Treason by Meredith Whitford

Treason is the story of Richard III, beginning with his childhood as the youngest son of the Duke of York and moving on through the various battles of the Wars of the Roses, the reign of his brother Edward IV, Richard’s own time as King and his eventual defeat by Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth. The story is narrated by Martin Robsart, one of only a few fictional characters in the book. As Richard’s cousin and closest friend, Martin is present at some of the most important moments in English history.

I thought telling the story from the perspective of Richard’s fictional cousin and best friend worked very well and I could almost believe Martin had really existed. He has his own storylines, including a romance with Innogen Shaxper (another fictional character), but his main role as narrator is to share with us his observations on Richard, Edward and the others.

In Treason, Richard is not portrayed as the evil, scheming hunchback he is often believed to be, thanks to Shakespeare’s play. Instead, he is shown as being brave, intelligent, loyal to his brother, respected by his men, and a loving husband to Anne Neville. And although his reign is so tragically cut short at Bosworth, during his brief time on the throne he proves himself to be a good king. He does have a few faults, but nothing that would make me think he was a man who was capable of murdering his own nephews or committing all the other crimes he’s been accused of. On the subject of the disappearance of the ‘Princes in the Tower’, by the way, the author offers an interesting and believable theory, though not one that I personally think is very likely.

I was impressed with the depth given to the other characters too. I thought Richard’s brother George, Duke of Clarence, was portrayed more sympathetically than in other books I’ve read. He did some terrible things, but I see him more as a person who was weak and easily led, and his eventual fate was, for me, one of the saddest moments of the story. Elizabeth Woodville (Edward IV’s wife) and her family are shown in a very negative light, but it’s worth remembering that we are seeing everybody through Martin’s eyes and as his loyalties lie firmly with Richard it’s understandable that his opinions of other characters aren’t always going to be completely unbiased.

The dialogue is quite modern – too modern at times, maybe – but I know this is something which is very difficult to get exactly right in historical fiction. I find that when an author tries to make the language sound more authentic, it can either work very well or very badly! I didn’t have a problem with the dialogue in this book and I could tell that Meredith Whitford had given a lot of attention to period detail (food, clothing etc) which made the descriptions of fifteenth century life feel very convincing. Battle scenes are an aspect of historical fiction that I sometimes find difficult to follow, but there are only a few in Treason and the author makes them easy to understand by concentrating on Martin’s emotions and personal experiences of the battle rather than giving us pages and pages of military tactics.

Reading Treason was proof, if I needed it, that it’s worth looking beyond the more popular names in historical fiction and taking a chance on a book I had never heard about before. It’s a shame this book is not better known as I’m sure many readers who enjoyed books like Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour or Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time would probably enjoy this one too. And for anyone new to Wars of the Roses fiction, this would also be a good starting point – it makes a very complicated period of history both easy to understand and fun to read about. I loved it!

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Treason by Meredith Whitford

  1. Cat says:

    Shakespeare certainly didn’t do Richard’s reputation any favours. I haven’t heard of this book before but it sounds something I would like. The Sunne in Splendour is an all time favourite.

    • Helen says:

      The Sunne in Splendour is one of my favourites too. I read it a couple of years ago and since then I’ve been constantly looking for more books about Richard! Apart from The Sunne in Splendour, Treason is the best I’ve found so far.

  2. aartichapati says:

    I’ve had this book on my wishlist forever, but I think it’s out of print and I haven’t been able to find it. Glad it was worth the read, though – I heart Richard III.

    • Helen says:

      I love him too! I hope you can find a copy of this book because I think you might enjoy it. I bought a copy from the UK Amazon in December so it’s not out of print here, but I don’t know about the US.

  3. Anbolyn says:

    Oooh, this sounds wonderful! I’m currently reading Wolf Hall and am enjoying seeing previously wooden characters come alive. I don’t really care if it is not 100% historically accurate – I like reading of how things might have been and of how historical figures might have acted – it brings the history to life for me.
    I don’t know much about Richard III beyond the Shakespeare interpretation so this would be a great choice for my next historical novel.

    • Helen says:

      I still haven’t read Wolf Hall, though I do have a copy. I was hoping to read it before the sequel comes out but I don’t know if I’ll have time now. I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

  4. Meredith Whitford says:

    Thank you for such a great review of my Treason! It’s always wonderful to hear that someone has liked one’s book, and Treason is quite dear to me. Re one comment above: Treason is available from the publisher (www.bewrite.net) and Amazon and other sites, in paperback or as an e-book. I have a new novel out, “Shakespeare’s Will”, which is about… Shakespeare: his marriage, love affairs, work. This too is available from the same sources as Treason.

  5. neilmarr says:

    Paperbacks (*Treason* and *Shakespeare’s Will*) available at all major online retailers. All ebook formats, too. But if you want to be sure these are for you … browse. Go to the bookstore at http://www.bewrite.net, click on the titles to reach their individual book pages and then hit ‘Brochure’. That’s a free mini-ebook production including booknotes, author biography and picture, reviews and a generous free excerpt (takes about five seconds to download). Happy reading. Neil Marr. Ed. BeWrite Books

Please leave a comment. Thanks!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s