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Elizabeth and Mary


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About the Author

Jane Dunn is the biographer of the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, Mary Shelley, and most recently a groundbreaking biography of Antonia White. She is Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in Bath.


Adult/High School-A compelling account of the rivalry between two of history's most fascinating monarchs. In covering the lives of cousins Elizabeth Tudor and Mary Stuart, Dunn focuses on describing their effects on one another, rather than cataloging all of the events in their lives. The two young queens, coping with troubled finances, religious strife, and belligerent nobles, could hardly have been more different in background and temperament. Protestant Elizabeth, disinherited, humiliated, and imprisoned in her youth, learned to be cautious and calculating. She placed her role as queen above all other considerations. Catholic Mary, her parents' only surviving heir, was always secure about her right to Scotland's throne. Raised indulgently in the luxurious French court as the future bride of the dauphin, she was headstrong, passionate, and impulsive. Only nine years apart in age, the two royals corresponded copiously, and constantly grilled spies and ambassadors about one another, but never met. Using a variety of contemporary documents, including letters, diaries, and court papers, Dunn shows readers the queens' surprisingly parallel lives. Both were charismatic leaders who inspired fanatic devotion and bitter enmity throughout their lives. This is not an easy book for students, but it's well worth the time it takes to read it. The pomp and pageantry of the 16th century, as well as its superstitions, hardships, and cruelty, are vividly described. Family trees, a detailed chronology, and 24 pages of color photographs of portraits of Elizabeth, Mary, and those most important to them are included.-Kathy Tewell, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

'She writes with vigour and grace. This is an engaging and thoughtful new rendering of a story worth retelling.' The Spectator'This is a supercharged family romance' Observer'Dunn's well-established gifts as a biographer are used here with remarkable sensitivity' Sunday Times 'Jane Dunn has written a splendid piece of popular history with the ready-pen of a highly skilled writer, endowed with remarkable insight' Roy Strong, Daily Mail'Jane Dunn handles her subject with tremendous flair. She is a supremely accomplished stylist, who writes with poise and assurance. Her book is artfully structured, sinuously weaving the lives of its two protagonists in a manner which illustrates the parallels between them while explaining why their careers were so divergent...A deeply satisfying study of royal rivalry which ended in tragedy for both parties.' Literary Review'Dunn has a novelist's talent for inhabiting her subjects' lives...The story, infused with the smell of parchment and wax seals, draws the reader in with a bewitching intimacy.' Time Out'Dunn works the contrasts hard, in the process creating a kind of psychological drama in which each woman becomes a fateful reverse image of the other.' The Guardian 'This is a drama of power, intrigue and rivalry played out between two women monarchs in a man's world, fluently and masterfully told.' Manchester Evening News'Excellent ... by moving between the two she reinvigorates oft-told stories and she writes with such a light and graceful touch that is a pleasure to read. Dunn makes splendid use of the worlds of contemporaries, bringing a host of characters together as the story unfolds.' The Tablet'Fluent and excellent buy for anyone who wants a sensitive and reflective personal view of two of the 16th century's best known women.' Evening Standard

This is not so much a dual biography of Elizabeth Tudor and Mary Stuart as a cross-section of the royal cousins' lives as they intersect in fact and in theme. As a successful, ultimately beloved monarch, Elizabeth has been granted the upper hand by history, but here the mirror images of the two queens' experiences suggests how differently their stories could have ended. The opposing trajectories of their lives-Elizabeth rising from a politically and personally precarious childhood to become a powerful ruler and Mary descending from undisputed Scottish heir to prisoner and self-styled martyr for Catholicism-elucidate the problems of early modern queenship more fully than a single biography would. Opening accounts of Elizabeth's coronation and Mary's wedding serve as an emblematic introduction to their experiences of education, religion, family, marriage and leadership. Unfortunately, these accounts are clearly cut from chapter four, where their loss creates a jarring leap. The dual narrative also leads British biographer Dunn (Moon in Eclipse: A Life of Mary Shelley) to overdo her interpretation and to repeat incidents and reintroduce characters, seemingly not trusting her readers to keep them straight. However, she does Mary a service by digging more deeply into her childhood and evaluating her more rigorously than many authors have. Her emphasis on Elizabeth's insecurities heightens the comparison between the two queens and renders the decision to execute Mary the turning point in Elizabeth's reign. While this may slightly exaggerate the centrality of the rivalry to Elizabeth's thinking, it nicely captures the intertwined lives of these two women. 24 pages of color illus., not seen by PW. 50,000 first printing. Agent, Kerek Johns. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Dunn's Elizabeth & Mary provides a unique merger of biography and history, looking at the intersection of the lives of two queens and how their political and personal pursuits shaped the history of their reigns. Elizabeth and Mary had distinctly different childhoods: Mary was raised at the French court, betrothed to the Dauphin; Elizabeth's early life was fraught with danger and insecurity following the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn, and the subsequent bids for the right of succession following the death of her father, Henry VIII. Ultimately succeeding to the throne, Elizabeth was plagued by the continual threat that she was not a legitimate heir. Her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, stood on more solid ground as successor as the great-granddaughter of King Henry. Thus, the stage was set for a lifetime of rivalry. Disconcertingly, the author starts and stops stories and events, insinuating at their conclusion in later chapters rather than following a straighter narrative thread. Read by Donada Peters, this work is recommended for larger audio collections.-Gloria Maxwell, Penn Valley Community Coll., Kansas City, MO Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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