Usually when I proclaim a historical girl crush, it’s my platonic adoration of a female historical figure. This time, it’s heartfelt admiration for a gifted historian, Helen Castor. I first came across her work when I saw the three-part series SHE-WOLVES based upon her book of the same name. I ADORE when historians get to present their own work in TV programs, and she did a splendid job of exploring the lives of the women who attempted to/did rule England up to Elizabeth I. (There were more than you think.)
This program led me to read the book which was divine. I get hoarse recommending it to people; I am evangelical on the subject. Helen–I’m allowed to call her that because we’re Twitter pals now–is one of those rare humans who can be extremely erudite and yet translate the most complicated and arcane historical situations in such a way that it sounds like a fantastically good soap opera. (Which it usually was, BTW.)
If I had my way, I’d lock her in a nice suite with all the conveniences and not let her out until she’d written me a new book every six months but apparently she has a life of her own, so when I DO get a new Helen Castor book, it’s a day of near-hysterical happiness. Imagine my delight when her newest popped into my Kindle the very day I was getting on an airplane!
Now, sorrowfully, this isn’t one of her long, luscious books, but it is very much in the Castor wheelhouse. Part of the Penguin Monarch series–which is DELICIOUS–this one is ELIZABETH I: A STUDY IN INSECURITY which tells you everything you need to know about this particular monarch. The books in this series are designed to be brief studies of the monarchs, each an amuse-bouche to tempt you to further reading although each is also a complete biography. They provide a lovely way to fill in gaps in your historical understanding or dip a toe into a particular ruler’s reign.
When you’ve finished, treat yourself to her biography of Joan of Arc or cue up the SHE-WOLVES series on Acorn!