I had never heard of Livi Michael until Penguin sent me a copy of her new historical novel, Succession, a historical novel telling the story of the Wars of the Roses through Margaret Anjou, wife of Henry VI, and Margaret Beaufort, the future matriarch of the House of Tudor. Michael is not a new author, she has four other successful adult novels under her belt and is an acclaimed children’s author, but this is her first historical novel so it was the first time I had come across her; it won’t be the last.
The novel is split into four parts covering 1444-50, 1450-55, 1455-58 and 1456-62, taking the reader from 1444, when the Earl of Suffolk stood proxy for Henry VI at his marriage to Margaret of Anjou and accompanied her to England, to the aftermath of the bloody Battle of Towton in 1461 and the accession of Edward IV. It is, of course, an exciting period of history and I loved looking at these events through the women’s eyes, especially as these women were in the thick of things and had such extraordinary stories. But this is not a ‘women’s book’, or a romanticised version of events, Michael manages to bring these troubled times and characters to life in a gripping story, while also being true to history. Interestingly, chapters tend to start and end with excerpts from primary sources so readers can see just how close Michael’s novel is to the real history. I thought at first that I might find these snippets annoying, as interruptions to the story, but I found myself eagerly looking out for them so that I could check what really happened. They really did add to the story and were proof of just how meticulous Michael had been in her research.
Although the Wars of the Roses is never going to be a boring topic to write about, it would be easy to give a dry re-telling of the history. However, by focusing on the two Margarets, Michael made the story “human” and I could not help but empathise with the characters and everything they went through. To enjoy a novel, I really need to connect with the characters in some way and Michael made this easy to do.
I was that impressed with Succession that I contacted Michael after I had read it and I was pleased to hear that she is working on a follow-up to it – hurrah! When I find a new author, it’s always good to hear that they’ve got books in the works.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good historical novel and who likes books to be as close as possible to the real events. It is a wonderful read.
The novel also contains a useful Lancaster and York family tree, information on the main characters and an explanation of the main chronicles covering the period.
Behind the bloody battle scenes of the Wars of the Roses lie the sinewy political skills of a remarkable pair of women.
Margaret of Anjou, French, beautiful, unpopular; her marriage in 1444 to a young Henry VI causes national uproar. As English rule in France collapses, Henry goes insane, civil war erupts, and families are pitted against each other. With Henry VI incapacitated, Margaret Anjou is left to fight alone for her son’s position as rightful heir.
Meanwhile Margaret Beaufort, nobly born but far more distant from the throne, becomes a great heiress while only an infant. Her childhood is lived in echoing remote castles and she is lonely and vulnerable: everyone at Henry’s court competes to be her guardian and to engineer an advantageous alliance through marriage to her. By the age of thirteen, she has married twice and given birth to her only son – the future King of England. But then she is separated from him . . . and her fight really begins
Succession is the intense and powerful story of the women who gave birth to the Tudor dynasty.
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Penguin (26 Jun 2014)
ASIN US: B00V3C3CZ4 (This is my affiliate link for Amazon.com and I may receive a small payment if you buy the book through this link).
Available from Amazon.com, Amazon UK and your usual bookstore.
Originally posted on October 6, 2014.