BOOK REVIEW: The Lady of the Rivers (Philippa Gregory, S&S)

The Lady of the Rivers follows the life of Jacquetta Woodville—a descendant of the water goddess Melusina—who is drawn into what would later become known as the Wars of the Roses through her two Lancastrian husbands. Throughout the turbulent 15th century, Jacquetta serves both King Henry VI and his queen, Margaret of Anjou, faithfully, sometimes at great personal risk to herself and her family. As a modern reader, it is sometimes hard to understand this sense of duty to the sovereign—the Queen habitually breaks her word and the King is mentally unfit to rule. By the end of the book, however, readers get a glimpse of the way in which Jacquetta’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth, allies the family to the victorious York family. Philippa Gregory continues to bring history to life quite spectacularly in this third book in the ‘Cousins’ War’ series, and she captures the shifting alliances and betrayals in the fractured English court much more than in the previous books. The Lady of the Rivers is set immediately before The White Queen, which stars Jacquetta’s Elizabeth as the proud queen of Edward IV, and readers interested in the history of the period may want to read them chronologically. For further reading, The Women of the Cousins’ War: The Duchess, the Queen and the King’s Mother (Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin & Michael Jones, S&S) compares Gregory’s fiction with historical fact, and will be released along with The Lady of the Rivers.

Emily Smith is a Melbourne-based freelance reviewer. The Lady of the Rivers was featured on the cover of the August issue of Bookseller+Publisher.