In March I read 5 books, the first 4 books in The Cousins’ War series by Philippa Gregory and a book about Fermat’s Last Theorem.
I’ll start my post with the first 4, as I loved them so much. I only planned to read 2 of them, but I was so eager to read another page and another chapter that I finished the books much faster. I have two more books in this series, after that I will continue with The Tudor Court series.
The books are fictional, but follow the historical truth. As I didn’t study in UK, most facts were new to me. I imagine the 1400s history was taught in school. Even if you know the history and how “it ends up”, the books are still exciting to read. After reading each book, I looked online for more information. I would gladly read them again.
The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
The Lady of the Rivers is the first book in The Cousins’ War series, also known as the Wars of The Roses. The main character in the book is Jacquetta of Luxembourg. She was, by far, my favourite heroine. I liked everything about her and she has a bit of magic, just to make it more special and less a historic compendium. The book starts in 1430 when Jacquetta was a child that interacted with Joan of Arc, before her death in 1431. Her first marriage, to the Duke of Bedford is interestingly presented. But I love how the book evolves when she is a widow and falls in love with her second husband, Richard Woodville. Their story and their love is beautiful, they had 14 children and I imagine that they loved each other very much in real life, considering that they got married in secret and he was a squire without a title, but she was the Dowager Duchess and the eldest daughter of Peter I of Luxembourg.
She served as Lady-in-waiting to the Queen Margaret of Anjou and I really enjoyed that part of the story too. She was trying to give council to the Queen and she remained faithful to her even if she had her doubts. I like how she is presented loving her children. The book ends in 1464, I think too early. I would have liked it to end in 1472, before her death.
I loved this book, it made me want to learn more about their history and I wanted to read the following books.
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
The story of the White Queen is about Elizabeth Woodville, Queen consort of England as the spouse of King Edward IV. The story begins in 1464 and ends in 1485. As with the first book, I would have preferred it to end later, maybe in 1487-1490.
I like Elizabeth a lot. She is strong and beautiful, she wants what’s best for her children and will fight for them. She, as her mother, has magical powers, obviously fiction, but works great for a story in the 15th century. Her first husband died and left her with two boys, she sought help from Edward and they fell in love and marry in secret. She had a lot of children with Edward, a husband that she loved and that is obvious throughout the book. The only thing I didn’t like is that she arranged marriages for her relatives without considering their feelings. Although that was expected at the time and even so, with so many uprisings and treachery, that was the only option to keep everybody safe for as long as she could.
She is the mother of the Princes in the Tower. In the book, Phillipa offers an alternative and I think she is right, Elizabeth wouldn’t have released her 2nd boy to Richard. A fascinating book, I liked it a lot.
The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby is the main character in the 3rd book in this series. I liked the book a lot, but I couldn’t stand Lady Margaret. She is the mother of King Henry VII. The book starts in 1453, when the real Margaret would have been 9 years old. In the book is not mentioned the first marriage when she was 1-3 years old and I think that is strange.
She is to be married with Edmund Tudor and she lived in Wales with him and his brother. She will have a son, Henry. After Edmund’s death, she will marry Sir Henry Stafford. I think Sir Henry was my favourite character in this book. I loved how he was thinking of everything through his own conscience and not following orders because he had to. As he said: “I am not a hound to yelp at the hunting horn”. Sadly, he died in battle. His wife, Lady Margaret, is presented as a moody teenager that doesn’t understand what war really means and that is too involved in her prayers and too consumed by her wanting of power.
She justified everything she was doing by saying God told her so, even murder or going to war. She is presented as a very religious lady, which I’m sure it was just as she was in real life, but a hypocrite none the less.
Her last marriage with Thomas Stanley was a political move, nothing to do with love, but only her desire to put Henry on the throne. The book ends in August 1485, when she succeeded in her plans, Richard III is killed in battle and Henry is made king.
The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory
The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the story of Anne Neville. I think Philippa told the story of Anne and King Richard III in the best possible light, considering what happened. Anne is the daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Her sister Isabel is married with George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence. Her father failed in placing George, brother of King Edward, on the throne. So, Anne has to marry Edward of Westminster, another possible heir to the throne, at her father’s wishes, but their marriage lasts for only a few months as he is killed in battle. She falls in love with Richard, 2nd brother of King Edward IV and escapes from her sister and brother’s-in-law keeping. They marry in secret and Richard takes half of her inheritance, while George takes the other half.
In the book, she and her sister are terrified by Queen Elizabeth. They think the Queen hates them because their father killed Elizabeth’s father and brother. They also think Elizabeth has magical powers. I’ve read a few reviews of all four books and some complain about the magical part. I don’t agree, I think they were afraid of witches and magic. In the 15th century medicine was limited and the understanding of natural phenomenons was limited too. It was a time when they used blessed birth girdles so they don’t die in childbirth.
I liked Anne to start with, but by the end of the book I didn’t like her anymore. I don’t like Richard either. They were greedy and traitors to King Edward’s legacy. While I don’t think Richard killed his nephews, he already had his mother in law declared dead while she was still living in one of his castles so he can have her fortune, he could have kept the boys in the Tower until their death.
Fermat’s Enigma – Three centuries of mathematical challenge by Albert Violant i Holz
The book was very interesting. It starts with the Babylonian base 60 number system, it was fun to understand it. The author also talks about the Pythagora’s theorem as a base for the Fermat’s Enigma. Fermat was born in early 17th century, 1601 – 1608. He was a lawyer who loved mathematics and he was part of mathematical circles. He loved reading books and making notes on the margin of the papers.
One of these notes was: “It is impossible for a cube to be the sum of two cubes, a fourth power to be the sum of two fourth powers, or in general for any number that is a power greater than the second to be the sum of two like powers. I have discovered a truly marvellous demonstration of this proposition that this margin is too narrow to contain”.
xn + yn = zn has no solutions
We already know this can be true for n=2, it’s Pythagora’s theorem. For n bigger than 2 it proved almost impossible to demonstrate. There were demonstrations for n = 3, n = 7, but not for all. Unless it’s proven, it’s only a indication and not a scientific tool. It happened before, Euler’s equation was thought not to have solutions: x4 + y4 + 4 = w4. It was thought it’s correct for all cases, until 1988 when, with the aid of a computer, a mathematician discovered that:
2,682,4404 + 15,365,6394 + 187,9604 = 20,615,6734. This is why a proof is needed.
The British mathematician Andrew Wiles managed to find the proof after years of working alone most of the time, in the 1990s. It’s amazing that it took so many mathematicians so many years to find the proof.