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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book Review: The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots by Carolly Erickson

The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots by Carolly Erickson
Unabridged, 9 hr. 36 min.
BBC Audiobooks America
Rebekah Germain (narrator)
September 3, 2009

Genre: Historical Fiction, YA, Audio Book

Source: Borrowed Audio Book from Library
“Queen of Scotland at six days of age, married as a young girl to the invalid young king of France, Mary took the reins of the unruly kingdom of Scotland as a young widow and fought to keep her throne. A second marriage to her handsome but dissolute cousin Lord Darnley ended in murder and scandal, while a third to the dashing Lord Bothwell, the love of her life, gave her joy but widened the scandal and surrounded her with enduring ill repute.

Unable to rise above the violence and disorder that swirled around her, Mary escaped to England—only to find herself a prisoner of her ruthless, merciless cousin Queen Elizabeth.

Here, in a riveting first-person account, is the enchanting woman whose name still evokes excitement and compassion—and whose death under the headsman’s axe still draws forth our sorrow”
I have had a couple Carolly Erickson novels on my shelf for over a year and just never had the time to pick them up – I have also heard many mixed reviews, which could be another reason why I sort of shied away. But while walking through my new library, I saw this on the audio book shelf and decided that now was as good a time as any.

I have mixed feelings about this book. To start off with the good – it was a very dramatic, attention holding story. From beginning to end there was something going on and I never felt like I was left waiting for something more. With this being a first person narrator driven story, I was very happy to not be left with constant description and limited action. There were also some very helpful date references – without it feeling too diary like – that really helped set the time period for me.

Now for the “I wouldn’t exactly classify it as bad, but not great” – this was a very, very fictionalized retelling of her story. While that is not a bad thing – because this is historical fiction and there was an author note at the end (more on that later) – it seemed unbelievable at times. It is commonly told that Mary was wed to Lord Bothwell (her third husband) by force after he took her hostage and possibly raped her. That is not at all how this happened in this memoir. While not giving anything away, Erickson dramatically changed the character of dear “Jamie” Bothwell, which really changed the whole life story of Mary. These changes would have gone over with me better if Mary was more convincing in her reasoning for the decisions she makes. The character felt very wishy-washy to me. Now in regard to the Author’s Note – I usually want the author to provide some sort of insight into radical changes they made or explain something further (an author with a great hand at composing author notes is Bernard Cornwell!). This authors note was probably around 4 sentences basically saying that she fictionalized many details for the purpose of the story to be told – but didn’t go into any details. I would have liked more.

Overall, if you put the history into the background and just follow the story, it is pretty good. I did find myself enjoying the Bothwell/Mary story. If you are a hard stickler for historical accuracy, I would skip this one. I am very glad I chose this on audio book rather than in hard copy.

As far as the audio part goes, I thought that this narrator did pretty well. She voiced a rather convincing Mary - even if the actual character was very fictionalized.

Author Carolly Erickson also has written many, many other novels, but a few of those are: Rival to the Queen, The Favored Queen, An Unfaithful Queen, and The Spanish Queen.  You can visit Erickson’s author website for additional information about the book.
Reviews of this book by other bloggers:
Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I wonder if because it was YA she shied away from the rape? Who knows...
    Thanks for the review.

    I love Cornwell too - fantastic books!

  2. Pricilla - I could totally understand ignoring the rape - but there could be something in between marrying against her will and a tale of true love.

  3. Nice review -- I've also heard Erickson's books can be a bit uneven. Who was the narrator on this?

  4. Audra - that was what I had heard as well. The narrator was Mary Queen of Scots.


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