18 February 2009

Fallen Skies (Philippa Gregory)

Philippa Gregory used to be a sure thing.
Oh, I wouldn't say she writes well.
At all.
I would say she knows EXACTLY how much factual information to insert into her historical fiction; and she is able to gauge to within a paragraph when our attention is beginning to wane so she can slip in a bodice-ripping scene or two. No problem really... that's my kind of thing and it's why I read her. There's nothing better to curl up with on a rainy day than hot chocolate and loved-up Tudors who could, at any minute, lose their heads.

However, lately, Gregory has been stumbling a bit, churning out any old rubbish and hoping mega ruffs and her name on the cover is all that is needed to sell the books. The Other Queen (2008) was absolute junk: Gregory turned one of the most fascinating women in English history (Mary Queen of Scots) into a boring, vacuous Mills and Boon heroine; and the plot read like a Radio 4 dramatisation on a particularly off day.

I thought perhaps Gregory was losing her touch and needed some sort of getaway at a historical fiction writer's spa. The sort of place where authors swan around in velvet, empire-waisted gowns with ridiculous sleeves and talk about codpieces and how Henry VIII is so over right now, their faces plastered in mashed haggis.
Mashed haggis?
Because I can, that's why.

However, having just finished Fallen Skies which came out in 1993 I have come to the realisation that Gregory's success with The Other Boleyn Girl and the others in the Tudor series was perhaps a fluke and now she is regressing back to where she began.

Fallen Skies was, first of all, a complete disappointment between the bedsheets. Our heroine Lily (who is quite, quite annoying) has two lovers: one is her husband Stephen who prefers her to impersonate a starfish during the act so she doesn't display wanton desires; and the other is Charlie, her true love, who had his man bits blown off during the war.
WHY, Philippa, WHY?

Then of course, we have the sinister nanny who we are immediately suspicious of. Several of her previous charges have died in mysterious circumstances. The author appears to forget about this as the nanny is phased out of the story and never returns. Misleading the reader is something I do not look favourably upon so this added to the fact that she led me on in thinking Stephen was gay made me doubly peeved. (I was sure all that time he spent with his mute chauffeur eating grilled cheese sandwiches was fishy. Apparently not.)
Gregory also appears to lose any enthusiasm she may have had for finishing the novel properly. It is a slow, sexually frustrated snail of a book until the last chapter, when it finishes so quickly, with no resolutions or sense, that we can only assume that's when the plot line of The Other Boleyn Girl came to her and she rattled off the end any which way.

Much as I'm doing now...

Rating: 5/10.
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