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Book 79: The Last Queen by C. W. Gortner

Book 79: The Last Queen.
Author: C. W. Gortner, 2006.
Genre: Historical Fiction. 16th Century.
Other Details: Large Print Hardback. 520 pages.

Married at sixteen. A queen at twenty-five. Declared insane and locked up by the men she adored. Juana "la Loca" - the last true queen of Spain. Juana - daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella and sister to Catherine of Aragon - is a woman ruled by her passions. Her arranged marriage to Philip the Fair of Flanders begins as a fairytale romance when, despite never having met before their betrothal, they fall desperately in love. She was never meant to be more than his consort and mother to his heirs; but, after tragedy decimates her family, she finds herself heiress to the throne of Spain. Suddenly Juana is plunged into a ruthless battle of ambition and treachery, with the future of Spain and her own freedom at stake. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

I feel that Gortner deserved top marks for this fictional autobiography of Queen Juana of Spain. I knew little about her until I had read Gortner's book about her mother, The Queen's Vow, which inspired me to seek this out. I now feel that I have a better appreciation of her role in the history of Spain and Europe.

The novel is narrated by Juana telling of her experiences from childhood through to her incarceration as a young woman for 'madness'. It is written in an accessible style though the depth of Gortner's research was obvious. In his afterword Gortner describes the difficulty in dealing with historical sources written by men with a vested interest in portraying this young queen as unfit to rule. He creates a sympathetic portrait of Juana throughout.

I enjoyed the novel very much though aware from the outset that its ending was going to be tragic as Juana was betrayed again and again by the men she loved; spending almost two-thirds of her life incarcerated.

C. W. Gortner's Page on 'The Last Queen' - contains excerpt, audio sample and Q and A on the novel.
Tags: historical fiction
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