The Winter Queen

The Winter Queen

Book - 2002
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Jane Stevenson's Several Deceptions was hailed as one of the outstanding literary debuts of the year 2000. Now, with The Winter Queen, Stevenson confirms her place as a major new talent. This superb novel, the first in a historical trilogy, is a work of extraordinary ambition and range. Set in Holland in the seventeenth century, The Winter Queen is a sweeping portrait of the tumultuous history and politics of the era as well as an immensely moving account of a strange and magical love affair. At its center are two royal exiles: Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Winter Queen, and her clandestine lover, an African prince with shamanic gifts, sold into slavery and freed after years of bondage. Their world is delineated by the illuminating portraiture and exquisite detail of the Dutch paintings of the period. But beneath the light-filled surfaces, crowned heads lie uneasy, scheming princes vie for power, chaos and war threaten in a time of painful uncertainties.
As always with Jane Stevenson's work, The Winter Queen appeals powerfully to both the heart and the mind. This elegant novel is that rare achievement: a brilliant, beautiful, astonishingly learned work that is also wonderfully entertaining.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2002, c2001.
ISBN: 9780618149124
Characteristics: 307 pages ;,22 cm.


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May 06, 2014

17th c. Holland was cosmopolitan enough for Palagius, a free black, to make a way for himself, even if he never felt totally at home. The beginning of this book is his, as this African prince, captured and sold as a slave in the Dutch East Indies, become a fervent Christian, then freed, goes to Holland in hopes of being ordained to return to the Indies to serve his countrymen. He becomes instead a doctor, using both western medicine and African methods, while remaining a strict Christian. He meets the exiled widow, Elizabeth of Bohemia, and his life is overturned. He becomes her secretary. Won't spoil the wonderfully complex plot. The writing is wonderful, especially in exploring the personalities of these very different people. They are very rounded characters, in both their public and private spheres. The novel tries to take in the wider context of Europe at a very important time period, but while the history seems correct, it doesn't have the pizzaz of the two central characters.

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