The Back of the Book: The Life of Mary, Queen of Scots
Based on contemporary documents and histories, this book paints a unique picture of Mary in which she is seen neithe as a Catholic martyr nor as a husband-murdering adulteress, but as a young girl adrift in the dangerous seas of sixteenth-century politics. Mary Stuart had none of the ruthlessness of her conemporary sisters, and the female empowerment of Catherine de Medici, Diane de Poitiers and Elizabth Tudor passed her by. In an age of intellectually brilliant and powerful women, Mary relied on her beauty and charm in place of reason and determination. Passively and gracefully, she allowed events to overtake her as accidents, and when she did attempt to control her future she unwittingly set in train the events that would lead her to the executioner’s block
Why (and how) I got this book: This was a fairly random purchase from the History section of Waterstone’s.
NotJustLaura’s Review: Oh dear! I really did struggle with this one and, indeed, it has taken almost a week for me to read its 400-odd pages. Part of this must be attributed to simply being busy with other activities – although I am hard-pressed to say what these may have been – but part was that despite finding parts of this book incredibly dull, I was reluctant to set it aside but fell to reading magazines for light relief.
Mr Graham tells us a history of Mary, Queen of Scots. I say ‘a history’ because it is clear that some matters regarding her birth, life and death are still very much open to debate.
Mary was born in Scotland, grew up in France, and returned to Scotland following the death of her first husband. And here it is that her life unravels. According to Mr Graham, she was unfit to govern – and this due to a variety of factors, only some of which were within her own control. He argues that, basically, poor choices led to her death and these choices were often backed by good intentions.
Mr Graham has a fairly clear and easy-to-read style which made some parts of his work a pleasure to read. Indeed, on a couple of occasions, I lost track of time. Unfortunately, I found his explanations of court politics and who might have said what to whom confusing and difficult to follow.
The end result is that I now feel I have a broader knowledge of Mary but am aware that a lot of the detail is missing. Whether this is due to my lack or Mr Graham’s is open to debate.