How did your September Challenge go – did you find anything to recommend that fits in this month’s theme of alternate history or viewing history from a different perspective? Let us know in the comments!
Our main title this month was My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, a rollicking good time of twisting history. I thought this was such a fun book – an intriguing (if unlikely) alternative to King Edward VI’s death at a young age in 1553.
If you’re a stickler for historical accuracy then you need to take a pass, but if you delight in witty, clever dialogue and descriptions, are willing to let go of cold, hard, boring facts and are able to accept a bit of magical realism well then, you’re in for a treat.
In history, Lady Jane Grey was the great granddaughter of Henry VII. When her cousin, King Edward VI became ill, he named Jane as his successor instead of his half-sister Mary. Edward choose Jane because she was Protestant and would continue the reformations he and his father, Henry VIII had instituted while Mary was Catholic and wanted to return the country to Catholicism by any means (thus the “Bloody Mary” nickname). And indeed, at Edward’s death, Jane (reluctantly) became Queen. She only lasted nine days though as Mary was able to raise an army and the Privy Council abandoned Jane. At first Jane’s life was spared but later Mary had her executed, fearing continuing support for her. And thus ends a brief reign (and life, she was only 15 or 16 when she died).
My Lady Jane suggests a far different ending for our heroine – and Edward VI. There are many twists and turns, but the story follows the basic facts of Jane’s life only with a far different result (happily!). While this happy ending is pure wishful thinking, the clever combination of fact and maybe make it a fun exercise in contemplating an alternate history.
How did you feel about your alternate history book? Did it open your eyes to a different perspective? Did it contribute to a fuller, more complex, more nuanced view of a historical fact? What if your book was about an individual who gets a chance to take their life on a different path with different choices? Were those choices – which the protagonist often thinks of as better/more glamorous/more fun than their current situation – worth changing for? Or did their current life seem not-so-bad after all?
Be sure to share your observations on this month’s Book Flight in the comments below!