My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Book Description (via Goodreads):
On the death of Henry the fifth, a nine-month-old baby is made King of England. Ambitious men surround the baby king, including his two uncles, the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester. Shrewd and clever, Bedford seeks to uphold all his late brother had won and preserve it for young Henry the sixth. Gloucester, a man of poor judgment, greedy for wealth and power, has other ideas. In Lancastrian England and war-torn France, there are three women whose lives are to have a marked effect on the future. Katherine de Valois, haunted by an unhappy childhood, finds love in an unexpected quarter and founds the Tudor dynasty; Joan of Arc leaves her village pastures on the command of heavenly voices; and Eleanor of Gloucester is drawn into a murder plot and becomes the center of a cause celebre. Murder, greed and ambition flourish alongside sacrifice, dedication and courage. These are turbulent times as the defeated become the victorious…
Epitaph for Three Women turned out to be far less about these three women than I was led to believe by the book’s description. Broken into three parts titled Katherine of Valois, Joan of Arc, and Eleanor of Gloucester, only Joan, or Jeannette rather, has an actual story that follows her path in life. The other two are background players to the politics going on at the time, especially those concerning the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester and England’s fight for France. Whenever Katherine enters the picture, it’s all light, airy, and extremely romanticized, especially in regards to Owen Tudor. For most of the book they live a totally idyllic life that doesn’t feel realistic in the least. Eleanor Cobham is portrayed as a scheming, crown-hungry social climber who proves far too trusting of witches and soothsayers. Isabeau of Bavaria fares even worse and I got tired of the constant references to how whorish she was. Since this was written, historians have looked into the accuracy of her reputation and dismissed certain facets as untrue. Still, this isn’t a completely bad book. Putting aside Katherine’s storyline where she only made cameo appearances anyway, I enjoyed the first part the most. Not knowing much about this period, the history was fascinating. The second featuring Jeannette was my least favorite, but I lay full blame at my feet because I have just never cared for Joan of Arc’s story, so found most of this part boring. While there was some interesting information in the book, I didn’t love the book but it’s an easy introduction to this particular time.
For more information on Eleanor Cobham, I recommend Susan Higginbotham’s guest post at Madame Guillotine.
Originally Reviewed: October 17, 2012
Received: Local Library