Thursday, January 13, 2011

Virgin and the Crab - Robert Parry

Title: Virgin and the Crab: Sketches, Fables and Mysteries from the early life of John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor
Author: Robert Parry
Paperback: 480 pages
Publication Date: September 2009
FTC: Asked by author

A while back Robert Parry asked if I wanted to read and review his book Virgin and the Crab.  I remembered reading a favorable review a while back on a book blog so I agreed.  I was a little nervous because, well what if I didn't like it?  And at a hefty 480 pages, if I didn't like it I wasn't likely to get far into it.  Also, the title made me wonder was it fictional, a series of short stories, or what?  Well I shouldn't have worried so much because from the first few pages I fell in love with the book and am giving a raving five stars on GoodReads.

The book starts out with a List of Players which, thank you Robert Parry, I definitely used.  I love history but am not a huge Tudor fan as some others out there.  So when they refer to, say, the Earl of Devonshire, I know exactly who they are talking about.  The time span follows Elizabeth as a small child, through the death of her half brother Edward VI, King of England, to the fateful reign of Jane Grey, to the succession of Queen Mary and through her death to Elizabeth's ascension. 

This book is so originally written.  I mean, it reads like a play.  Not like Shakespeare or anything but it's written in present tense, which as odd as that sounds totally works.  There are main chapters but a lot of the chapters have Acts and Interludes which I really enjoyed.

Basically what this all means is that I remember this book like I've seen it played out before me.  For instance, when John Dee first meets Elizabeth when they are just children.  Elizabeth is crying over the recent death of Katherine Howard by her father, Henry VIII.  That scene is just awesome.  Then later after they are much older there is a scene I love.  John Dee had taught Elizabeth how to send secret messages through groupings of flowers.  So when Queen Mary is on the throne and Elizabeth is pretty much under house arrest, Dee sneaks into to see Elizabeth disguised as one of the many gardeners.  There they pass flowers back and forth wordlessly and you know they are sending each other messages.  I just loved scenes like this in this book.

It also does an amazing job of telling the whole story by not just following John Dee or Elizabeth but by following most of the characters.  I found this gave me such a well-rounded view of all the tension and politics going on at the time.  It's absolutely amazing that history turned out the way it did.  It's shocking all the events these characters went through and survived how they did.

Towards the end of the book, Robert Dudley says something that I just chuckled at because it so fit this book.

"And yet I do wonder how it has all come to pass just as you and Cecil said it would," Robert observes, "like the unfolding of some great drama or history play! It is astonishing!"

I absolutely adored this book and can't wait to read another book by Robert Parry.  My only disappointment with this book is that with so many other books on this subject, this gem might get overlooked.

Speaking of which, his new book The Arrow Chest is now out.  Head over to Luxury Reading to check out this new book (and possibly win a copy).  Here's Robert Parry's description:

My novel begins in 1876, the year in which the remains of Anne Boleyn came to light during a renovation of the Chapel of St Peters ad Vincula in the Tower of London. It is a Tudor story – only moved forward a few centuries in time.

The Virgin and the Crab
Also Reviewed by:

Tanzanite's Castle Full of Books
Luxury Reading

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