Tuesday, August 19, 2014
The Princess of Celle (1967)
The Princess of Celle felt longer than it actually was. Perhaps because the chapters were so long. Perhaps because the book was complicated. If it helps, it was necessarily complicated. It is the story of a dysfunctional German family, one of whom would come to the throne of England as George I.
I was a bit disappointed that George Lewis does not become George I until the epilogue of this one! I suppose I had the silly idea that this book would focus on the obviously unhappy marriage between George Lewis (George I) and Sophia Dorothea (the so-called Princess of Celle). And, in a way, it is. But George Lewis is one of the most unimportant characters in the whole book. Seriously. Readers get to know--for better or worse--his mother, his father, his uncle, his aunt, some of his brothers. But for George himself? Well, he gets a tiny fraction of the author's attention.
If I had to describe The Princess of Celle, I would say it was a tug of war between multiple generations of mistresses in a super dysfunctional German family. I would say that almost all the men in the novel are vile, power-hungry, lusty creatures with big egos. I would say that the mistresses in the novel are vile, power-hungry, lusty creatures with big egos. The wives, well, have to make the best of it. They may hate their husbands. They may hate the mistresses their husbands keep. They may be humiliated in public by those mistresses. But they can take comfort that their children are legitimate.
For better or worse, the "main" story of The Princess of Celle begins in the middle of the novel. It is at the halfway point that readers see Sophia Dorothea marry her cousin George Lewis. She had wanted to marry someone else, another cousin. He had not cared who he married. He was content to marry whomever pleased his mother...and his father. He very much cared about picking his own mistresses. But a wife?! Not worth his bother. It's not like he'll be enjoying her company!
Is Sophia Dorothea the main character? I'm not sure that she is if I'm honest. She's not the strongest character. The most obnoxious or ambitious or strong-willed. George Lewis's mother is SOMETHING. As is his father's mistress, Clara von Platen. I would say that Clara gets more time and attention from the novel than any other character in this one. What does Clara want? What will Clara do to get what she wants? Who will Clara hurt to get her way? How many lives can she destroy? How much power can she grab? How can she keep the power? Clara is a disgusting character, truly revolting.
Did I like Sophia Dorothea? Well. She may not be as horrid as Clara. Who could be?! But she could not keep my sympathy. Yes, to a certain point I could see why she was so miserable and so trapped. She could not escape her in-laws and her husband. Not that her husband stayed remotely close to her. He was off doing whatever, whenever, whoever. But court-life was miserable for her because of the dominant women: her mother-in-law and her father-in-law's mistress. There were people at court, namely Clara that hated her and were actively plotting against her, plotting to ruin her life thoroughly. It was almost Clara's one ambition in life to destroy Sophia Dorothea, or perhaps the right word is obsession.
A sick love triangle. What every book needs is a love triangle, right?! Sophia Dorothea falls for the same man as Clara. His name was Königsmarck. There was nothing about him that I could admire or respect. Because his love for Sophia Dorothea was oh-so-pure and oh-so-true, he satisfied his lusts with Clara. Until he went off to war and was thought to be missing in action. Then Sophia Dorothea rejoiced with his return! Of course, she abandoned her morals, she was so happy! Clara then takes evil to a whole new level. You see, Clara already hated her and despised her. She already was out to get her. But NOW...she was a million times more determined to win the day.
I did not like spending time with any of these characters. I really didn't.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews