Books and Other Pleasures

“Year of the Lord 1553_ Three Women, One Destiny”

In Rome the name-days are not very popular, except for the major saints; but having both parents from the South of Italy, this anniversary was celebrated for years. Now, I have always been convinced that my mother created the date so as not to make me feel different from my cousins, with their traditional names well imprinted on the calendar, while I, Gioia, never had my Saint. Not that I ever cared, but considering that it is an extra gift during the year … why not?

“I have seen sights and travelled in countries you cannot imagine. I have been afraid and I have been in danger, and I have never for one moment thought that I would throw myself at at a man for his help.”
― Philippa Gregory, The Queen’s Fool

The presumed date is March 13, Saint Euphrasia (which seems to mean joy in some languages).
Technically, Spring comes on the 21st of March, so my birthday falls in the Summer and the name-day in Winter … there is some poetry here. Or rather, there would be, if it were’n for the fact that, punctual as a Swiss,my allergies starts on March 1st!

Poor Me GIFs | Tenor

In any case, we were talking about extra gifts, always welcome, especially if like me you make wish lists and therefore it only rarely happens to receive extra-large pajamas, terry bathrobes or bracelets that you would never, ever wear in public.

Wish lists should be mandatory, especially for those with complicated tastes.
In my 2007 wish list there was “The Queen’s fool”, written by Philippa Gregory.

“To stop us reading forbidden books they will have to burn every manuscript. But to stop us thinking forbidden thoughts they will have to cut off our heads.”
― Philippa Gregory, The Queen’s Fool

Attracted by the plot[1], I didn’t realize it’s actually the second in a saga. But, luckily reading it, I realized that each book stands on its own, the storyline ties the various books together, but each story begins and ends in the novel.

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I don’t know if my uncle had really read it, or if he had written the dedication on the book inspired by the back cover, but I must admit that he took it fully: it is a novel full of passion! With three really strong female figures: Maria, dramatic and tough, will see her dreams break and her life follow a slow and fatal decline. Elizabeth, arrogant, tenacious and opportunist, will be able to exploit in her favor the love that Queen Mary has for her, to get to the throne.

As a glue a humble but astute “lady-boy”, who will play the role of court jester, clairvoyant, accidental pawn in a network of conspiracies. The part of the historical novel is my favorite, the characters are branded with sagacity and the dialogues are absolutely in line with the era; I remember reading it in one breath in those March afternoons, sitting on an old swing in the wild park behind the house, in the cool hours of after lunch, with my faithful mp3 in shuffle mode * and the wind in my hair.

“Ideas are more dangerous than an unsheathed sword in this world, half of them are forbidden, the other half would lead a man to question the very place of the earth itself, safe at the center of the universe.”
― Philippa Gregory, The Queen’s Fool

There is also a lot of romance. But being set in the Elizabethan era, I find it more readable, thanks also to the customs and habits of the moment, the declarations to

Pride and Prejudice”, so far from modern courtship.

Hannah, the protagonist, is the man and Hannah is the woman. Hannah is the fool and the wise. Hannah is the friend and then the traitor. She can take on all the masks she wants, but she basically remains a person who knows what she wants and once she has gets it, she pursues her to the last, stubborn, courageous.

This is why I liked the novel so much, because even if it is romantic and perhaps a little fabulous in the part less linked to history, it has a protagonist worthy of being read and followed in her adventure.

The rest of the Tutor saga is also very fascinating, but this is the only one with a point of view so external to the Court (and at the same time so intimate), and perhaps that is why it remains my favourite of the series.



[1] The Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory is a 2003 historical fiction novel. Set between 1548 and 1558, it is part of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor series. The series includes The Boleyn Inheritance. The novel chronicles the changing fortunes of Mary I of England and her half-sister Elizabeth through the eyes of the fictional Hannah Green, a Marrano girl escaping to England from Spain where her mother was burned at the stake for being Jewish. Hannah is discovered by Robert Dudley and John Dee and subsequently begged as a fool to Edward VI. She witnesses and becomes caught up the intrigues of the young king’s court, and later those of his sisters. As Mary, Elizabeth, and Robert Dudley use Hannah to gather information on their rivals and further their own aims, the novel can plausibly present each side in the complex story. The Queen’s Fool follows Hannah from ages fourteen to nineteen, and her coming-of-age is interspersed among the historical narrative (see Bildungsroman). The book reached # 29 on the New York Times Best Seller list and had sold 165,000 copies within three weeks of its release. It is a historically attested fact that a female jester was indeed active at the English royal court in the period covered by the book. Very little is known about her; the scarce sources mention her as “Jane Foole”, but it is not sure if this was her real name or a nickname.

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