Leanda De Lisle

Broom for Improvement

The Plantagenets: The Kings Who Made England


HarperPress 632pp £25 order from our bookshop

It has been a week of competitive reading in the de Lisle household. Bed time, back to back: him reading George R R Martin’s hugely popular Game of Thrones fantasy fiction; me reading Dan Jones’s The Plantagenets. We both read into the night, but I was the one reading passages out loud.

Jones covers an enormous amount of ground: eight generations of kings and queens from 1120 to 1399. The risk with a long dynastic history is that it becomes just one damn thing after another, and the reader gets lost in a snowstorm of names and events. Jones avoids this with a combination of gripping storytelling and pin-sharp clarity. As I sometimes stop mid-paragraph to daydream around a subject, I was grateful to be kept on track by a text that is simple and direct, without leaving me feeling patronised. 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter