Book Review: Game of Queens by Sarah Gristwood

Book Review: Game of Queens by Sarah Gristwood


So as I said before, I’ve given up social media for lent (you can read more about that here) and it’s turned my attention back to books again! I’m very glad it has, I’ve missed reading without realising it, if that make any sense at all? Probably not.

Anyway, having realised that I’d read most of the books on our bookshelf already, I headed to Foyles a week or so ago. Just a quick point, FOYLES IS AMAZING AND I WANT TO LIVE THERE. Ahem, moving on I went to Foyles (<3) and picked out two new books. This was the first of them.

Anyone who knows me already knows I love history, mainly British history because that’s what I’ve got the most knowledge in so far and the history of the monarchy fascinates me. I do a battle re-enactment hobby so my main areas of interest are the 17th Century (Cavaliers and Roundheads etc) and having recently read a book about the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and realising my European history of the era is shockingly bad, I spotted this book and thought I’d struck gold. I really had.

Covering the century before, of which I also have a great interest in but less knowledge, it follows the dynastic women of Sixteenth century across all of Western and some of Eastern Europe. It follows their incredible stories, the good, the bad and the ugly and how they navigated the political and religious turmoil of the century using their sexuality and their treatment as inferior to men to their political and social advantage. Being a dynastic woman in the Sixteenth Century required being extremely savvy, one step ahead of the game and prepared to make the best of situations that were more often than not, forced upon you. Some of these women won the game, some quite spectacularly lost but all of them have interesting and valuable stories to tell because of it.

The book is non-fiction but reads like a novel, something I personally find crucial for me to truly take in the information. An albeit slightly confusing novel though, not because of how it’s written, far from it, but because everyone is married pretty much to their own family and lots of them are called Margaret or Mary, Charles or Henry/Henri. So yeah, the family trees at the beginning are your best friend during the reading of this book. (I may have sat on my sofa at one point screaming ‘WHO THE F*** IS JEANNA?!’…)

Sarah Gristwood has told the stories of these women in a way that keeps you hooked and intrigued to find out what turns they took next. It’s an extremely interesting read and one that society these days can still learn a hell of a lot from. A lot has changed in the past 5 centuries, a lot has not.

You don’t need huge amounts of previous knowledge to understand this book, it’s novel-like flow and good explanations of the key political and regligious events make it feel like you’re reading a book and not an essay; therefore complex understanding isn’t needed beforehand.

I’m two thirds of the way through and it’s so good I sometimes wish my commute to and from work was longer so I could read more of it! (I’m genuinely going to read more of it once I’ve finished putting this post together!) I can’t recommend it more to anyone who even has the smallest interest in history or politics.


Title: Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth Century Europe

Author: Sarah Gristwood

RRP: £9.99 (paperback)

Buy from Amazon here.

Buy from Waterstones here

Buy from Foyles here


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