Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Elizabeth's Women

One of my favorite aspects of reading a multitude of biographies about the same person is the familiarity with which I begin to greet each of the main players. Another element I love is how every author portrays the people and the situation somewhat differently. Discerning authors may treat the biography as a narrated lit review: providing judicious and balanced perspectives. Other authors seem to fill in the blanks with their own opinions. While the former is doubtlessly more esteemed, both types play an important role in the realm of historical biographies.

I absolutely love delving into a new biography about someone with whom I have a familiar literary acquaintance. I have developed particular fascinations with anything involving Mary Todd Lincoln, FDR, the Tudors, Zelda Fitzgerald, and the witty elite at the Algonquin Round Table. Historical biographies are astoundingly varied in how they handle their subjects. Some things remain true regardless of the author: Zelda meets her untimely demise during a fire at a mental institution and Anne Boleyn is decapitated no matter who tells the story. Other things, however, are treated differently depending on who is speaking.

"Hello, Robert Dudley," I think warmly as I read, "Who are you this time? A manipulative social climber or Queen Elizabeth's star-crossed lover?"

My cousin, knowing my fascination with Queen Elizabeth I, bequeathed Elizabeth's Women to me as a birthday present. I had just completed a 14 hour car ride from Missouri to San Antonio and there lay Elizabeth's women- draped seductively across the bed. I was thrilled.

The biography tells the story of Queen Elizabeth within the context of the women with whom she surrounded herself. It is a captivating lens through which to tell the story. Author Tracy Borman finds the exquisite balance of reliable historian and compelling narrative.

When I was sixteen, I read the autobiography "Forever Leisl" by Charmain Carr, which tells of the author's experience playing the oldest daughter in "The Sound of Music". I read it during a family road trip to Michigan. The car ride consisted of about sixteen hours of me sitting quietly in the back seat, occasionally stumbling across a particularly juicy behind-the-scenes fact and saying, "D'you remember- in "The Sound of Music", when...". That phrase is now family code for "You're obsessing".

I knew that I loved "Elizabeth's Women" when I found myself performing mental gymnastics in order to "casually" insert a fascinating fact I had read into social small talk.

D'you remember, in the Elizabethan era...?


Jonathan Wilhoit said...

LOL, when I saw the title to the book I immediately thought, "So now someone thinks Elizabeth I was a lesbian?"

Thanks for the review and the chuckle!

Tim said...

Very nice review and as matter of fact I remember that car ride to Michigan

Bibliomania said...

Yeah, but did you know that when Julie Andrews is singing 'I Have Confidence' while getting on the bus, the real Maria makes a cameo?