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Virgin and the Crab: Sketches, Fables and Mysteries from the early life of John Dee and Elizabeth Tudor

Tekijä: Robert Parry

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näyttää 5/5
When I finished reading 'Virgin', I told Robert that it should be recognized by a major publisher. He responded by saying that most publishers will not touch a debut novel of over 100,000 words. 'Virgin' is close to 200,000. It's a shame because this book is one of the best historical novels I have ever read. There's no fluff in the pages of this book. Just straight historical fiction that read almost like non-fiction, but nowhere near as boring. Not that I generally think that non-fiction is boring, but some can be real yawners, if you know what I mean. What I enjoyed most about the book was that I was able to follow what was transpiring with Elizabeth directly parallel to what occurred from before Mary's (Elizabeth's sister) reign and then from the beginning until the end of Mary's reign. I enjoyed the intrigue that was involved in this plot to protect Elizabeth and to ensure that she would someday take the throne. There was a lot of breath holding on my part, even though I already knew the outcome. I liked the way Lady Jane Grey was portrayed here...more as a pawn then a willing participant in seizing the crown. Which made her end all the more tragic. Mary was not portrayed in a favorable light. She comes across as pias, petty and prudish and so full of hatred and the need for revenge for what happened to her mother that she takes religious fanaticism to a new extreme and many people die as a consequence. I'm on the fence about Mary. The character of John Dee was very interesting. I do not know much about him outside of this book, but after reading 'Virgin', I'm compelled to find out more. Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it portrays my favorite historical figure in the best possible light. Elizabeth was an enigma...a skillful and powerful ruler who chose to be married to her country instead of a man. How much of what we know is true? And what do we not know? Here in this favorite quote of mine from the book, Elizabeth speaks about the mystique that surrounds her (and John Dee):

"Men say he has his darker side. And many, I know, go in fear of him. Like Us, a mystique has surrounded our friend, John Dee. It is good that this has occurred, and We shall keep it so. But really, in truth, he is a darling of a man - and no more a Crab than I might be a Virgin - though we'll say no more of that!"

I highly recommend 'Virgin and the Crab' to all historical fiction lovers and especially to all who adore Elizabeth Tudor. It's an exciting twist on Elizabeth's path to the throne. Historically compelling and deliciously suspenseful! I'm looking forward to Robert's next novel!

( )
  TheTrueBookAddict | Mar 22, 2020 |
Let me begin by saying I have been aware of Virgin and the Crab for quite some time, maybe since its release. I think I looked at the cover, the subtitle, and thought it was a bit too much on the mystical side of things for my liking. With my hand on my heart, I apologise for having judged your book in such a way Mr Parry. And now........ BRAVO!!!!

I have read much Tudor period historical fiction, so I am familiar with the people and events. Here I felt as if new life was breathed into the story. The thing that really stands forth when reading this book, is the power of description. By the pen of (ok......keyboard) Mr Parry, we have an almost cinematic view of the time. The beginning of scenes often start out as sweeping views, then focusing in on passing sights, sounds, smells, business etc, before honing in on the true focus of the scene. I could really see these scenes in my mind, on the big screen or TV. Reminds me of the descriptions of Thomas Hardy in Tess of the d'Ubervilles. This......is the kind of descriptive prose that I woud desire to write, if I ever set myself to write a novel.

Previously, think of John Dee, and I thought of that sketch of him as old man, looking somewhat Gandalf like. But of course, old men were once young, and the choice of John Dee as the central figure is illuminating. In the Virgin and the Crab, young Mr Dee is the key member of a group sworn through good principles to protect the Princess Elizabeth, waiting for the time told in the astrology charts of better times to come. Mr Parry's selection of John Dee, amongst this group of Tudor movers and shakers, allows for personal glimpses of many people and events. He moves though the perilous times of Queen Mary's reign, not without some trouble it must be said, but his positioning in the story, and the third person narrative, gives the power to get up close and personal with the most of the central figures, glimpsing motives, personalities, hopes and fears.

A little of the mystical side of John Dee is of course covered. As a person who really doesn't get into the realm of fantasy fiction, I can say that I didn't mind it all.

Again, deepest apologies to Mr Parry for having overlooked your book many times so lightly. I made the mistake of judging a book by its cover in some regard. Not that it is a bad cover at all...... I just passed it over too lightly. This book ranks up with some of my favourite books of the period and I don't hesitate to recommend it to other Tudor readers. If Mr Parry chooses to continue the adventures of Mr Dee, after all, there is lots of fodder for new adventure through the reign of Elizabeth, I would be diving into it! ( )
  nellista | Jun 2, 2012 |
The book starts out with a List of Players which, thank you Robert Parry, I definitely used. I love history but am not a huge Tudor fan as some others out there. So when they refer to, say, the Earl of Devonshire, I know exactly who they are talking about. The time span follows Elizabeth as a small child, through the death of her half brother Edward VI, King of England, to the fateful reign of Jane Grey, to the succession of Queen Mary and through her death to Elizabeth's ascension.

This book is so originally written. I mean, it reads like a play. Not like Shakespeare or anything but it's written in present tense, which as odd as that sounds totally works. There are main chapters but a lot of the chapters have Acts and Interludes which I really enjoyed.

Basically what this all means is that I remember this book like I've seen it played out before me. For instance, when John Dee first meets Elizabeth when they are just children. Elizabeth is crying over the recent death of Katherine Howard by her father, Henry VIII. That scene is just awesome. Then later after they are much older there is a scene I love. John Dee had taught Elizabeth how to send secret messages through groupings of flowers. So when Queen Mary is on the throne and Elizabeth is pretty much under house arrest, Dee sneaks into to see Elizabeth disguised as one of the many gardeners. There they pass flowers back and forth wordlessly and you know they are sending each other messages. I just loved scenes like this in this book.

It also does an amazing job of telling the whole story by not just following John Dee or Elizabeth but by following most of the characters. I found this gave me such a well-rounded view of all the tension and politics going on at the time. It's absolutely amazing that history turned out the way it did. It's shocking all the events these characters went through and survived how they did.

Towards the end of the book, Robert Dudley says something that I just chuckled at because it so fit this book.

"And yet I do wonder how it has all come to pass just as you and Cecil said it would," Robert observes, "like the unfolding of some great drama or history play! It is astonishing!"

I absolutely adored this book and can't wait to read another book by Robert Parry. My only disappointment with this book is that with so many other books on this subject, this gem might get overlooked. ( )
  nycbookgirl | Feb 1, 2011 |
Sleep and work sadly prevented me from reading this fascinating and wonderful book in a single sitting. I quite agree with the earlier reviewer who said that s/he could not have imagined a book to compete with Wolf Hall--but this did. In particular, the sombre. claustrophobic, inhuman, and increasingly insane reign of Queen Mary was brilliantly depicted. And how one felt for poor, unwilling, Queen Jane! ( )
2 ääni ChrisSterry | May 20, 2010 |
näyttää 5/5
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