Arts and Entertainment

Philippa Gregory makes only Pacific Northwest tour stop in Bremerton

‘The White Queen
‘The White Queen' is the first novel in a new series from Philippa Gregory, in which the author inhabits the world of the 15th century Plantaganets — the family that preceded the Tudors.
— image credit: Courtesy Photos/James Stewart (left)

West Sound Reads, a consortium of local independent booksellers, celebrates its 10th anniversary in style.

First, it was 2008 National Book Award-winner Sherman Alexie. Then came New York Times’ Bestseller of the “Ya-Ya Sisterhood” Rebecca Wells.

Now, England’s highly esteemed historical fiction scribe Philippa Gregory makes her only stop in the Pacific Northwest, on a short tour of the United States, for the next West Sound Reads event this weekend in Bremerton.

“And Barbara Kingsolver’s coming in November,” added a cheery, but busy West Sound Reads coordinator, Mary Gleysteen from Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge.

It’s been a banner year for West Sound Reads, she said.

It’s the 10th anniversary for the consortium of Kitsap-local independent booksellers which banded together along with the Kitsap Regional Library in 1999 with a mission of bringing high-caliber authors to, and promoting local reading within, Kitsap County.

Gregory — an author of many novels, including the international bestseller “The Other Boleyn Girl” which was adapted for Hollywood starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson in 2008 — will speak at 4 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Bremerton High School Performing Arts Center.

As is customary for West Sound Reads, admission is free, however preferred seating can be secured with the purchase of “The White Queen” from any local independent bookseller in advance of the reading (a portion of proceeds from which goes to the Kitsap Regional Library Foundation).

“We knew that she had a lot of fans not only in Bremerton and Port Orchard, but also on the Seattle side and from Tacoma,” Gleysteen said of the reading’s central location, adding that carpool groups are forming in North Kitsap and Bainbridge. “This is a way for everybody to get there. And there’s 1,200 seats, so we know there will be room for everybody.”

Both of Alexie’s readings last spring were packed. The Wells’ event this summer was standing room only. And WSR organizers are hoping for another big turnout this weekend in Bremerton.

“She’s only coming to nine cities (in the United States),” West Sound Reads coordinator, Liberty Bay Books owner, Suzanne Droppert exlaimed, “and we’re one of them. Amazing.”

Though What’s Up wasn’t able to grab an interview with Ms. Gregory, due to her rigorous road schedule, Droppert, who heard the author speak at Book Expo America this past spring in Los Angeles, described her as “fabulous.”

She noted a charming wit about the author: “you know... that sassy British dry humor,” Droppert said.

In literature, Gregory appeals somewhat to the Jane Austen side.

Beside having spent a good lot of time in Austen’s Baroque-era England — studying, conjuring and masterfully detailing an impressive array of historic novels on the 16th century Tudor Dynasty of Old Britain, among others — Gregory also writes with a vicious realism, akin to that of Austen.

She spares nothing but the truth.

In “The Other Boleyn Girl,” Gregory unravels the historically true story of a peasant father who offers his daughters as mistresses to the king, promising a male heir — which the queen can no longer provide — in return for wealth and privilege.

The story is packed with savage realism. Yet it’s flush with an elegant aesthetic and charming Olde English accent which seem to take the edge off the emotional brutality, by transporting the reader back centuries in time.

Now Gregory is at it again, even further back in time this time around, with the 15th century Plantaganets — the family that preceded the Tudors — in 2009’s “The White Queen.”

It’s the first in a new series called “The Cousins War,” and it kicks off with another romantic assault on the king — this time by a headstrong and bewitchingly beautiful soldier’s widow named Elizabeth Woodville.

Abetted by her mother’s raw ambition and witchcraft abilities, Elizabeth seduces and marries the reigning King Edward IV in secret, and a bitter and bloody rivalry ensues, enveloping her life as Queen of England.

In an interview with CNN this week, news anchor Melissa Long asked Gregory why she ranked “The White Queen” as her best novel to date.

“I think it’s the best, you know, like in the sense you run an apprenticeship in being a novelist,” Gregory said. “Every book you write should be better than the previous one. You learn how to do things. But this one is so rich, the character is such an extraordinary woman, it’s such a dramatic time. It just seems to me that there’s a lot that comes together here, which readers of historical fiction really love, and which I really love to work with.”

Philippa Gregory will give a multi-media presentation on her newest novel “The White Queen” at 4 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Bremerton High School Performing Arts CEnter, 1500 13th St. in Bremerton. Admission is free, but preferred seating can be secured by purchasing the book from any local independent bookseller in advance. Info: www.eagleharborbooks.com, www.libertybaybooks.com, www.libertybaybooks.com.

Carpools to Bremerton are forming in North Kitsap and on Bainbridge, for info, call Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo at (360) 779-4464 or Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge at (206) 842-5332.

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