This was another one of my Chinaberry reads. I guess I was in the mood for some historical fiction, and (surprisingly — I never cease to be amazed) our library had this one by Phillipa Gregory.
It’s set in 16th century England — the time of Queen Mary and Elizabeth vying for the throne. The main character is a girl, Hannah, who also happens to be a Jew (running, with her father, from the Inquisition in Spain) who has the Sight — she can see visions of things to come. She, mostly inadvertently, gets involved with Lord Robert Dudley, who begs her off as a fool to King Edward before he dies. From there, she becomes a companion/servant/fool to Queen Mary and from there a companion to Princess Elizabeth. You see Hannah grow up over the years — following her relationships not only with her masters, but with her betrothed (an arranged marriage). She’s an incredibly sympathetic character, traditional enough to make her fit into the time period, but modern enough to relate to her and her plights and predicaments.
I think I liked this book solely because of Hannah; there weren’t many other sympathetic characters in the book (many interesting ones, though). It’s not a pretty book. It could have very easily gone the way of the train wreck — everyone just falling apart and it’s not very enjoyable to watch. Gregory doesn’t spare the details of life, war, the purging of heretics, tragedy, sex, gossip, animosity, and love/lust at this time. However, she does it in a way which actually adds to the book and makes it more believable. And all the decadence at court was a great juxtaposition to Hannah and her innocence and trust and charity.
In the end, I couldn’t put it down.