The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory (Review by Janice Carkner)
2 min read
When I received this book, I thought to myself “oh my stars, that is one big history book”. I was intimidated by the sheer size of the book, number of pages (513 in the edition I was provided), and small print. In addition, let’s just be quite honest: I’m not well versed in the history of English Monarchs, or the lineage of the British Royal Family. That being said, genealogy and family trees fascinate me, so it was to my relief that the front-matter of the book included the family tree for the Tudor and Stuart Houses, Seymour family, and Dudley family all from 1550. These are the families and era in which the story is set.
I dove into this big giant book, completely unaware of 16th century England, other than a limited and quite vague recollection of learning about the Reformation in high school. The story is divided into three books – each dedicated to the first-person account for each of the three Grey sisters: Jane, Katherine, and Mary. The books follow the chronological order; oldest to youngest sister, which makes the stories flow steadily, but using the first-person for each story enables the reader to really understand the unique personality and perspective of each sister. The book is well written, and despite my initial hesitation with its length, I found it quite easy to read in terms of the flow and sequence of the stories. I found each of the sister’s stories desperately tragic. They were so very young and faced so many challenges when the odds were really against them. They were simply too young and perhaps a bit too naïve to face what they endured. Their love stories and loss of those they loved, was truly sad. I wanted to feel inspired by these young brave women, but each of the three books just left me gutted.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has a particular interest in English royal history because it’s quite clear that Philippa Gregory has taken the time to write with great precision in terms of the locations and specificity of events during this span of time. I gave this book a rating of 3.5 because while it is well written and the narrative flows quite nicely, it really is just quite gloomy and very few pages left me feeling joyful.