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The Last Queen by C W Gortner (2009-01-08)

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Review Text

  • By Cathy G. Cole on September 1, 2015

    I read quite a bit of European history when I was in high school and college, and all I knew of Juana of Castile was her nickname: Juana La Loca-- Joanna the Mad. The nickname intrigued me because even then I knew that everyone who was referred to as mad wasn't necessarily so. If someone has something that you want, one of the best ways to get it from them is to make people believe they're crazy.Gortner portrays Juana as a brave, intelligent, and passionate woman whose strengths were used against her. The story is told from Juana's point of view, and as I read I became her staunch defender. I kept wondering why Isabella would send her daughter off with-- basically-- no weapons in her arsenal, no champions of substance to fight in her corner. It's as though Isabella thought she had super blood that would transmit everything to her offspring that her daughter could possibly need. As my own levels of anger and frustration mounted, I kept reminding myself of my reading all those years ago, those random mentions of Juana La Loca, and I knew what would happen, but that didn't keep me from becoming emotionally involved in a centuries-old story.It is true that winners are the ones who write the histories, but thanks to historians, teachers, and the talents of authors like C.W. Gortner, we can still learn about the losers, many of whom deserved much better than they received.

  • By Helen R. Davis on June 25, 2014

    CW Gortner is a very good writer. He truly makes his subjects come to life. The Last Queen, a novel of Juana la Loca, just recently transported me back to 15th/16th century Europe.Juana tells her own story and as the novel progresses she grows from a spoiled infanta into a woman determined to be loyal to her mother's legacy. Gortner's descriptions of Flanders, France, England and Spain come to life with his desciptions of sight, sound, and smells. Juana is the star of the show, but Isabella and Catherine also shine in this novel. Philip and Ferdinand are also well drawn out.In addition to sending me back 500 years, this novel also narrates very well the horrors of being a woman in a time of deep seated, full blown patriarchy. Juana is queen of Spain but in reality she has nothing. Philip's philandering and physical abuse are considered his rights and Juana cannot defend herself. Worse, this is no fairy tale ending as she loses her rights to rule and is locked away. While Queen of Spain, Juana is powerless to help her sister in EnglandThis was an engrossing read and I could not put it down, but at the end of the last page, I was grateful to close the book and leave Juana's world. This book, while illuminating a forgotten era, will let all ladies be deeply grateful they were not born in the 15th century. Enough cannot be said for women's rights, religious freedom, and proper medical care. 5 stars.

  • By Catwoman on June 16, 2017

    Before I read this novel, the only things I knew of Juana of Spain were that she was Katherine of Aragon's sister and that she was called "Juana the Mad." Therefore, I was pleased to learn about her life, the choices she made (and that were made for her), and about the interaction with and her feelings for her parents, especially her father. The author explores the probability that Juana may not have been "mad," that she possibly suffered from what we know of today of bipolar disorder, and that this disorder may have run in her family. All in all, a very interesting read.

  • By CC on August 15, 2016

    I chose this book for an easy history lesson on Spain prior to traveling there. I got much more than I asked for. Gortner writes with an inviting voice that portrays emotions very well, allowing me to suffer through the years with Juana. The understanding I gained of the royals and their disbursement throughout Europe was wonderful. I was not aware that Isabella had planned so well for her daughters. I wish the author had spent more of her talent on the environs. With that said, this was a book that I didn't want to put down and I would definitely recommend it for anyone interested in historical fiction.

  • By Jennifer Rothwell on December 31, 2013

    I really enjoyed this novel. I had previously read Julia Fox's biography "Sister Queens" of both Catherine of Aragon and her sister Juana 'the Mad' and was therefore intrigued to read a novel from Juana's perspective.I think the perspective that C.W. Gortner decided to give of Juana is wonderful. We can clearly see how her actions could have been perceived as 'madness' but at the same time are given insight into Juana's life that allow a different light to be cast upon the events that played a part in labeling her mad. Considering everything she went through, not to mention the part her husband played in declaring her insane, it is no small wonder that she had such an emotional and volatile nature. The love match that is portrayed by Gortner between Juana and Phillip was so fierce and therefore when things started to turn sour this, too, became fierce. Strong love can so easily become strong hate, and I believe this is what happened between Juana and Phillip.The way Gortner explored the relationship between Juana and her parents, King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile, was very interesting. His novel "The Queen's Vow" focuses upon Isabella and I enjoyed that novel greatly, so it was interesting to see how Isabella was perceived through her daughter's eyes. Gortner chose to show Juana as closer to her father, which makes it all the more shocking when faced with what her father did to Juana after her husband's death. I knew what was coming, but I still felt great sorrow for Juana when I read the last few chapters of the novel. Gortner had created a character that I had become close to, and it has inspired me to feel great empathy for this victimized queen.I am glad Gortner chose to end the novel when he did--upon Juana's arrival at Tordesillas--as the character in this novel would no doubt have suffered greatly due to her forced confinement. I feel as though Gortner is suggesting that Juana's madness truly did occur after her imprisonment in Tordesillas and not before. Perhaps she had a predisposed nature to such mental illness, but if her life had not turned out the way it did maybe she would not have had the same amount of trouble. Food for thought.


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