Monthly Archives: May 2014

Book Review: The Lady of the Rivers by Phillippa Gregory

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4/5

Overview:

Jacquetta, a descendant of the river goddess Melusina, has a special gift; a gift that has been passed down through generations. She possesses the ability of sight. With the help of tarot cards, a charm bracelet laden down with about two hundred charms, or by looking through a scryer’s mirror, she can see into the future. However strong her gift is the images she sees don’t always make sense, like the image of a Queen riding a horse with backwards horseshoes. Other images terrify her like a winter’s snow stained red with blood.

As a young girl, Jacquetta visited her uncle. There she met Joan of Arc who was imprisoned in her uncle’s castle. Jacquetta’s great aunt, Lady Jehanne, the Demoiselle of Luxemboury, horrified that Joan was taken prisoner with the accusation of performing witchcraft, convinces her son to release Joan into her responsibility. Taking Joan under her wing will ensure that Joan’s safety is assured. Jacquetta and Joan strike up a quick friendship, they are brought together by a common gift. However, Joan believes that the Almighty God speaks to her and guides her rather than Jacquetta’s family belief of the river goddess. Like her great aunt, Jacquetta tries to warn Joan against proclaiming her spiritual beliefs to a government ruled by men, but Joan is determined to see her journey through to the end, knowing that God has laid out a path for her. Jacquetta watches in horror as her friend is beaten down emotionally during her intense trails. The men convince her to admit that she is just a raving lunatic and a disgrace to her country. In a moment of weakness she gives in. She admits that everything she believes in is lies. The men are intensely satisfied that they have broken down a young girl. In their joy they burn Joan at the stake as a common witch. Jacquetta learns a very harsh lesson; a strong-willed woman cannot hope to succeed in a man’s world

A few years after Joan’s execution, Jacquetta is married to John the Duke of Bedford. Immediately after they are married the Duke reveals that he only pursued Jacquetta for her mystic abilities and that he can’t give her children. He exposes her to the mysteries of alchemy and astrology while strengthening her abilities to his advantage. Periodically the Duke sits her in front of a mirror and asks her to see into the future. Will he be successful and powerful? Will war tear apart England? Jacquetta tries her best to oblige the Duke, but is confused at what her visions mean.

Her marriage to the Duke is short lived. He passes away unrepentantly, leaving her alone in the royal court. Jacquetta finds solace in the arms of Richard, her late husband’s most trusted knight. The two leave the royal court in order to live a life full of love and happiness together. Following the birth of their first child, which they go on to have eleven throughout the novel; they are both summoned back to court to serve King Henry and his new, young wife Margaret. Serving the young King and Queen becomes a tumultuous road for Jacquetta and Richard. With the entire country on the verge of war, Richard is constantly sent to gather men, command soldiers, and keep the kingdom safe. On the other hand, Jacquetta becomes the Queen’s closest friend and advisor. She helps the young Queen in a sisterly compassion. The two women face endless troubles, the biggest occurs when the King suddenly falls into a deep sleep that lasts for over a year. No one knows quite what caused the mysterious sleep, but it causes a rift in the already quarrelling country. Again Jacquetta sees the difficulty that a powerful woman has in a world ruled by men.

In the end, Jacquetta and Richard discover where their loyalties truly lie. They leave the royal court to finally spend time with their children and grandchildren. The novel ends with Jacquetta returning to the river near her home to see what Melusina has in store for their oldest daughter, Elizabeth.