Monday, 10 November 2008

An Unknown Welshman by Jean Stubbs

This historical novel was published in 1972, and I got my (hardback) copy several years later for 25p. It's unusual it that it tells the story of the Wars of the Roses from a Lancastrian point of view. (Or from a Tudor point of view if you like - I find it hard to make much connection between the Lancastrian dynasty and Henry Tudor.) I think I'm right in saying that only a handful of such novels have been published in the last fifty years. The couple that spring to mind have Margaret of Anjou as heroine.

Anyway, Jean Stubbs deserves at least some credit for taking the unpromising character of Henry Tudor and centring the tale on him. I don't think it's exactly a secret that I'm no great fan of Henry VII, in fact I think he's one of our more horrid sovereigns, albeit several lengths behind his son in those stakes. Apparently the inspiration for the novel was that someone mentioned that Mr Tudor had an interesting early life, and, almost like The Adventures of Alianore Audley, the action more or less starts with his birth. There's a fair segment about his boyhood and youth, but nevertheless half the book covers the reign of Richard III.

There's a fair bit of description in here, and indeed odd pages read a little like a guide to Yorkist-era social history and customs, but the story is reasonably paced. One very obvious source used is The Song of the Lady Bessy and when the dialogue grows a tad clunky in places I suspect it's where the author has followed her sources a little too closely.

Most people with an interest in the era will enjoy this novel - the ones who won't will be those who cannot stomach the Tudor viewpoint! Personally I think that looking at history from different angles is a Good Thing, whatever your own opinion on an era may be.


Susan Higginbotham said...

I have this one but didn't finish it (I think I was finding it a little dry). I'll have to pick it up again.

Brian said...

Hi Susan

I think it *is* a bit dry, actually. Maybe because Henry himself was a bit of a dry stick? Also some of the description does run on a bit IMHO.
But an interesting take for all that, because of the unusual viewpoint.

Susan Higginbotham said...

I'll probably pick it up again just for the viewpoint. I wish there were more novels from the point of view of the earlier Lancastrians--it'd be fascinating to see something from the Beaufort point of view or from the Duke of Exeter's, for instance.

Word verification: rantste! Was I rantste-ing?