Wednesday, January 12, 2011

As promised, a book review

Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner

There were many things I liked about this book. There were some things I think could have been done better. Overall, it is an interesting story of two Janes, one contemporary and one historical. Susan Meissner interweaves a fictional interpretation of the historical story of Jane Grey, Queen of England and the modern day Jane Lindsay, Manhattan wife, mother, daughter and antique store manager. The author takes extreme liberty with the historical Queen Jane, of which very little is known, and makes that part of the story very interesting. I found the current day Jane much less interesting and I wish she had developed the character more.

The gist of the story is that New York Jane finds an antique ring with a puzzling inscription and the name ‘Jane” inscribed on it and she theorizes it could have belonged to Queen Jane. We are transported through the eyes and voice of Lucy Day, a dressmaker, to 16th century England and all the political and religious upheaval of the day, and a fictional account of a young girl who seemingly has no say in the choices that are made for her. Then we are brought back to New York Jane , who it seems has also let others make decisions for her. Her husband has decided they need time apart, and she is taken completely off balance, not expecting it and trying to make sense of the situation.

Meissner’s writing style is not what I am used to so it took me a long time to get the rhythm of her style. The character development of Queen Jane was fuller, albeit mostly fictional, than the modern Jane. I wish the author had developed her character more and the character of her son, Connor. It would have been interesting to see how the decisions his parents made impacted him.

I did find it difficult to keep track of all the characters in the 16th century story, and even though there was a brief character ‘tree’ at the beginning of the book, it would have been very helpful to have a complete list and explanation of characters. I also would have liked a dictionary of 16th century terms.

All in all, after I finally got into the rhythm of Meissner’s style, I found I could not put the book down. While she couldn’t change the historical outcome of Queen Jane’s life, it was very enjoyable and intriguing to imagine what her life may have been like. Even days after reading this book, I am left wondering why there is so little know about the Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England. However, the reader is left with doubts as to the outcome of New York Jane’s life.

In the end, I think what Meissner wants the reader to come away with is that life if full of choices. It doesn’t matter where you live, what century you live in, what your circumstances are, we all have choices. Even to not make a choice, to go along with the status quo, is a choice in itself.

This review is my honest opinion. Thanks to WaterBrook Press who provided me with a free copy of this book for reviewing purposes.

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