‘The Last White Rose: A Novel of Elizabeth of York’
Alison Weir, a brilliant, prolific biographer of British royalty and first-rate historical novelist, turns her deeply informed imagination to the final years of the War of the Roses (1455-1485) during which the Houses of Lancaster and York fought over the English throne. At the novel’s center is Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV, and sister of Edward V and Richard, Duke of York — the young “princes in the tower,” whose disappearance enabled their uncle to assume the throne as Richard III. Throughout, we see events from Elizabeth’s point of view and feel her vulnerability as a dynastic pawn and legitimate heir to the throne. As Richard courts and ingratiates himself with her, she underestimates his duplicity and lethal cunning. The Battle of Bosworth Field puts an end to Richard, and Elizabeth’s eventual marriage to Henry Tudor puts an end to the war. Rosalyn Landor, one of the very best narrators of blue-blood sagas, brings her low-pitched, regal voice and emotionally compelling empathy to this suspenseful, exceptionally engaging novel. (Recorded Books, Unabridged, 19¾ hours)
Geraldine Brooks sets her latest novel chiefly in mid-19th century American South and Washington D.C. of the recent present. In the first we meet Jarret Lewis, a young enslaved horse trainer. Present at the birth of a foal sired by a renowned stallion, he forms a potent bond with the horse, which, under his tutelage emerges as Lexington, the most famous racehorse and progenitor of racehorses in America of the time. James Fouhey narrates Jarret’s sections, his voice young, his accent and manner picking up Jarret’s agonizing predicament of protecting the horse and himself against the dictates of successive owners. Meanwhile, in 21st century D.C., Theo, a graduate student of Nigerian heritage, forms a fragile romantic relationship with Jess, an Australian scientist at the Smithsonian Institution, where the skeleton of Lexington languishes. The two are perfectly matched with their narrators: Michael Obiora, himself part Nigerian, delivers Theo’s sections, while Katherine Littrell, who grew up in Australia, gives us Jess’s. A couple more storylines weave through the novel, but it is the 19th-century world of enslaved people, of horse flesh and the racetrack, that are most powerfully evoked. (Penguin Audio, Unabridged, 14 hours)
Katherine A. Powers reviews audiobooks every month for The Washington Post.
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