Sunday, February 19, 2017

Reviews: Alison Weir

Alison Weir is not my favourite author - though the subject matter on which she puts pen to paper is of interest - hence I do make an attempt to remain objective and I do read her works.

Below is a list of links to my reviews of some of the works of Weir that I have read.

The following I did not post a review but will list in order of "star" status:
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII
  • Mary Queen of Scots & the Murder of Lord Darnely
  • Britain's Royal Families
  • The Wars of the Roses
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life
  • The Children of Henry VIII
  • Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England
  • Katherine Swynford
  • A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower

So as you can see, I have been quite open in my reading of Weir - I have been more than willing to tackle her works rather than just dismiss any works out of hand.

So, why do I dislike her books (or more a case of her writing style)?? There are a number of reasons, but the following are the ones that stand out the most:

  • waffling on - I often comment about the amount of incidental information being provided to the reader to "fill in the gaps" when there is nothing to write about.  Yes, many of her subject matters have very little written about them so it does make it hard to provide a detailed biography.  Having said that, quality over quantity is my go-to phrase - I would rather have a tome of 100 pages of substance rather than 500 plus pages of rubbish. Note: Weir is not alone in this respect.
  • accuracy - as a student of history, I have come across occasional errors in her works.  Yes, to err is human - sometimes dates and facts can be challenging (and often conflicting in even when comparing contemporary sources).  However, some of the errors are glaringly so.  Add to this the common theme of substituting "fiction" as fact - taking the most obvious myths (or scandalous hearsay) and presenting it as fact with no basis to support said claims (her work on Eleanor of Aquitaine stands out here).
  • personal opinion - Weir often imposing her own opinions as fact where no facts are in evidence.  Whilst personal bias by any author (including those historical sources) can never be totally removed from a study, this author's personal bias is rather in your face.  An objective presentation is a rarity - which leads me to my next point:
  • pet theories - whilst a number of the subjects being tackled have some mystery about them (Edward II, Princes in the Tower), Weir at times take one path to the exclusion of all others.  I found this especially so with "Queen Isabella" - wherein Weir presents one theory as fact above all others. I suggested that the facts of the case should have been presented objectively and then an appendix added outlining the case for all the different theories (it would have made much better reading and would have gained a star or two as a result).
What I did like about Weir was one of her fictional works - "Innocent Traitor" - I thought this was rather good reading and I enjoyed the way the story was presented.

In the meantime, I will keep reading and posting my thoughts on Weir and her works.

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