of Elizabeth's strong character. I did enjoy reading the book but it certainly isn't a feminist portrayal of Elizabeth's story - something that is important to me in my reading of this woman, fiction or not.
In fact, women as a gender don't really do too well in this book, Sir Robert's neglected and poorly treated wife, Amy, doesn't end up well either and although her behaviour was probably typical and appropriate for married women of that era it really bothered me to read her story in this way.
Having said that I am still quite keen to read Gregory's new novel, The White Queen which focuses on the War of the Roses period of English history. Has anyone read this one yet? If so, how does it compare to Gregory's earlier novels?