Book Review: Three Sisters, Three Queens

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Margaret, Queen of Scotland and whining.

Although incredibly popular, especially with historical fiction fans, I have yet to read anything by Philippa Gregory. She is known most notably for her work narrating the lives of the Tudors and other regal women, and many of her books have been adapted for movies and TV. This book was read for a book club I am a part of, and I can easily say I would never had chosen this off the shelf for pleasure otherwise.

It’s hard for me to write a solid review of this book, mostly because I found it so damn boring. While I have been assured her other works are much better, this book is told from the perspective of Margaret, Queen of Scotland. While I don’t think it’s necessary to have a likeable narrator, a reader does need to at least enjoy reading from their perspective. Rather than an intriguing story about Margaret of Scotland and her rise and fall from the throne, we’re handed 500+ pages of incessant whining in order for the author to convey Margaret’s inferiority complex. It honestly wore me down after a while, and I was merely skimming pages since so much of Margaret’s POV is a constant spiral of being jealous of, hating, and then thinking she is better than her sisters. This book easily could have been trimmed down and I blame a lack of editing for most of the shortcomings in this work. Had some of these repetitive aspects been trimmed away, I feel the story and historical aspects would have flowed better and been entirely more interesting.

One of the other flaws of this book is a flaw I find with most historical fiction. In order to provide and accurate representation of what the characters are dealing with, there are dozens of smaller side characters and battles named. Keeping track of them was a full time job along with the reading! Toward the last third or quarter of the book, when Margaret’s life begins to drastically change, we are reintroduced to so many characters the author expects you to remember from earlier on. In all honesty, I was googling the names of some of the advisors just to remember why they were even mentioned. When Henry Stewart comes back into the fold in the last third of the book, Gregory makes a comment from Margaret’s perspective about how nice it is to see him back and how she remembers him always watching her at her coronation. A coronation that was 400 or so paged previous to this, yet I had no memory of this person ever popping up in the book before. It was a real struggle to keep things together in my head for this book and thus I honestly skimmed and skipped over things in order to finish it in a timely fashion.

My other big gripe with this book is the title. The title of this book is incredibly misleading if you’re looking to read a complex story about all three women. The book takes place singularly from Margaret’s point of view. The only snippets of the lives of Katherine and Mary are revealed through letters to Margaret and thus adds only to Margaret’s incessant complaining rather than giving us a thorough idea of what life was like for all of these women. The information we read from Katherine and Mary is much more exciting that Margaret’s story, and I wish the author had done a multiple point of view approach. Had we had two chapters of Margaret’s struggle followed by Katherine’s perspective on losing her power to a woman who isn’t even royal, that would have been an interesting juxtaposition. Instead we get pages upon pages of Margaret’s jealousy without an honest picture of what she’s jealous of.

Although I love reading about powerful women, this wasn’t the book for me. I’ve been reassured so many times that Gregory’s other works are better. I don’t doubt that while this was a dud, she may be a great writer. This book lacked proper editing, but the stories of the women themselves are worth another look.

Title: Three Sisters, Three Queens
Author: Philippa Gregory
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 576
ISBN: 978-1476758572

Three Descriptors: Descriptive, Leisurely Paced, Repetitive

Read Alikes:
Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Freemantle
Katherine of Aragon by Jean Plaidy
The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir
Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones

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