Day 646: The Marriage Game

Cover for The Marriage GameAlthough I have read several of Alison Weir’s meticulously researched histories and historical biographies, I feel her gifts are more for nonfiction than fiction. In her novel The Marriage Game, she concentrates on the struggles and power plays around the issue of Queen Elizabeth I’s marriage during the first years of her reign. Unfortunately, Weir focuses on this subject so much to the exclusion of others that you would think it was the only item of concern in the realm. For example, Elizabeth sends Cecil away to broker a peace with Scotland, which is almost the only mention of a war.

The novel begins right after Elizabeth hears of her sister’s death and takes the throne. Her advisor William Cecil almost immediately raises the issue of her marriage. Elizabeth, determined not to lose her hard-won power to a husband, finds her repeated statements that she will not marry either not believed or met with the opinion that her remaining unmarried would not be good for the kingdom. Elizabeth takes a flirtatious stance, refusing to be pinned down to a decision but forever pretending she’s considering a suitor.

Confusing the issue is Lord Robert Dudley, for whom she has a decided preference. But he is already married. Still, she heeds no one’s warnings about her reputation. She keeps him with her even when his wife is dying, and at least in this novel, their physical relationship includes everything except actual penetration. Just whether the Virgin Queen was a virgin is a subject of debate, and this seems to be Weir’s (perhaps unlikely) compromise. The mystery of what happened to Dudley’s wife seems much less important than it actually was at the time.

http://www.netgalley.comWeir has not chosen to make this story romantic or even depict the two main characters sympathetically. Neither is fully formed, but both are selfish, ambitious, demanding, and conniving. Although the novel is well written and should be interesting, it eventually devolves into repetitious arguments, with Dudley’s ambitions thwarted and Elizabeth incensed because he has overstepped his bounds. If there is an arc to the plot, I couldn’t discern it. I couldn’t help thinking that a novel about Elizabeth that was a little broader in scope would be more interesting. After reading most of the novel, I finally decided I was finding it tedious and quit reading it. Very disappointing, especially considering Weir’s excellent biography of Mary Boleyn.

Related Posts

Mary Boleyn

The Wars of the Roses

Wolf Hall


8 thoughts on “Day 646: The Marriage Game

  1. Naomi January 22, 2015 / 5:07 pm

    This is interesting to read as I have recently finished reading The Last Wife of Henry VIII. This one sounds like it picks up where the other left off, but it also sounds like it would be just as tedious. I think the next time I want to read about these people, I will read Wolf Hall.

    • whatmeread January 23, 2015 / 7:27 am

      Wolf Hall is great! I’m sorry to hear The Last Wife is tedious. I feared that would be the case, although I have just started on it.

      • Naomi January 23, 2015 / 10:35 am

        Maybe you will like it more than I did!

      • whatmeread January 23, 2015 / 10:40 am

        Doubtful, though. Just the cover puts me off. So far, it is just so-so.

      • Naomi January 23, 2015 / 10:56 am

        The cover says a lot, doesn’t it? I tried not to think about the cover. I found that I did get more into it after I got going, but mostly just out of interest in the history.

      • whatmeread January 23, 2015 / 11:03 am

        Unfortunately, I read a Kirkus Reviews comment that ended with “With errors of speech and geography, Erickson delivers a rattling, frothy narrative of questionable historical accuracy.” So far, I’ve noticed several things that probably weren’t accurate. Interesting, since she is a historian. One of my friends who is a historian would be horrified if she wrote anything inaccurate, even in fiction. Ah well, we can write all about it on February 2!

  2. Lisa Lo Paro January 22, 2015 / 10:58 pm

    I also think Weir should stick to nonfiction, but she’s also deeply flawed in that arena, as well. She tends to editorialize on her analysis of primary sources a little too much for my liking.

    • whatmeread January 23, 2015 / 7:28 am

      I hadn’t noticed that. I just noticed that her books seemed well researched and moved along nicely compared to those of some other historians.

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