Monday, January 25, 2016

The Confession of Richard Plantagenet by Dora Greenwell McChesney

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: January 5, 2016

England, 1471. The War of the Roses is raging and Richard Plantagenet must stand fast to support for the Yorkist throne. In pursuit of crushing of the Duke of Warwick’s rebellion, Edward IV and Richard stand side by side with their brother George once more, despite his earlier switch in allegiance. Following Warwick’s defeat, Richard meets his daughter, Anne, but as his standing increases and their relationship blossoms, his own family begins to falter. George’s dance with treachery resurfaces, and Edward grows frail with illness; Richard ends up in a position he did not expect, nor wish, to be in. Although made Lord Protector for his nephews, forces outside Richard’s control threaten to throw everything into jeopardy, and battle lines begin to be drawn as intrigues take over. Will Richard survive this turbulent time? Will he be able to make his own decisions or will those around him force his hand? Written in Plantagenet blood and rich with period detail, this is an arresting and complex tale of family and friendship, politics and betrayal, and love and loss. Traditionally portrayed as one of the great villains of British history, ‘The Confession of Richard Plantagenet’ is a sympathetic novel of the last king of the House of York. Set against the tumultuous second half of the Wars of the Roses, fact is seamlessly woven with fiction as the heroic Richard III is revealed. 

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Richard III
I haven’t read many novels featuring Richard III, but Dora Greenwell McChesney’s The Confession of Richard Plantagenet is the only sympathetic interpretation I’ve laid my hands on. Deserved or not, his legacy has been much maligned and few authors have sought to paint him in a sympathetic light which is why I was so captivated by the sensitivity and compassion set forth in the novel’s description. 

The book was originally published in 1913, but was re-released by Albion Press in late 2015. Does age matter? Well, that depends on what you are looking for. In terms of content, historic fiction is dated by definition, but McChesney’s style and prose is very different from what we see in mainstream publishing today. It isn’t bad by any means, but her language is distinctly formal and while I recognize the tone may be difficult for some, I personally felt her prose added to my experience of her work.

Historically speaking, my knowledge base is limited to the basics so I can’t say much in regard to how accurately the novel is written, but I can say that I found McChesney’s themes and her characterizations quite fascinating. She made me think about the material I liked how her book prompted deeper consideration even when I didn’t necessarily agree with the direction and/or angle she chose. 

The Confession of Richard Plantagenet is heavier historic fiction, but I’d definitely recommend it to anyone with an open mind and/or an appreciation for the Plantagenets. 

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‘Old friend and true servant,’ he said gravely, ‘thou didst know Richard of Gloucester well, and though he be dead and gone, somewhat of him liveth yet in Richard of England. Wilt thou take my pledged word that never by deed or word did I wittingly devise my nephews’ death?’ 
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