Skip to main content

Book 14 of 52: Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends

While caught in the land of lurrrrrve's sweet embrace, a friend joked that I'd have to read a book about kicking puppies to balance my brain out.

He was right. Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends, From Cleopatra to Princess Diby Kris Waldherr is that book. Nothing wipes the bloom from the rose like tales of murder, suicide and a lot of head chopping.

Doomed Queens is exactly what you think it would be about: queens done wrong. Waldherr starts with Athaliah, daughter of Queen Jezebel, who was executed in 835 BC, runs right through Henry VIII's wives and ends with Princes Di, covering 50 queens in all.

It's an interesting book, but about too many people. That 50 is an albatross -- some queens are only given a page or two, and we learn so little about them that I got them confused and was left thinking "What's the point?" Plus, the book is set up chronologically, but is about queens around the world, so interconnecting stories are interrupted.

Perhaps this would have been a better book with fewer queens, allowing Waldherr the space to tell us more about queens who mattered most or had the best stories. Francine Prose's The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women & the Artists They Inspiredstrikes a better balance by focusing on just nine women. You learn enough about them to care and read more if you wanted (which I did) or not instead of a glossing over of their lives. These queens never seem like they were real people.

The book isn't a total wash, though. If you're feeling spited by a man (or woman), reading a book about poisonings, beheadings and death via childbirths can help you realize that it could be a lot worse. Waldherr is also an illustrator and made some lovely drawings for this book. You can see a few on her site and through this book video:



But the narrative suffers from trying to cover too many queens in too short a book.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Book 23 of 52: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

More romance? Of course! The world is on fire, and I can't ingest all the fires all the time. Sometimes I want to turn to genre fiction as an escape, even if an escape is into a patriarchal society where it's SCANDAL that a woman sometimes, when riding a horse, wears pants. Because of Miss Bridgerton is the first book in Julia Quinn's Rokesbys Series , which are prequels to her enormously popular  Bridgerton Series  (and now a  Netflix show ). These books are similar, of course, but instead being set in the Recency era of the 1810s, these books take place at the same time as the American Revolution (though still in England).  Here we meet Sybilla "Bille" Bridergton, who is stuck on the roof of a building because she chased a cat up there. She climbed up herself (scandalous woman!) but also twisted her ankle in the process, which is why she needs help to get down.  That help comes from George Rokesby. Their families are neighbors, and they've known each other

Book 12 of 52: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi is an author and graphic novelist who grew up in Iran and, as a tween and teen, lived in the country through  the Iranian Revolution before her parents sent her to Europe for school, and for her safety.  As an adult, she wrote Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood ,  a nonfiction graphic novel, originally in French. I read the English translation, which was published in 2003, three years after the original. It was a critical success, won a slew of awards, and became a movie . I haven't read the sequel, Persepolis 2 , but I hope to (you can also  buy them in a set . I found Persepolis  in a Little Free Library, or I'd have bought them combined).  In the tradition of Art Spiegelman's  Maus , which is about the author's father talking to him about the Holocaust,  Persepolis  is a memoir of trauma told through a mix of images and words that when combined, combust into powerful, beautiful and soul cracking art.  For example, Satrapi portrays the 1978 Cinema R

Book 26 of 52: The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown

I'm not going to write a long review of Tina Brown's The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil  for two reasons. First, it's been hashed to death already, as anything about the royals is, by people who are far more invested in this whole thing than I am. And second, I'm in the frantic "do I really need a jean jacket AND a windbreaker" level of packing before a long trip. I can say that I didn't mind listening to this nearly 18 hour audiobook while the rest of the world is on fire, although of course they are not insulated. We can pretend that the Royal Family lives in a bubble, but they are enormously influential; touched by the same issues of race, class and gender; and Queen Elizabeth II is one of most influential politicians of modern times — and she is a politician, no matter what anyone says. Her death will be a global, cultural moment. Same thing with the Pope, on both fronts. I listened to Brown's  The Diana Chro