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Royal Road to Fotheringhay (1955)

av Jean Plaidy

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
357852,219 (3.75)23
At just six days old, Mary Stuart became Queen of Scots. At just six years old she was betrothed to the Dauphin François, the future King of France. Reluctantly leaving Scotland, Mary is raised in the decadent French court in preparation to become the Queen of France. But her reign with François is short-lived. Widowed at just eighteen years old, Mary is once again forced to leave her home to return to Scotland. Now a Catholic queen of a Protestant country, Mary must rule with caution and choose her next husband prudently...… (mer)

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I have a lot of sympathy for the real Mary Stuart, and the version of the Queen of Scots presented in this novel also won my sympathy.

I like that the story opens when Mary is only an infant. It’s a cute first chapter, featuring five little Marys playing hide and seek. I also found it cute that the little queen’s friends are referred to as her “four Marys”.

I’m not as familiar with Scottish history as I am with my own country’s past (i.e. England), and in other novels and history books that I’ve read Mary is usually an important background figure, whom Elizabeth I considers as a rival. Therefore, many events in this story were new to me, or perhaps I’d heard about such and such a thing, but didn’t know the full story.

So, we see Mary grow to 22, and along the way she suffers much heartache, but it’s not all bad. She’s a bit naïve, which is a shame, as her life probably would’ve panned out better for her otherwise.

I would’ve rated this five stars if it had been written with more finesse. It’s one of Plaidy’s better efforts, I must admit, but as always, she “tells” instead of “shows”, which in my opinion is the biggest sin in fiction writing.

The author also uses the passive voice most of the time. For instance, we get “At the door of the cathedral the procession halted”, as opposed to the active voice: “The procession halted at the cathedral door”.

Another trait this author is sometimes guilty of is writing with the benefit of hindsight:

“A terrible desolation came over her, for she had a sad premonition that she would never see his face again.”

These characters based on real people wouldn’t have thought that way. They might *dread* not seeing someone they care about again, but they could never *foresee* as the above quote suggests. What’s more, sentences like the above quote are spoilers. Any avid reader knows that when an author gives a character a premonition, that premonition will come true, so it robs all suspense.

The earlier part of the novel is set in France. As a result, we occasionally get this sort of thing:
“There was one which described her feelings without reserve. Pour luy aussi j’ay jette mainte larme, Premier qu’il fust de ce corps possesseur,Duquel alors il n’avoit pas le coeur….”

Although I recognise the odd word in the above quote, I’ve no concept of the overall meaning. I’m pro-language learning, but in a book written in English, I expect it to be entirely in English. Slot in anything in another language and I as the reader am locked out of the story. A good author should never do this to any of their readers.

One other criticism is the ending. Without giving it away, I’ll state that it’s a rush job with so much "telling" it’s like reading a summary in a history book. First, we skip on 20 years, only for the narrator to sum up what happened during those 20 years. Why disrupt the chronology like this? It’s annoying. Why not keep the chronology in place and lead us through those 20 years, rather than jump ahead, skip back, and work forwards again?

The final couple of scenes, however, did move me, so the author did a good job at the very end. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Aug 5, 2020 |
While a worthy attempt to recast Mary of Scots in a sympathetic light, the result is a dry account of Mary's life, reading more like a history book than historical fiction. Mary herself comes across as naive and bland, and the characters surrounding her as similarly one-dimensional. I could have also done without the frequent sex scenes. Very disappointing. ( )
  ErinMa | May 15, 2019 |
An enjoyable account of the life of Mary Queen of Scots, revealing her as a flawed and very human personality. ( )
  AriadneAranea | May 3, 2018 |
I've always preferred stories about Queen Elizabeth I to those of her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, and this novel did not change my mind. If anything, it cemented my general contempt for the latter for all time.

That should by no means be taken as a statement about the quality of Royal Road to Fotheringay, which is textbook Jean Plaidy fictionalized biography. The novel takes us from Mary Stuart's early days as the toddler queen of Scotland, romping through various castles and monastaries with her "four Marys" (four little girls of noble birth, all of whom share her given name, who were raised along with her to give her company and, later on, servants) through her later upbringing in France as the intended bride of the Dauphin, the sickly boy who grew up (sort of) to be the short-reigning King Francis II, her disastrous second and third marriages, and then skips on to her infamously botched execution on the orders of her cousin Elizabeth I of England. A sequel, The Captive Queen of Scots, presumably covers the twenty or so years between the death of her third husband and Mary's own death, and will be read in due course. Probably. Once I'm done with gnashing my teeth over how much I wanted to slap Mary through most of this novel.

I had, of course, a similar experience reading Plaidy's two novels concerning Lucrezia Borgia last year. I'm not sure how similar these two heroines really were, but as Plaidy wrote them, both were spoiled, petted young things who grew up into pathological people pleasers who allowed monstrous goings on to take place all around them without even trying to do anything about said goings on, before, during or after. Of course they are also products of their age, and I'm meant to feel sympathy towards them (Plaidy seems to have made it her special mission to rehabilitate, or at least explain, Borgia), or at least try to understand them, but... man, it's rough. It's rough.

Royal Road to Fotheringay was a lot more unpleasant a read than the Borgia books, though, because so many of the characters it has to portray are, incredibly, even more unpleasant. From Mary's creepy Uncle Charles, a Roman Catholic Cardinal who helped "guide" her during her upbringing in France and who does a lot of "caressing" and engages in blatant emotional manipulation that all but amounts to abuse, to her second husband, the vain and spoilt and cranky Darnley to her womanizing, raping, pillaging jackass of a third husband, James Hepburn, to Mary's mother Mary of Guise and one-time mother-in-law Catherine de' Medici, Mary Stuart's life is like one long parade of monsters. If only she weren't so damned passive, gullible, foolishly romantic and willing to be manipulated... seriously, she is the Dobby the House Elf of European monarchs. Not that she ever stood much of a chance of being anything else.

And this chick ruled a country. Well, sort of.

Maddening as it is, though, it's a good story, impeccably told. And that counts for something. ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
Plaidy's books always look so daunting for their length but they usually end up being quick reads as was the case for the Royal Road to Fotheringay. All of her characters though do end up reading very much the same and it is only the circumstances of history which set them apart. ( )
  pussreboots | Oct 10, 2014 |
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At just six days old, Mary Stuart became Queen of Scots. At just six years old she was betrothed to the Dauphin François, the future King of France. Reluctantly leaving Scotland, Mary is raised in the decadent French court in preparation to become the Queen of France. But her reign with François is short-lived. Widowed at just eighteen years old, Mary is once again forced to leave her home to return to Scotland. Now a Catholic queen of a Protestant country, Mary must rule with caution and choose her next husband prudently...

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