Title: Being Elizabeth
Author: Barbara Taylor Bradford
Publisher: Harper Collins
Price: Rs. 275
Being Elizabeth is another of Barbara Taylor Bradford‘s family sagas, this time about the Deravenel Dynasty. At the outset itself it must be remarked, that Bradford, OBE, the best selling author of A Woman Of Substance, does not quite live upto her reputation in this book. The author claims at the end of the book that her story is inspired from the life of Elizabeth Tudor, one of England’s most dynamic monarchs. However, it is a classic case of how sometimes too much inspiration is bad inspiration. A plot summary might be apt before I sum up my views on the book.
Being Elizabeth is the story the eponymous Elizabeth Deravenel Turner, the last in the line of what has been fictionalized as the oldest conglomerate in the world, the Deravenal Dynasty. In a story that spans a decade, from the mid 1990s transitioning into a new millennium, culminating in the year 2006, Being Elizabeth essays the journey of Elizabeth as the Managing Director of the Deravenel’s which she inherits at a tender age and in a devastated condition owing the reckless handling of business operations by Elizabeth’s now dead half sister, Mary Turner. Together with her trusted comrades, Cecil Williams and Robert Dunley, and with the aid of her impeccable business acumen, Elizabeth succeeds in putting back Deravenel’s on the path to glory. With the latter gent, Elizabeth has a scandalous romantic involvement since he is an already married man. Having had an abusive childhood, yearning for a single hint of love from her father who married six women, Elizabeth develops a phobia of marriage which becomes the most significant obstacle in the stability of her relation with Robert Dunley. Problems in Elizabeth’s life are compounded by constant threats to her sovereign business empire and her claim to the Deravenel inheritance as well.
Being Elizabeth is a story told in a monotone, granting no serious jolts or gasps to the reader. Having read Ms. Bradford extensively, I have figured that one of her peculiar characteristics is that she weaves the crisis into the very fabric of the story. So it lurks around always. As a reader, you keep waiting for that one serious eruption which will set the protagonists life haywire, and then the story will pick up pace. Alas, with Being Elizabeth, nothing like that actually happens.
Bradford spends a lot of time giving vivid description of Edwardian art and architecture, which, unless you are an aficionado, can make things a little draggy. Still, you will but marvel at her for creating that theatrical ambiance in your mind, in which you can easily place the characters and imagine their story. She does her research well, and in this case, since her characters come inspired from real life figures, their development in the story is rather admirable. They are steady and lucid and distinctly identifiable.
Although it would help readers if they have read the previous two installments of the Ravenscar Dynasty, this book would still not rev up the intrigue which makes one want to turn pages. It is predictable. Highly so. The descriptions about imminent family coups, takeover bids, business strategies, and much else, are intelligent and informed, but also lethargically long and repetitive.
For me, the high points of the book, besides Bradford’s amazing prowess at writing impeccably beautiful and poetic English, are two. First, she, like always, has for the subject of her book a smart, empowered and a woman in control. You would never find her heroines shedding tears or feeling oppressed. Her heroines always rise above their predicaments, and shine bright. Secondly, I love the love angle in the story. As stated earlier, the love story between the protagonists in this book is inspired by the rumoured affair between Queen Elizabeth Tudor and Robert Dudley, her closest aide, and the first Earl Of Leicester. Bradford does a fine job of carving out an intense, passionate and touching love story, though I find the erotic element a little over emphasized in the book, unnecessarily so.
I would give it a little less than 2 stars on 5, and that for a Barbara Taylor Bradford family saga is a little disappointing.