After reading several of Alison Weir's books — nonfiction as well as fiction — I am convinced that time machines exist. How else to explain the richly textured dialogue and scenes of 16th century England that Weir brings to the fore in "The Lady Elizabeth" (Ballantine Books, $25.00). Weir has a knack of bringing the reader right into the conversation, and she knows her subjects so well that one begins to take sides.
There is plenty of intrigue in "The Lady Elizabeth," Weir's second novel. Set in England during the final years of Henry VIII's reign, Weir takes the reader through the politics and events that led Elizabeth to the throne in 1558.
Elizabeth is a precocious child, loved by her father. She has an at first loving relationship with her half-sister Mary, which becomes strained after Mary ascends to the throne and the two women clash over religious beliefs.
Weir's experience as a historian makes her credible as a novelist. She is able to take the historical facts and fill them in with lively dialogue. All of what she writes is based upon documented facts (I know, I checked a few of them out to be sure she wasn't bending the truth), but because this is a novel, Weir can take some literary license. She does so, but it is so few and far between that her story plot makes sense.
The most controversial part of the book will be Elizabeth's relationship with Thomas Seymour. I am not going to give anything away here, but these passages are certainly eyebrow raisers — and, as Weir has noted in interviews, was a matter of historical record. Very intriguing.
And in case you think historians write dry prose, think again. The love scenes in "The Lady Elizabeth" are descriptive but not vulgar. But she gets her point across, that's for sure.
For anyone who wants a grasp of England during the latter stages of the House of Tudor, this is a book to read. Weir is able to take complicated subjects, and not only sort them out, but do it in a way that makes her book a real page-turner.