Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Born to Rule" by Julia P. Gelardi

So I just reviewed a couple of my entries and discovered that, not only had I not thoroughly spell-checked (I'm going to blame the time of night and Tylenol PM combined with Benadryl, for that), but the grammar was somewhat lacking.  I apologize profusely and promise to attempt to rectify the situation in future posts.

ON TO THE BOOKS!  The "lengthy tome" I blogged about (ref: "Persepolis" review), was none other than "Born to Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria."  Yes, another volume to add to the long list of books with powerful women as their subjects.  The difference, however, is that most of these "powerful women" ended up penniless exiles, cast out by the people they formerly ruled.  That's right, folks, the commies will get you every time.  Or the Spanish generals will get you.  Or the strange democratic/anarchic chimera will get you.  Or you'll meddle in national politics about which you know nothing, lend your ear to a corrupt holy man because you're traumatized by having a hemophiliac son, and end up dead in a basement in Siberia, and your daughter will end up the main character in a 20th Century Fox animated feature, voice provided by Meg Ryan.

Vicky's granddaughters, whose names are too numerous to repeat here in their entireties, were mostly pretty miserable in marriage, either because their mothers hated the Germans, or their mothers hated the Russians, or sometimes both.  Mostly, I felt sorry for them, because they were powerless to decide their fates, and then their children repudiated all they had suffered for (Spanish Queen Victoria Eugenie's kids were really bad about this one) and married Cuban divorcees.  Shameful.

Julia P. Gelardi (distinguished by her middle initial from all the other Julia Gelardis that write biographies) does a masterful job of pinning down the intricacies of court intrigue, although I think the plaudits she garnered from Dr. Amanda Foreman were somewhat overblown.  An interesting book, but I didn't get the same degree of "verve" from the book that Dr. Foreman apparently did.  I've definitely read books that were more novelesque, to coin a term, than this, and that were more exciting reads.

I enjoyed the book, as I think I already said, but there was some difficulty in keeping the lineage straight, as the family tree was apparently the victim of a deranged arborist, because not all the siblings and children of the Queens are listed on the genealogical chart, so things get a bit muddled, with lots of page flipping, and "Mussy?  Who the hell is Mussy?"  Another thing about those blasted Victorian Royals, they all had a million nicknames, and Ms. Gelardi switches back and forth between the noms des usages* so that it's a bit difficult to figure out who belongs where until they're all about to keel over.  Actually, this happens after the first of the queens has keeled over, at the wrong end of a rifle, manned by some evil commies.

*Disclaimer: I learned my French from an evil college professorina and Eddie Izzard, so it might not be grammatically correct.

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