Thursday, July 24, 2008

Question from Cally - The Sisters Who Would Be Queen

Hello all, has anyone read the new book on Lady Jane Grey and her 2 sisters? It`s called:

The Sisters Who Would Be Queen.

Would love to know if it is well written, historically accurate, and so forth.

thanks!

17 comments:

Sonja Marie said...

It hasn't been released yet, it comes out on Sept 1st in the UK.

SM

PhD Historian said...

"The Sisters Who Would Be Queen" by Leanda de Lisle is not scheduled for publication in the UK until September of this year, and not in the US until 2009. I read her previous book, "After Elizabeth," on the accession of James VI &I and found it well written, well researched, engaging, and thoughtful. I feel sure that "Sisters" will be quite good, both in terms of scholarship and readability. I have corresponded with Ms de Lisle and found that she and I take different approaches to the subject of Jane Grey, but her portrayal of Jane is nonetheless different from the traditional one of puppet-victim. I am looking forward to reading it while awaiting release of my own biographical study of Jane (please forgive the shameless self-promotion!).

Anonymous said...

The book has yet to be released in the U.K., and it won't be seen in the U.S. until next year.

When it does appear, however, I'll be scanning the reviews, both by historians and the average book reader on the street.

Here's hoping it's worth the time as the time period is full of colorful characters.

Tracey

Joan said...

To PhD Historian, How very exciting you are doing a book on Jane too! When will it be released?

PhD Historian said...

Thanks for asking Joan. The publisher managed to lose my manuscript (ARGGH!) for three months, so the process has been delayed yet again, but we are hoping for late 2009. It will be under the title "Jane the Quene."

Elizabeth M. said...

PhD Historian--I can hardly wait to read your book when it comes out. Since I have joined this site, I am particularly delighted by your responses to questions, as your knowledge is astounding.

PhD Historian said...

Thanks very much for your kind words, Elizabeth. It's good to know that 30 years of studying British, and especially Tudor, history has yielded some benefit.

Joan said...

To: To PhD Historian again,

Look forward to your book! Is it in the 'popluar history' vein (like Alison Weir's stuff), or more academic and scholarly?

PhD Hisotrian said...

LOL. Well, Joan, as my username should imply, it is an academic and scholarly book. Definitely NOT in the vien of "popular history (like Alison Weir's stuff)!

Tamise said...

Do you know if your book will be published outside the USA eventually?

Thank goodness for the internet, so I can buy it from the USA.

Elizabeth M. said...

PhD historian--what is your professional opinion of some of the historical writers around? I am thinking of course, of Alison Weir, but also authors like Alison Plowden, Sarah Gristwood, Retha Warnicke, Linda Porter, David Loades, and Leanda de Lisle? I just purchased the latter's book "After Elizabeth" but have yet to start reading it.

PhD Historian said...

Tamise: The good news for you is that my publisher is in the UK, and the book will almost certainly be published there first. We are still hammering out those kinds of details. But you do not have to worry about getting a copy quickly, I can assure you.

Elizabeth M.: I've actually addressed this question in several other posts, but I will give it a brief re-cap here.

Alison Weir is an excellent historical writer for the general public. She is not, however, what I would call a "professional historian." I tend to reserve that term for those who follow the standards set by the various societies and associations of professional historians, including the Royal Historical Society, the American Historical Association, and the North American Conference on British Studies. Those standards include conducting extensive first-hand archival research prior to writing a study, engaging with the existing body of work on a given topic, attempting to present some new interpretation. Weir does not do first-hand archival research ... or at least her footnoting and bibliographies do not reflect that she does. She limits her research to modern printed and published works, together with a strong reliance on the work of other historians before her. I am not aware that she has ever consulted manuscript sources or sources in languages other than English, for example. Nor does she utilize any of the methodologies (analytical techniques) commonly used by professional historians. There is nothing at all wrong with any of that, considering her purpose and audience. But it does place inherent limits on her end product. And she also writes historical fiction, something that I believe is antithetical to calling oneself a "profesisonal historian."

Leanda de Lisle goes a bit further than Weir in terms of research, and her first book did present a new interpretation of the accession of James I. I will be very curious to see her second book, as she has the potential to establish herself as a true "professional historian" rather than a writer of history for the general public.

Retha Warnicke is definitely a "profesisonal historian"! She is a Professor of History at Arizona State University, and her writing is directed primarily at other professional historians, not the general public. It crosses over into the public market only because her topic (Anne Boleyn) is so hugely popular.

David Loades is also a "professional historian" and a Professor of History. His work tends to get a lot more cross-over attention from the general public than does Warnicke's, probably because he courts both the academic and public markets. I really admire his work, which is rigorously and thoroughly researched yet written in a style that is fully readable by an educated public (too many professional historians write in style that only specialist academics can understand, something I detest).

Alison Plowden is not a true "historian." She is a writer, nothing more. She has no formal training of any kind in history, and her writing is little more, in my opinion, than paraphrasing of the work of others before her. Her two books on Jane Grey, for example, contain entire paragraphs that are almost verbatim copies of the same material as it is found in Richard Davey's book published in 1909. Plowden did zero real research for her books, but instead clearly copied her footnotes from others, as evidenced by her repetition of the mistakes and anachronisms found in those earlier footnotes.

I do not know much about Sarah Gristwood other than that she is principally a journalist specializing in theater and film coverage. I have not read her book on Arbella Stuart.

I do not know much about Linda Porter either, though I do find that she has a doctorate in history. She has only recently published her first book, on Mary Tudor, which I have not yet read. I understand she has a second one coming out, this time on Katherine Parr, though I do not see how she can compete with Susan James' brilliant work on Parr. But I will reserve a firm opinion until I have read her books.

Lara said...

I just got an email from the author and due to some bad editing and printing errors, the book has been delayed to early 2009 (and no US printing date yet). It still shows as Sept. 1 on Amazon.uk, but I'm guessing it will be corrected at some point.

PhD Historian said...

And I just got a note from Sophie Goulden at Harper Collins UK in which she says that there is actually no plan at present to publish the book in the US. The current plan is for UK-only publication.

Tamise said...

Phd historian - You said that your approach to Jane is different to the one taken by Leanda de Lisle.

Without giving too much away about your book, could you give us some idea what your approach is please?

Leanda said...

Hello all, I am the author of the Sisters Who Would be Queen. There was a problem at the printing stage with my book, and so it is now being published in the UK on January 19th 2009. It is also being published in the US later in 2009, but by a different publisher. In the UK iI am with Harper Press, in the US with Ballentine. My editor in the US is still reading it - but says that so far she likes it a lot (which is always a relief) . I am told by Harper Press that two reviews, from proof copies, were written before the edition was recalled. They will now be published in January, but they are said to be very good. They are for BBC history and the Literary Review, which both have long lead times (please don;t contact them). I am very upset about the printing disaster and the delay in publication, but on the positive side, the financial hit HP are taking in pulping a print run because of a few blips is a mark of their confidence in the book, and their desire to make sure they produce it perfectly. Many of my fellow authors have expressed amazement they just didn't let it go out typos and all (which is not unusual!). I don't want to spoil things by telling you too much about the book, but I have done my very best to write something for you all that is new, deeply researched and a moving, highly readable story, very best wishes, Leanda

Leanda said...

PS, sorry I am new to blogging. Hope that all made some sense. Thought I should enclose the statement Harper Press made to UK literary editors:
THE SISTERS WHO WOULD BE QUEEN by Leanda de Lisle: Due to a mix-up at the printers, incorrect files were used to print the above book due for publication in September. We have decided, therefore, to withdraw the print run and will now publish THE SISTERS WHO WOULD BE QUEEN by Leanda de Lisle on 19 January 2009. Could you please discard the review copy sent to you at the end of last week. A corrected copy will be sent in due course.