The Queen's Fool by Phillipa Gregory
I picked up this book with great expectations. I had loved The Other Boleyn Girl by the same author and I was sure this would be equally rivetting. I was ever-so-slightly disappointed as the narrative tended to sag in parts. However, on the whole the Queen's Fool was quite captivating and I couldn't have asked for a better insight into tumultous Tudor England.
The story is told from the eyes of Hannah Green, a young Jewish girl who flees Spain to escape persecution and lands in England. It is the time when queen Mary takes to the throne after the untimely death of her chronically-ill younger brother. The story unfolds during her bloody reign as she goes about buring heretics while bringing England back to what she believes is the 'true faith'.
Hannah is a seer and has visions and so she becomes the queen's fool. By virtue of her proximity to the monarch, she has an insider's view. She is equally close to the queen's half-sister princess Elizabeth and her loyalty is often torn between the rival siblings.
Hannah's life can also be seen as a metaphor for the changes that England went through during the war-ravaged latter half of 16th century. We are introduced to her as confused teenager and during the last pages of the novel, we see a much more mellow and mature Hannah. Much like England itself as it went from queen to another. Only to emerge as a strong nation.
I cannot wait to read the sequel The Virgin's Lover which is set during the reign of queen Elizabeth I.