Gregory, Philippa 1954–
Gregory, Philippa 1954–
PERSONAL: Born January 9, 1954, in Nairobi, Kenya; emigrated to England with family c. 1956; daughter of A.P. (a radio operator and navigator) and Elaine Gregory; married; children: Victoria Chislett. Education: University of Sussex, B.A. (with honors), 1978; University of Edinburgh, M.Litt., 1980, Ph.D., 1984. Politics: "Radical." Hobbies and other interests: Riding, walking, skiing, and gardening
ADDRESSES: Home—Northeast England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins, 77-85 Fulham Palace Rd., London W6 8JB, England. E-mail—[email protected] gregory.com.
CAREER: Writer, journalist, and educator. Provincial journalist for newspapers in England, 1971–75; BBC-Radio, Southampton, England, radio journalist, 1978–80 and 1984–. Has taught at the University of Durham, the Open University and Teeside Polytechnic; Fellow of Kingston University, 1994. Also founding member and vice president of Hartlepool People, a community center for the unemployed and low-paid.
AWARDS, HONORS: Parker Romantic Novel of the Year Award, Romantic Novelists Association, 2002, for The Other Boleyn Girl.
Wideacre, Viking (London, England), 1987, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1988.
The Favoured Child, Viking (London, England), 1989, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1990.
Meridon, Viking (London, England), 1990, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Princess Florizella (children's novel), Kestrel-Kite (England), 1988.
Florizella and the Wolves (children's), illustrated by Patrice Aggs, Walker Books (London, England), 1991, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 1993.
The Wise Woman, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1993.
A Respectable Trade, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
Fallen Skies, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
The Little House: A Novel, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
Perfectly Correct, Acacia Press (England), 1997.
Earthly Joys, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Midlife Mischief, Severn House (New York, NY), 1998.
Virgin Earth, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Bread and Chocolate, HarperCollins (London, England), 2000.
Zelda's Cut, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
The Other Boleyn Girl, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
The Queen's Fool: A Novel, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
The Virgin's Lover, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
The Constant Princess, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
Also author of Draco, Mi Pequeno Dragon, Serres Ediciones. Columnist for Guardian under pseudonym Kate Wedd; contributor of articles and reviews to women's magazines and newspapers.
ADAPTATIONS: The Other Boleyn Girl was adapted as a television film, directed and written by Philippa Lowthorpe for BBC Films, 2003; author's novels have been adapted as audiobooks, including Zelda's Cut, Ul-verscroft, 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Philippa Gregory has achieved success as an academic, journalist, children's writer, and novelist. Her historical novels have earned her critical as well as popular success. She is perhaps best known for the novels in the "Wideacre" trilogy. These novels follow the Laceys, a family of wealthy eighteenth-century English landowners, and show a keen concern for issues of class, specifically the disparity between the riches of those who own land and the poverty of those forced to farm it. The first novel in the series, Wideacre, centers on the evil Beatrice Lacey, who introduces a series of enclosures designed to appropriate land from the villages of Wideacre. Beatrice's avarice ultimately leads to an uprising in which she and her brother are killed. The novel's sequel, The Favoured Child, describes the conflict between Julia Lacey and Richard MacAndrew. Actually siblings, but believing themselves to be cousins, the pair are at odds over the management of Wideacre. Angry over Julia's rejection of the traditional landowner model and jealous of her subsequent success, Richard rapes her and forces Julia into marriage. At the story's climax, Julia gives away their child, Sarah, to a group of gypsies and Richard is killed by their estate manager, who had led the revolt against Beatrice. Meridon, the final story in the series, depicts the return of Sarah Lacey to Wideacre, which has by now become a model estate. In this novel, the land-hungry Lady Havering tries to unite her own estate, which is the antithesis of Wideacre, with Sarah's property through the marriage of Sarah and the Havering heir, a drunken gambler.
Gregory offered another "intense, absorbing" historical drama with her 1993 publication, The Wise Woman, described by a Publishers Weekly contributor as "a grisly drama of passion and witchcraft in 16th-century England." Alys, the protagonist, is raised as an apprentice to a witch, but escapes her life of servitude by joining a religious order. Her peaceful interlude in the abbey is shattered when the place is burned to the ground by the drunken Lord Hugo. She returns to her mistress and is then summoned as a healer to Lord Hugo's castle, where she finds herself attracted to him despite his bloody past. She begins to work witchcraft to destroy his marriage, and finds herself sinking deeper and deeper into evil. "Only a truly shocking gesture can bring about her salvation," noted the Publishers Weekly contributor. "Gregory adeptly manipulates hair-raising horror and mounting suspense, brilliantly evoking the period's turbulent atmosphere."
The author tried her hand at a contemporary tale with The Little House, the story of an upper-middle-class couple and their failing marriage. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that the story "treats familiar,… domestic ground with a horrific tilt," but warned that while "Gregory writes smoothly enough,… her insights into the dysfunctional family are only pedes-trian, laying fallow ground for a surprise ending that neither horrifies nor enlightens." Better-received was her 1998 offering, Earthly Joys. This story concerns John Tradescant, a renowned botanical collector and gardener, who is planning a series of elaborate gardens for Sir Robert Cecil, an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, King James I, and the duke of Buckingham. In that position, he has access to a great deal of privileged information, and is eventually commissioned as a spy to safeguard the security of the kingdom. Booklist contributor Margaret Flanagan called it "a cleverly conceived and executed historical narrative spanning one of the most intriguing and turbulent eras in British history." Kathy Piehl noted in the Library Journal that the "strong plotting, intriguing characters, and rich evocation of a time and place will leave readers eager for the promised sequel."
Kate Thompson, commenting on the "Wideacre" trilogy in Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, declared that it is "rightly the focus of any appraisal of Gregory's work," but added that the author's other books also "demonstrate Gregory's power, talent and above all, the sheer readability of her novels."
Gregory once told CA: "The novels in the 'Wideacre' trilogy have all been set in the eighteenth century—a period I am familiar with from my doctoral research and one of those crucial periods in which decisions determined the whole future of the country. In the case of England's agricultural revolution the decision was made to starve the poor for the greater profit of the landlords. The legacy of that decision in terms of class snobbery and hardship for low-paid working people is still with us today.
"Since I completed Meridon I have found myself writing short stories and increasing my work in children's fiction. I love writing for children because I enjoy their sense of humor—I always test out my stories on my daughter and her friends."
Despite her forays into children's books, Gregory has continued to produce a wide range of historical fiction as well as some modern-day tales. In Virgin Earth, the author tells the story of John Tradescant the younger, a royal gardener who travels from England to Virginia to look for new plants for the King's gardens. He soon meets up with the Powhatan Indians and is helped in his search for plants by the Indian maiden Suckahanna. John eventually returns to England and marries only to flee from political turmoil in England and sail back to Virginia, where he is rescued by the Powhatans in the wilderness, joins the tribe, and then faces a test of his loyalties as the tribe wants him to help them kill settlers. Deborah Rysso, writing in Booklist, called the story a "fascinating account of one man's life in two different worlds."
Gregory tells a modern-day tale of a writer with financial problems and an identity crisis in Zelda's Cut. Isobel Latimer is a literary novelist who turns to writing popular trashy novels in order to earn money. However, not only does Isobel write under the new pen name of Zelda Vere, she also makes appearances as Zelda, disguised to look like a sexy blonde instead of her more matronly everyday real self. When her first novel becomes a bestseller, Isobel, or Zelda, finds herself propelled into a jet set world of sex and drugs that threatens her already unhappy marriage. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "knows whereof she speaks when she describes television interviews and book deals." Bonnie Johnston, writing in Booklist, commented that the author's "deftly written tale offers a great deal of insight into the human soul."
Returning to England's past for the setting of her novel The Other Boleyn Girl, Gregory tells the story of Mary Boleyn, who was a mistress of Henry VIII before her sister, Anne Boleyn, went on to marry the king. Told through the eyes of Mary, readers are given a new perspective on the intrigues of the King and the disastrous fate of Anne. "Gregory captures not only the dalliances of court but the panorama of political and religious clashes throughout Europe," wrote Kathy Piehl in the Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the novel a "fresh, wonderfully vivid retelling of the story."
In the Queen's Fool, teenage Hannah Green, a Jewish refugee along with her father from the Spanish Inquisition, is masquerading as a boy so she can work in her father's sixteenth-century Tudor print shop. When Lord Dudley visits the shop on business, he learns that Hannah has the gift of second sight and engages her to be the King's fool and to spy on Edward VI's sister Mary, a Catholic who eventually succeeds the Protestant Edward when he dies. Although Hannah has grown close to Mary, she once again follows Dudley's orders and becomes close to Mary's sister Elizabeth as well. As a result, Hannah finds herself caught up in further court intrigue as Mary lashes out against the Protestants and Elizabeth soon faces the possibility of execution. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the novel "another intelligent and engrossing tale of Tudor England from Gregory."
Gregory remains in the world of the Tudors with The Virgin's Lover. Elizabeth has survived the threat to her life and is the newly crowned Queen. Lord Dudley is also on hand as he woos the Queen despite his being married. Meanwhile, Dudley essentially casts aside his wife, Amy Robsart Dudley, who suffers as the scandalous relationship between her husband and the Queen becomes common knowledge. "Gregory weaves an engrossing tale of passion, love, and betrayal," wrote Anna M. Nelson in the Library Journal. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "readers addicted to Gregory's intelligent, well-researched tales of intrigue and romance will be enthralled."
Once again setting her story in Tudor England, Gregory focuses on Katherine of Aragon in her novel The Constant Princess. The teenage daughter of the King and Queen of Spain, Katherine has been promised in marriage to Prince Arthur, who will one day become King of England. Arthur dies only two years after they are married. But he first tells his wife to marry the younger Prince Harry to still fulfill her destiny as the future Queen. Kathy Piehl, writing in the Library Journal, described Katherine as a "vulnerable and complex character." A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote: "Gregory makes the broad sweep of history vibrant and intimate—and hinges it all on a bit of romance."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Booklist, May 1, 1993, Jim Jeske, review of Florizella and the Wolves, p. 1588; October 1, 1993, Denise Perry Donavin, review of The Wise Woman, p. 195; October 15, 1996, Liz Rifken, review of The Little House: A Novel, p. 404; September 15, 1998, Margaret Flanagan, review of Earthly Joys, p. 199; November 1, 1999, Deborah Rysso, review of Virgin Earth, p. 508; January 1, 2001, Bonnie Johnston, review of Zelda's Cut, p. 915.
Entertainment Weekly, November 26, 2004, Missy Schwartz, review of The Virgin's Lover, p. 123; December 9, 2005, Jessica Feder, review of The Constant Princess, p. 94.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2003, review of The Queen's Fool: A Novel, p. 1329; October 1, 2005, review of The Constant Princess, p. 1046.
Library Journal, July, 1989, Ellen R. Cohen, review of The Favored Child, p. 108; October 15, 1993, M.E. Chitty, review of The Wise Woman, p. 87; October 1, 1996, Caroline M. Hallsworth, review of The Little House, p. 404; September 1, 1998, Kathy Piehl, review of Earthly Joys, p. 213; December, 1999, Kathy Piehl, review of Virgin Earth, p. 185; April 15, 2002, Kathy Piehl, review of The Other Boleyn Girl, p. 125; September 15, 2004, Anna M. Nelson, review of The Virgin's Lover, p. 48; October 1, 2005, Kathy Piehl, review of The Constant Princess, p. 65.
New Statesman, April 8, 1988, Carole Morin, review of Wideacre, p. 27.
New Statesman & Society, June 19, 1992, Kay Parris, "Mrs. Hartley and the Growth Centre," p. 24.
New York Times Book Review, November 1, 1998, Betsy Groban, review of Earthly Joys, p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, December 26, 1986, Sybil Steinberg, review of Wideacre, p. 48; May 12, 1989, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Favored Child, p. 284; June 8, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Meridon, p. 47; October 4, 1993, review of The Wise Woman, p. 64; September 9, 1996, review of The Little House, p. 66; July 6, 1998, review of Earthly Joys, p. 50; December 4, 2000, review of Zelda's Cut, p. 54; May 27, 2002, review of The Other Boleyn Girl, p. 38; September 20, 2004, review of The Virgin's Lover, p. 43.
School Library Journal, May, 1993, JoAnn Rees, review of Florizella and the Wolves, p. 105.
Philippa Gregory Home Page, http://www.philippagregory.com (May 23, 2006).