A Woman of Influence: The Spectacular Rise of Alice Spencer in Tudor England

S. & S. Audio. Apr. 2023. 9:40 hrs. ISBN 9781797156071. $19.99. HIST
Alice Spencer, Countess of Derby, was a Renaissance woman—both literally and figuratively. Born in the mid-16th century to an aristocratic family, she made a name for herself as a patron of the arts and a royal insider. In this engaging debut biography, Wilkie shows how Spencer rose from the daughter of a wealthy sheep farmer to a major player in both the Tudor and the Stuart courts. As was typical for women of the era, advantageous marriages helped her move up in society, but it was her determination and forceful will that cemented her enduring legacy. Faced with a crisis, she was a shrewd thinker able to outmaneuver her opponents, building her family’s fortune and protecting their reputation. Narrator Imogen Church brings her trademark vibrant theatricality to Spencer’s story, using varied intonation and volume to engage the listener and keeping the pace brisk. At times, listeners may wish for a bit more gravitas, but they’ll be captivated nonetheless.
VERDICT Listeners with an interest in the Tudor era or women’s history will appreciate this well-researched biography of an iconic woman who was well ahead of her time.
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