Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Refreshing Look at a King's Favorite

I finished The Lord of Misrule by Eve Trevaskis today, about Edward II and Piers Gaveston, told in the third person mainly from the viewpoint of Gaveston. I can't add much to Sarah Johnson's recent review of it except to point out that I found it historically accurate and carefully researched, the more so because Trevaskis wrote the book in 1972 and did not have the advantage of consulting the studies of Gaveston by Pierre Chaplais and J. S. Hamilton that appeared subsequently.

It's hard to get a handle on Edward II's character from this book; neither the author nor even Gaveston appears to know quite what to think of him. Gaveston, however, is well drawn as a person with conflicting impulses who sometimes stirs up trouble despite his better judgment. In too many novels, he's caricatured as a monster of greedy opportunism and as a fop; here he's depicted as witty, brave, loyal, and loving. His relationship with his young wife, Margaret, though not portrayed in depth, is particularly refreshing. Too often, Margaret is a pathetic figure in novels about Edward II, a bone tossed to Gaveston whom Gaveston treats with just as little respect. Here she's a lively girl with a backbone who gradually develops a sexual attraction to (and for) Gaveston; the chapter where she and Gaveston finally consummate their marriage is well done.

As Sarah Johnson pointed out, the politics behind the goings-on here remain very much in the background, which will likely be confusing to those readers who aren't familiar with Edward II's reign. The ending, foreshadowing the future, was interestingly handled; it's a pity that Trevaskis' next novel, King's Wake, jumps over the latter part of Edward II's reign to begin with the events following his deposition.

All in all, this is a sympathetic portrayal of a historical character who's often been depicted one-dimensionally by novelists. (For another view of the king's favorite, narrated by the king himself, try Chris Hunt's novel Gaveston, reviewed on Alianor's blog.) Meanwhile, I'm off to see what Betty King makes of another controversial figure, Margaret of Anjou.

5 comments:

Alianore said...

Sounds pretty interesting. I look forward to reading it!

My next review will probably be on 'Isabel the Fair' by Margaret Campbell Barnes - Piers and Margaret's relationship is depicted fairly positively there, too. Some time, I'll try to get round to writing about 'Alice' by Sandra Wilson, which has a very heterosexual Gaveston too!

Sarah said...

Thanks for posting this review, and glad you managed to snag a copy. I did enjoy it considerably more than I thought I would.

Eve Trevaskis's novels probably haven't had this much attention in 30 years!

Susan Higginbotham said...

Alianore--looking forward to the reviews! I liked Barnes' portrayal of Margaret too. Wilson also wrote a novel called Wife to the Kingmaker about Anne Beauchamp, the Countess of Warwick. It's an interesting take on some of the events of the Wars of the Roses.

Sarah, my inter-library-loan copy is from no less an institution than the Yale University library! It's giving all my local public library books an inferiority complex. Good thing for the library system, because Lord of Misrule is selling at Amazon at $808 this morning. (I did see a copy elsewhere for a more modest $300.)

Sarah said...

Yale is great for interlibrary loans. Once (at my old library) we got an ILL book from them that was published in 1790. We were all amazed they sent it. At the time they would loan anything published after 1750, though that may have changed.
That Amazon seller can charge whatever he likes, but I doubt anyone will spring for $808.

Alianore said...

I've read 'Wife to the Kingmaker' - in fact, I think I still have it somewhere. I didn't realise it was the same author.

$808 is a ridiculous price. I see they have a copy of 'Lord of Misrule' on amazon.co.uk now, at £399.81. Bargain! There's another of hers, called 'Lion of England', going for £353.84.