Time for some more flash reviews!
Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser ***
I am very much interested in Mary’s story, but haven’t studied any history of the period since I was at secondary school. I chose to read Fraser’s account of hers because she is so well revered; I thought that if anyone could present her tale in a fascinating and memorable way, it would be her. Alas, I have a few issues with the book. Mary Queen of Scots held my attention for the first 150 pages or so, but I felt as though it shifted after that point, losing some of its initial sparkle. Fraser’s effort is also a little protracted; it would have been better, and far more successful, had it been presented in a book of half this size. As it is, Mary Queen of Scots (book, not person – although she did stand at the height of five foot eleven…) was rather a behemoth.
The entirety is very repetitive; there is so much emphasis placed upon the (frankly largely unimportant) details of Mary’s appearance and height, and the reiteration of such things feels unnecessary. Fraser’s writing is not bad, but given her stature as a biographical historian, I had expected that it would be far tighter, better structured, and more expansive. Much of the vocabulary is used again and again, sometimes in the same sentence. The book could have been riveting – indeed, I thought it would be after reading the witty and amusing introduction – but it felt flat.
I would like to pick up another Fraser in future to see how it compares, but I shouldn’t think I will be doing so for quite some time. After all, the wrist ache needs to subside first…
Uprooted by Naomi Novik **
I must begin by stating that I am not really a reader of fantasy novels, and tend to prefer a healthy dose of realism. That said, I largely decided to try ‘Uprooted’ since it was splashed all over my Instagram feed, and everybody was saying how amazing it was.
I did not find this an amazing book. Whilst the beginning captivated me, and left me wanting to know what was going to happen, I felt as though it immediately became plodding and rather dull. The narrative voice did not feel a realistic one to me, and it was repetitive to boot. The pacing was off, too. Reading it felt like wading through a pool of treacle; the end was in sight, but I just couldn’t bring myself to get there.
The elements of fairytale here would have captured my attention if they hadn’t been so trite. This book had so much scope to be good, and even original, but I feel rather disappointed that I had to abandon it 100 pages in; it just wasn’t doing anything for me.