I’m probably not the only person who left The Favourite who wanted to learn more about Queen Anne. And although novels aren’t where we’d find facts, I saw that this one had been highly recommended for anyone who enjoyed the film.
The novel does not take place during the era of the film, but does feature many of the characters, particularly Sarah Churchill. We follow Anne through her childhood in Charles II’s court, through her life under her father’s hated reign and overthrow, to her sister’s time as co-regnant with William of Orange. Throughout it all we go with Anne and see her develop as a wife and mother, experiencing the tragedies she endures along the way. The novel ends just as she is about to become queen.
The novel never quite finds its rhythm and feels like the author wanted to show her research but was unsure how to do so in a way that felt as accessible as, say, Phillipa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl. I often felt that reading the novel was harder than it should have been and I did not enjoy the parts of the story that were written as letters in a difficult-to-read font. Anne herself does not come across as very much at all- yes, she’s vapid and difficult as played by Olivia Colman, and we feel desperate compassion for her as she loses her children one after the other, but she’s not of very much substance otherwise. It feels odd that someone who has a whole novel hung on her shoulders feels almost transparent. Maybe this is as a result of the fact that Queen Anne has been neglected by biographers and that those that have looked at her have been highly influenced by the memoirs of the woman who was once her closest friend yet became her biggest enemy.
All in all, a bit of a disappointing read. I do have a biography of the infamous Mrs Churchill to read, but I might try and save that for once I’ve read some other, non-Queen Anne stuff!
Format: paperback, gifted as part of Big Green Bookshop’s Buy a Stranger a Book Day on Twitter.