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Historical Novel Society

Review: The Marriage Game by Alison Weir

The Marriage Game - Alison Weir

To start, I will admit that I have a lukewarm relationship with Weir's writing. I have rated her works between 2-4 stars, though I usually enjoy her novels more than her nonfiction. I found myself double-checking the name on this cover because it was so reminiscent of another author that I have sworn not to read again.

Specifically, this novel was boringly repetitive, shallow, and a very unappealing picture of Elizabeth I. Not being a fan of Elizabeth the way many are, I was prepared for the characterization of her as a manipulative, selfish monarch who left the country ripe for civil war with her refusal to plan for her succession. This is actually worse.

She is petty, cruel, and unreasonable. Elizabeth leads her suitors on for decades and then falls into torrents of tears when any man gives up on her and dares to marry another. I couldn't help but feel sorry for Robert Dudley, who gave up over 20 years of his life believing that she would eventually marry him. On the other hand, I could not fathom why he would want to marry her. Surely, even the crown of England could not be worth putting up with this vain shrew.

While I do believe that Elizabeth was probably as manipulative as Weir has painted her, I hope that she was at least a little more intelligent. The focus of this novel, as the title suggests, is the constant evasions of Elizabeth when it came to her marriage. She would encourage suitors then send them away, invite them to her bed but frustrate them before culmination, and promise her hand only to quickly change her mind.

Every other line spoken by Elizabeth in this novel was some version of "I will not be told what to do!" Pout, stomp, and preen. She even has irritating nicknames for the poor men lining up to kiss her feet: my Eyes, my Spirit, and my Frog. I really wish I was making that up. There is also an excessive use of exclamations!

On the other hand, some aspects of Elizabeth's rule could have been used to make her look even worse. The fate of the Grey sisters is only the subject of a few sentences, writing off some of the most hateful and baseless actions of the revered Virgin Queen.

Based on previous reviews, I had hoped that I may enjoy this negative portrayal of Elizabeth more than others who wish to believe that she is a wonderful example of womanhood. My lack of recommendation for this novel is more due to the dumbing down of Elizabeth and her life story than it is because I think her personality has been slandered.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for my copy of this novel. Opinions expressed are my own.


11/22     21.0% "She might start a harem, like the Sultan! ugh" 2 comments
11/23     32.0% "Are you playing games with me again, Bess? Yes. Yes, she is. It's really not cryptic."
11/23     34.0% "All was falsehood and vanity with this woman."
11/23     51.0% "It can be fun to read the title of a book within the text, but the second and third time seems contrived." 1 comment
11/23     71.0% "Elizabeth could be cruel when it pleased her. And does it ever seem to please her!"
11/23     72.0% "I think that's supposed to say 'pump him for information,' but maybe not. She would also be happy to pimp him."
11/23     81.0% "Her Frog? Really?"
11/23     91.0% "She wants a punishment more severe than hanging, drawing, & quartering? Maybe they could make them court her for 20 years."