The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant is intrigued by a portrait of Richard III. Could such a sensitive face actually belong to a heinous villain — a king who killed his brother's children to secure his crown? Grant seeks what kind of man Richard was and who in fact killed the princes in the tower."
Review: This is one of the shortest and most intelligently written books I've read this year. I've always liked history, and I've read Shakespeare's Richard III more than once, but this book turned upside down everything I thought I knew.
Alan Grant is clearly a Sherlock Holmes-inspired detective. Moody, passionate, brilliant, arrogant, and several other adjectives could be used to describe both detectives. But rather than feeling like a cheap knock off, I found the similarities to be more of a reflection of what makes a good detective. Grant really feels like his own character, complete and whole, and so the inevitable Holmes comparisons feel more like a compliment than an accusation.
The rest of the cast is funny and memorable in their own way, but the focus isn't on them. The focus is on Richard III: who historians say he is, and how the facts about his life agree or don't agree with their summations.
I spent an extremely large amount of time lost in the Wikipedia rabbit hole, researching medieval English royalty. That's what this book will do to you: it will make you obsess over trying to figure out one of the great mysteries of medieval history: Did Richard III really murder his nephews? It was a dangerous and tumultuous time, which naturally gives way to a great story and is why this time period receives so much attention. But is this particular bit true? Tey argues no, and by the end of the book, I was prone to agree with her.
Watching Grant put the pieces together was an absolute delight. Truth be told, the present-day plot was pretty much nonexistent. But other than noting that a comparable, present-day plot might have been nice, I didn't care. I was too fascinated with the story Grant was uncovering to bother with the lack of plot.
In addition to the story of Richard III, Tey makes a phenomenal case against taking history books too seriously. We've all heard the phrase, "history was written by the victors," and that phrase has never felt so real. There are always two sides to every story, and for much of history, we only get one side. Who the good guys are and who the bad guys are is often completely subjective. (Unless you're Hitler, because duh.)
I've finished three other novels since reading this book, but this is the book I'm still talking about. It's extremely thought-provoking, and fantastically enlightening. I'd definitely recommend it to history lovers as well as mystery lovers, since the subject matter should appeal to both equally.
I'd also recommend it to Game of Thrones fans, since George R.R. Martin is known to have drawn heavily on the War of the Roses as inspiration for his books. I could definitely see parallels between his fictional story and this real one. And, bonus, reading in greater detail what happened during the War of the Roses gave me some foreshadowing of what may be coming in GoT. We'll have to wait and see if my GoT speculations pan out, but it was certainly interesting to compare the two.
Review in a GIF:
Bottom Line: Do you like history or mysteries or The Game of Thrones? If the answer to any one of those is yes, definitely read this thought-provoking (and short!) book. It will fuel your dinner parties for months to come.