Posted By Claire on September 25, 2015
Livi Michael’s new book Rebellion follows on from her excellent historical fiction debut, Succession, which took readers from 1444, when the Earl of Suffolk stood proxy for Henry VI at his marriage to Margaret of Anjou, to the bloody Battle of Towton in 1461 and the accession of Edward IV. The story was told through the eyes of Margaret Anjou, wife of Henry VI, and Margaret Beaufort, the future matriarch of the House of Tudor, bringing relevance and emotion to these remote historical events.
Rebellion continues these two women’s stories, opening in June 1462 and taking us through the bloody battles and family feuds that made up the Wars of the Roses, right up to the 1471 Battle of Tewkesbury and its aftermath. Again, we see the events mainly through the eyes of these two women, but there are chapters told from the perspectives of the Earl of Warwick, Duke of Somerset, Elizabeth Woodville, Henry VI and Edward IV too, and I enjoyed seeing the events from different ‘sides’. The insight, albeit fictional, into the troubled mind of Henry VI was particularly poignant.
What I enjoyed most about Rebellion was the ‘humanness’ of the characters. So often, Edward IV is depicted as a romantic hero who has the perfect romance with Elizabeth Woodville, but here he is real and flawed. He lives his life to excess and his lifestyle is catching up on him, and Elizabeth is certainly not the only woman in his life. The two Margarets are fully rounded characters. They’re both strong women willing to fight for their sons’ inheritance and safety, but there’s more to them than that. Margaret Beaufort has been separated from her beloved son and has to deal with the fact that he doesn’t know her and that he sees his guardians as parents. The writing in these scenes provoked so much empathy in me as I read them, my heart broke for her. And poor Margaret of Anjou in exile and then travelling! It seems so understandable and human that she turns to another man for comfort.
While Rebellion is an exciting account of the events of the Wars of the Roses, it was the superb writing of the poignant scenes that ‘did’ it for me. I connected with the characters, I got to know what made them tick, and I could empathise with them no matter what side they were on.
Like Succession, Rebellion has excerpts from primary sources throughout, reminding the reader that these events really did happen and bringing a real historical perspective to the story. Livi Michael ends the book with a section “About the Chronicles” in which she gives details about the primary sources she quotes in her novel. She also explains why she chose to use them in her novel, how “they convey the spirit of the age without resorting to interior perspective or reflection” and so complement the different approach to writing taken by a historical novelist. It worked!
At the start is a Lancaster and York family tree and a guide to the key characters, which will be very useful to those who are not familiar with the real history and to those who struggle with the fact that everyone seemed to have been called Margaret, Henry, Edward, Richard, William and Anne!
I highly recommend this historical novel, it’s a wonderful read but do make sure you read Succession first.
Margaret Beaufort and Margaret of Anjou – two women who will stop at nothing to place their sons on the English throne.
In exile in France with her young son Prince Edward, Margaret of Anjou at last gives up on promises of aid by King Louis and sets sail for England. There, she will return her husband Henry to the throne – and ensure young Edward will be its heir.
Meanwhile, Margaret Beaufort, separated from her son Henry of Richmond when he was an infant, sees the unrest surrounding the Lancastrian defeat as her chance to finally get him back. But the steps she takes to return her son imperil the kingdom and the throne’s current occupant – King Edward IV.
With rebellions tearing the country apart, how far will each woman go to further the interests of their sons? And who can stand in their way?