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Review: Katherine, by Anya Seton

Pages: 500
Originally published: 1954
My copy: 2004 (Chicago Review Press)
How I acquired my copy: Borders, 2004

This book is more than just a good romance. It is an all-time classic. I am a younger reader, and so I don't have fond memories of the first time this book came out; but I'm glad that they broughtKatherine back into print. It is one of those books that all lovers of historical fiction should read, not simply for the history, but because this is an elegantly crafted novel; unarguably one of the very best I've read in a long time. This novel is a great introduction to the works of Anya Seton.

The story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt is set against a backdrop of chivalry and heroic adventure during the 14th century. I thoroughly loved this novel; there are parts of it that still stay with me two months after reading it. Whenever I read historical fiction, I always look to see whether the author has done her research- Anya Seton most definitely did hers.

I decided it doesn't matter whether or not you love the heroes of this book- they were real people, and that's what makes this book so much more vibrant. Thats what I loved most- I felt that I actually knew these characters, had actually sat down at a meal with Katherine Swynford or gone hunting with Prince John. The author Geoffrey Chaucer has become mythical in the annals of English literature; however here he becomes humanized, a real person with a wife and children of his own. I was absolutely amazed by it.

Another great thing about this book is that the author never mentions what will happen in the future for these people (even though she, and the reader, obviously know). Anya Seton simply let the story take itself along. For example, at the end of Katherine, Richard III is a little boy, newly crowned king. Even though historians have protrayed him as a tyrant, Seton never lets on that this is what, in fact, he will become. Richard seems like a lost, lonely little boy trying to fill shoes that are too big for him.

Comments

Joan Meijer said…
I loved this book it's a great story. I was fortunate enough to meet the author many years ago. She was a fascinating little old lady at the time and I was inspired to become a writer in my own right in that single moment.
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jenclair said…
OMG--I read this so long ago! I read something about John of Gaunt recently and couldn't remember the name or author of this novel, but even at the time, I remember it encouraged me to read nonfiction about the pair!

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