New Nonfiction

I’ve been meaning to post for some time about the nonfiction books dealing with the Wars of the Roses and the Tudors that have caught my eye lately. Many of them have just recently been published. Here they are, more or less in historical order:

Susan Curran, The English Friend: A Life of William de la Pole, First  Duke of Suffolk.  As readers of The Queen of Last Hopes know, Suffolk was one of the narrators of the novel, and I was miserable for days after having to send him to his tragic fate. I read much of Curran’s book on my Kindle today, and found that it told Suffolk’s story movingly and sensitively. (I did wonder at the absence of a couple of books from the references cited, notably John Goodall’s God’s House at Ewelme, but on the whole I was quite impressed.) Curran, incidentally, is also the author of a historical novel, The Heron’s Catch, which includes Suffolk as a major character.

Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin, and Michael Jones, The Women of the Cousins’ War. This book, intended as a companion to Gregory’s historical fiction, contains biographical essays about Jacquetta Woodville (by Gregory), Elizabeth Woodville (by Baldwin), and Margaret Beaufort (Jones). I’ve done no more than skim this in places, but am looking forward to it, particularly the portion by Jones, a specialist on the Beaufort family.

James Ross, John de Vere: Thirteenth Earl of Oxford, 1442–1513. This is an academic biography of the earl who helped Henry VII win the day at Bosworth Field.  I’ve been able to read a library copy of it and will be begging hubby for a copy of my own for my birthday. It’s a fascinating book about a relatively neglected figure from the Wars of the Roses.

Thomas Penn, Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England. When I first saw the blurb for this book, I thought it was a novel, but it is in fact nonfiction about the reign of Henry VII, particularly about its last years. I haven’t had a chance to do more than glance at it, but it looks to be a good read.

Erin Sadlack, The French Queen’s Letters: Mary Tudor Brandon and the Politics of Marriage in Sixteenth-Century Europe. I’ve only read bits and pieces of this, but it looks to be invaluable. It includes all of Mary Tudor’s extant manuscript letters, with the French ones translated into English.

Alison Weir, Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings. I read this for the Historical Novels Review (review to appear in the November issue). I didn’t agree with all of the author’s conclusions, and much about Mary remains speculative, but I did think that Weir made a good effort to separate myth from fact.

Janel Mueller, Katherine Parr: Complete Works and Correspondence. This includes letters written to Katherine Parr as well as her own writings. Mueller’s book also has an account of Katherine’s funeral and an inventory of her goods. Incidentally, Mueller believes from handwriting comparison that the prayer book which Jane Grey wrote messages in and carried to the scaffold was originally written by Katherine Parr. Accordingly, the book contains a complete transcription of the prayer book. (I was surprised to realize just how tiny the prayer book is.)

John Edwards, Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen.  This is a new biography of Mary, as you can guess from the title. I’m about halfway through it and am finding it fascinating. A full review by a specialist on Mary can be found here.

Susan Doran and Thomas S. Freeman, Mary Tudor: Old and New Perspectives. This is a collection of essays about Mary I, as you might expect. I haven’t been able to do more than glance at a couple, but I’m looking forward to an in-depth reading of it.

Is there any new nonfiction that’s caught your eye? How about fiction?

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10 Responses to New Nonfiction

  1. Karen says:

    I want the Oxford book, too! Begging sounds like a good option.

  2. Anerje says:

    I will look out for the book on Suffolk – thanks! I developed a soft spot for him after reading your novel. I’ve seen ‘The Cousins war’, with Phillippa Gregory using her title of Dr. It’s on my wish list, along with ‘The Winter King’, which I also thought was a novel. I gave in and ordered the Mary Boleyn book by Weir. I’m also waiting for a book on the Boleyn’s by Loades. It’s release date was put back – maybe because of the Weir book.

  3. Anerje says:

    btw, I just finished ‘Fatal Colours’ which is the build-up to the battle of Towton. I highly recommend it.

  4. boswellbaxter says:

    Karen, begging is never shameful in the cause of bibliomania! (I ought to put that on a bumper sticker.)

    Anjere, Susan Curran has a website where you can order either the bound book or a PDF file. I ordered the PDF for my Kindle; it’s a smaller typeface than I normally use on my Kindle, but it fits the screen nicely. The PDF is only $6.50 in American dollars, much less expensive than the bound book.

    I finally got a notification from the Book Depository that the Loades book was in stock, so perhaps it’ll be shipping soon.

    I have Fatal Colours, but I haven’t had a chance to do much more than skim it. It looks good, though.

  5. Anerje says:

    Thanks Susan for the tip about Susan Curran’s website!

  6. Trish Wilson says:

    What do you know Sue about all those fifteenth and sixteenth publications in the British Library that have yet to feature on this or that historian’s bibliography?

    And why have I no time for Alison Weir or Helen Maurer or any other and their ‘I know what happened in theTower’ fantasy?

    My advice is get to to know the City(of London) first . Motive is one thing but meaningless unless one consider means and opportunity at the same time and in order to get to know the other two one has to know the City first.

  7. Trish Wilson says:

    Michael Jones? Are we talking about Michael K Jones whose knowledge of medieval cuisine and medieval medicine is every bit as abysmal as his knowledge of medieval geography and emergency baptisms? His historical ain’t much to shout about either

    As for David Baldwin and his hatchet job on EW – oh puh- leeaase!

    Finally Philippa and her hatchet job aka ‘The Lady of the Rivers’ – about as much to do with the truth as I have to do with the backside of the moon.

    On somewhat hold at the moment because of legal proceedings but not for long. Amazing how much non-fiction is anything but!

  8. Elizabeth says:

    It’s not very recent, but I just read through ‘Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541’ by Hazel Pierce. It’s a bit cut and dry in some places, but I could really feel the tension rising when Pierce went over the actions of her and her children. She seems like she was an amazing woman.

  9. Melissa says:

    I agree with Trish, I’ll be giving The Women of the Cousins War a big miss too.

    I’m not sure I’ve read anything by Michael Jones but David Baldwin managed to bore me to tears writing about one of my favorite queens (not to mention making me want to shoot the editor for the lack of punctuation!) and Phillippa Gregory writing about Jacquetta, who was a fascinating woman in her own right, will no doubt bring up Melusina again… we get it, she thinks Jacquetta was a witch (which unless I missed it somewhere along the way has NEVER been proven) but geez enough already!