John Guy reads his compelling biography of Mary, Queen of Scots himself, bringing his years of experience in lecture halls to this more intimate medium. His portrait sets Mary squarely into a time that in turn sends her careening down her doomed path and into the popular imagination. Guy seems to understand his strengths as an audio performer and steers away from investing each character in the tableau with a unique voice. He delivers his captivating story in a clear, unadorned way, which neither adds to nor detracts from the spellbinding text.
John Guy draws on sources, many previously unstudied, as varied as the secret communiques of English spies and Mary's own letters.
Dispelled is the ingrained popular image of Mary as a romantic leading lady, achieving her ends through feminine wiles, driven by love to murder, undone by passion and bad judgment. We come to see her as an emotionally intricate woman and an adroit diplomat, maneuvering ingeniously among a dizzying array of factions who sought to control or dethrone her. Guy's investigation of Mary's storied downfall throws sharp new light on questions that have baffled historians for centuries, and offers convincing new evidence that she was framed for the murder for which she was beheaded.
©2004 John Guy; (P)2004 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
"Reads as thrillingly as a detective story, and is rich in detail and authoritative in its analysis." (The Sunday Times)
"Mary's is a complicated story, as were Scottish politics at the time, but Guy explicates the complications...with both authority and clear illumination." (Booklist)
Painter, musician, bibliophile...
I am certainly no expert on the life of Mary Stuart: I read this biography after Leonie Frieda's "Catherine de Medici" because I wanted to learn more about her highly romanticized daughter-in-law. That said, I enjoyed this book tremendously. I found Mary to be not only a tragic figure, but strong, complicated, and somewhat elusive. Mary's judgment in men was famously bad, and this biography illustrates just what kind of men Darnley and Bothwell were, to horrific effect. Elizabeth I comes off as rather despicable, as one might expect. All characters are well-drawn.
The author reads his own work. That is the only thing I would change, not because the reading was particularly bad, but because he reads very fast and does not pace the excellent story as well as a professional reader or actor might.
The author reads this gripping condensation of his award-winning book with the energy and diction of a trained Shakespearean actor. The story moves along as though written by a Hollywood screen writer but in fact contains details only a dedicated scholar could uncover and an expert writer know how to knit into the plot, which unfolds like a Shakespearean tragedy. The author makes it clear that although he loves his subject he is not blind to her faults and weaknesses. All the secondary characters, including Elizabeth I and Lord Cecil, emerge in high relief. The language is enhanced by his excerpts from original documents. Highly recommended for anyone who loves English and Scottish history and the English language.
John Guy skims the surface of history. There is literally nothing here that someone interested in this woman or this era could not get from a couple of hours on the internet. Nicely read, though.
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