Continuing with the 2019 Alphabet Variation Challenge:
For letter “D,” I read Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, published in 1951, which is a bit of a cheat since this is not a romance, but a mystery. One of the best, in fact. However, nothing in this particular instruction says it must be a romance and this book has been in my TBR pile for quite some time….
In any event, The Daughter of Time is a fairly short book of 185 pages, but it’s dense in information about British royal history, dating back to Richard II.
I’m not familiar with Tey’s other work, so I was unaware that the protagonist of this mystery, Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, is the lead in a series of detective novels written by this author. I came to the book strictly by virtue of its focus, i.e., an investigation into whether Richard III really did order the killing of his two princely nephews residing in the Tower of London, as well as the disposal of other family members.
The conceit of this story is pretty clever. Inspector Grant, who is laid up in a rehabilitation hospital due to a serious fall that has left him with a broken leg, has nothing to occupy his active mind. His friends and co-workers visit him, leaving behind flowers, books, and puzzles, but he’s still restless. Finally, Grant’s actress friend Marta figures out what might engage him and brings along a stack of prints of various historical figures, most of whom were the center of mysteries or conspiracies in the past. She recalls Grant’s interest in reading people, discovering whether he can look at their faces and tell what their characters and personalities might be. Through this exercise, Grant comes across a portrait of the notorious King Richard III. Initially unaware of who he is, Grant surmises that this man might be an academic, a scholar, or a judge. He’s astounded to find out the fellow is Richard III, and he toys with the notion that maybe “historians” have gotten it wrong about him, intentionally or not.
When Marta sees Grant’s interest in revisiting the history of Richard, she asks a young American man, who has been dating a fellow actress, to stop in and see Grant. Brent Carradine, when not hanging around the theater waiting on his lady love, has been doing historic research at the British Museum. Once Brent visits Grant, he is delighted to help him, and soon enough, they work together to ferret out letters, diaries, and documents, contemporary to Richard’s time, to try and discover the real man, rather than relying on historical accounts written decades later by third parties with axes to grind or personages to protect.
Through this fascinating exercise, Tey paints a compelling account of the relationships between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists. And, most importantly, focuses on familial relationships, revealing the true nature of Richard III and his usurper Henry VII. Frankly, afterwards, you will never look at historical accounts the same way again. This was an entertaining “A+” read for me. The only downside was the fact that there were so many “Henrys,” “Edwards,” and “Richards” in the family, that there were times one needed to re-read paragraphs and review the royal family tree over and over. (Fortunately, one was included in the book.) But in the end, you might find yourself doing some independent research of your own, as you find yourself questioning all of your assumptions about the infamous Richard.
The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 3 down, 16 to go (D, M, S …)