Title: The Girl in the Glass Tower
Author: Elizabeth Fremantle
Release Date: 9th February 2017
Reading Time: 8-10 Hours
Hidden away in Hardwick Hall, Lady Arbella Stuart, an unwilling contender for the throne of sixteenth century England, longs for freedom.
But to escape her gilded prison, she must trust those on the outside, who may have their own secret motives in liberating her.
Arbella knows that discovery will end in her death. But what choice does any woman have, when trapped in a man’s world?
Elizabethan poet Aemilia Lanier stumbles across Lady Arbella’s memoir after her death in the Tower of London. Impoverished and riddled with guilt over the death of her friend, Ami explores the life of the woman whose lineage kept her trapped in a gilded cage. A woman who risked everything for freedom and lost.
Lady Arbella has always been a shadowy figure in history, one I knew very little about. I was intrigued by this woman who, in her time, had been seen as a sizeable threat to the English throne after Elizabeth I’s death, but has now been more or less forgotten. The Girl in the Glass Tower puts Lady Arbella front and center, using a fictional memoir written by the Lady herself to shine some light on her history, and the events that lead to her imprisonment and death in the Tower of London. That’s not a spoiler, by the way. You’ve had over 400 years to catch up.
The Girl in the Glass Tower starts off a little slow, but Elizabeth Fremantle does an excellent job of weaving historical facts and fictional aspects together to create a detailed and captivating account of the life of Lady Arbella. Portrayed as an intelligent, strong willed young woman, damaged by a neglectful upbringing and the complete inability to control her own destiny, Arbella really does come to life in Fremantle’s hands. There are lovely descriptions of her childhood, her heartbreaking relationship with her grandmother, the formidable Bess of Hardwick, and life in the Elizabethan country house described as “more glass than wall”. Arbellla’s hardships and misfortunes are more than just forgotten historical facts; you feel for this poor woman, who longed for nothing more than to spend her days reading and ridding her horse, but who is instead used mercilessly as a pawn in everyone else’s schemes for power.
Whilst Arbella’s portrayal was captivating, I was disappointed by Ami’s story, whom I never felt that invested in. I was frustrated whenever the story shifted it’s focus from Arbella to Ami, because it was far too distracting to be enjoyable. I can see the appeal of using her as a framing device, but I think the novel would have benefited from spending less time on Ami, and so I wasn’t a fan of the format. It was also hard to keep track of all the figures that came and went sometimes.
Overall, I found The Girl in the Glass Tower to be an enjoyable read, and I’d recommend it to fans of historical fiction that take place at the center stage of history, and anyone curious about the life of Lady Arbella. Trust me, the novel is a far more entertaining read than her Wikipedia page.
TL,DR: A novel that offers an insightful look into the mind of one of history’s forgotten tragic figures.
*I received this ARC free from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review*