The Last White Rose: A Novel of Elizabeth of York – by Alison Weir – independent book review – Historical Fiction (England)

NOTE #1: I was given early access to this manuscript through netgalley in exchange for writing an impartial review. Thank you Ballantine Books. Publication Date: May 3, 2022. Awarded three stars on Goodreads.

Generally I’m a fan of Historian Alison Weir’s fiction (I LOVED her six-novel series about the Six Tudor Queens of King Henry VIII) but I found more flaws (especially during Elizabeth’s early years) in this book, the first of Weir’s new Tudor Rose series. I would rate this one 3.5 stars.

ELIZABETH OF YORK, THE LAST WHITE ROSE is a fictional account of the life of the oldest daughter of King Edward IV of England and his wife, Elizabeth Woodville. Elizabeth (1486-1503) the daughter eventually becomes the wife of King Henry VII and together they found the Tudor Dynasty, ancestors of all English monarchs since 1509.

Weir’s account of Elizabeth’s life is solid and comprehensive. The traumas of her childhood, uncertainties surrounding prospective marriages, marriage to Henry, and threats to the legitimacy of their claim to the throne are all handled believably. If the author had stuck with just that, I’d have given this book four or five stars.

But Weir, an historian by training, was compelled to include a lot of additional historical detail that felt superfluous to Elizabeth’s story and made the book feel long and in some places clunky. Let me try to explain.
• When Elizabeth is still a child, I felt the narrative kept shifting. I think Weir was trying to maintain Elizabeth’s child-appropriate perspective, like referring to “Mother” (instead of Queen Elizabeth Woodville) and “Grandmother” (Jacquetta Woodville). But then Weir would include information or observations that would not be possible coming from a five-year-old. As though the narrator suddenly became omniscient, with the language and sensibilities of an adult.
• Weir includes a lot of detail about the politics and shifting allegiances associated with the Wars of the Roses, some of which have little or no impact on Elizabeth’s interests or life. This, I believe, made the book feel overly long.
• To include a lot of this extraneous information, Weir again and again resorts to the same literary device: someone overhearing a conversation between others. WAY overused!

Author Alison Weir
(photo from her website)

I certainly recommend the book for historical fiction fans, those who want to know more about this remarkable woman (the mother of King Henry VIII), and, of course, anyone who loves Tudor England.

NOTE #2: If you, like me, believe King Richard III innocent of the controversial deaths of the two Princes in the Tower, be warned that Weir does not agree.

More about the author, Alison Weir.

You may be interested in my reviews of other books by Alison Weir:

Six Tudor Queens Series:

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession

Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen

Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait

Katheryn Howard: The Scandalous Queen

Katharine Parr: The Sixth Wife

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