February 24, 2011

The Favored Child by Philippa Gregory: Review

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Look out! There will be spoilers from Wideacre in this review. If you plan on reading it (God help you), skip this review.

The Favored Child by Philippa Gregory is the second book in the Incestuous Gentry Folk saga that started with Wideacre (my review). Beatrice and Harry's two children, Julia and Richard, are being raised as cousins. This is the first indication that things are going to get weird because while sibling-love is a no-no, cousin-loving is a-okay at this time. Plus, Julia says uncomfortable things like, "how I looooove Richard. He is so wonderful. We'll get married and take care of Wideacre together." Unfortunately, even though she doesn't know that he is her brother/cousin, she also can't see that he is a big jerk.

They live in the Dower House on the Wideacre property with their Mama-Aunt Celia (I didn't make that one up) because the big house was burned down when Beatrice went crazy and ruined everything. They're relatively poor but not as poor as the people of Acre who have their children taken away to work in factories. They have hope though. The village is waiting for "The Favored Child" of Beatrice's blood to make everything better. Since Richard is the official child of Beatrice, he would be the obvious choice. However, the villagers hate that guy because he is a big jerk and also animals hate him, which if you watch horror movies is a bad sign. Julia, on the other hand, loves the land and is nice to people and animals so everyone wants her to be the new squire. Also, she inherited the Lacey Land Lust and thinks Wideacre is the Bestest Place on Earth.

Funny Pictures - Dramatic Animals Gifs
Richard: The Horror!!!

Richard does not like being in second place so he makes Julia miserable with his bullying, telling her not to put herself forward because it's unwomanly and who does she think she is anyway. Instead of punching him in the face, she cries and says, "Yes, Richard. Whatever you want" which turns him into a bigger jerk. Celia is completely oblivious to all these goings on since she's busy stitching the linens together.

This section is a little spoilery but really it only takes you to the half-way point in the book.

Then Richard's "Dad",  John, returns from India with enough money to get Wideacre out of the hole, build a new house, grow crops and buy the family nice things again. Yay! Everything is coming up roses! Too bad it didn't end there. John hires Ralph Megson as the property manager, not knowing that he was The Culler from the last book who brought Beatrice to her doom. Ralph tells Julia who he is and she's all, "oh no!" but doesn't tell anyone because the villagers trust him and she doesn't want to rock the boat. Ralph is not a bad guy for a murderer though. He has a feeling about Julia and when she gets The Sight and saves the village he is in her corner. Unfortunately, Julia's family is not too keen on her new found talent and send her off to Bath where she has a nice normal life for a little while. All good things must come to an end and when she returns to Wideacre the shit hits the fan.

*******End of Spoiler********

Oh Ms. Gregory, you know how to spin a crazy yarn! I didn't think things could be loonier than Wideacre but The Favored Child tops it. It's like you kept thinking up horrible things to happen and threw them in the plot. It is horrifyingly fascinating. I enjoyed it very much.

Like most of Gregory's other novels, The Favored Child is loooooong crammed with detail of the lives of the Wideacre folk. I thought it could have been about 100 pages shorter. I was getting tired of Julia's misery and anxious for the end. However, even though it was long, it was well written. I think she was at her peak when she wrote this.

Poor deluded Julia. She could have avoided so much if she had told someone she suspected Richard was a psychopath. Instead, she made excuses for him. And the adults. Hello, get a clue people. A little talk of the "your cousin is your brother" kind would have helped. How in the world could Celia live with these kids 24/7 and not feel what way the wind was blowing? She was in complete denial.

I'm looking forward to the last in this series, Meridon to find out how things are going to turn out for the last of the Lacey family but think I need a little break from Gregory's wordiness.

Recommended if you've read Wideacre- you need to read this too.

9 comments :

  1. I read Wideacre last year in the spring but just could not get over the incestuous nature of the characters. I owned the whole series at the time and gave all of them away. It actually scared me off of Gregory for awhile, but I just started The Queen's Fool.

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  2. Christina- It really is a train wreck of a book. It was way over the top. I just kept in mind that the characters were all immoral and that gave me license to enjoy it. Poor Julia on the other hand is a victim of Wideacre and it was rather uncomfortable for me at the end.

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  3. I've only read Philippa Gregory's Tudor books and I love them! I am deliberately avoiding Wideacre because of the mixed reviews.

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  4. I read Wideacre a few years ago and couldn't handle it. I have no burning desire to read anymore of it! It turned me off Gregory for a while there, but I might read more of her books at some point.

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  5. Mischa- I think it's a love/hate kind of book.

    Kelly- If it helps, the narrator is much more sympathetic than Beatrice who was a nightmare.

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  6. A good friend of mine loves Phillipa Gregory - I need to ask her if she's read this series.

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  7. Chris, your review gave me the first good laugh in a rather chilly, dreary day! Thanks a bunch -- although I think I'm going to pass on the series!

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  8. I read the first two books ages ago, sometime in the pre-blogging era, and like you, enjoyed them for the escapist silliness of it all. But for some reason, I never got more than a few pages into Meridon before I put it aside, apparently never to return. I'll be watching to see what you think of that one - maybe I'll pick it up again. :-)

    Love 'the horror' of the animals, by the way!

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  9. I love your reviews! I am about 3/4 of the way through Wideacre right now and I'm trying to decide if I'm going to go on and read Meridon. I think I might skip it and read The Queen's fool.

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