My Just Desire (Summer 2003) She was a terrible speller, but in all other regards, Bess Ralegh -- wife of Sir Walter, woman of influence in the court of Queen… Biography
Book Review

My Just Desire (Summer 2003)

EW's GRADE
A-

Details Writer: Anna Beer; Genre: Biography

She was a terrible speller, but in all other regards, Bess Ralegh -- wife of Sir Walter, woman of influence in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, and subject of Beer's engrossing, well-knit biography -- was a pip. Beer, a lecturer at Oxford, brings Bess alive with a brisk-veering-on-cheeky writing style, a sisterly appreciation of the challenges Bess faced protecting her family (what with a death sentence hanging over her husband for 15 years), and a bracingly unworshipful attitude toward the tragic hero Sir Walter. Beer is enthralled by the stuff of everyday Elizabethan life, and balances her erudition with the kind of fondness for the absurdities of socializing humans one expects in a Jane Austen novel, not a history book.

Originally posted Sep 12, 2003 Published in issue #727-728 Sep 12, 2003 Order article reprints