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4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  22,255 Ratings  ·  1,548 Reviews
This classic romance novel tells the true story of the love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenet ...more
Paperback, 500 pages
Published May 1st 2004 by Chicago Review Press (first published 1954)
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Jen ƸӜƷ I have too many favorite strong women characters to choose one :) Katherine may be added to the list after I read the book about her. :)
Teresa There are love scenes, but they aren't graphic. Your teen could find much more explicit and detailed scenes in any supermarket romance novel. Most of…moreThere are love scenes, but they aren't graphic. Your teen could find much more explicit and detailed scenes in any supermarket romance novel. Most of it is what I call the "moment-before" romance - an embrace, a hot kiss, a hand at someone's chest... and then fade to the next morning.
Probably fine for older teens.(less)
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Best Historical Fiction
43rd out of 5,764 books — 22,144 voters
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Historical Fiction: The House of Plantagenet
3rd out of 203 books — 404 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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This book is both a spiritual coming of age tale and a hauntingly-beautiful love story. Anya Seton wrote some other good books, but make no mistake — this is her masterpiece.

Katherine is based on the true story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt from 14th Century England. John, a younger son of King Edward III, was one of the richest and most powerful men of his day. His marriages were strategic alliances — but the great love of his life was Katherine, the humble, orphan daughter of one h
Richard Derus
Rating: 2.75* of five

The Book Report: Since this is a resurrected review, I'm putting the Amazon book description here:
“This classic romance novel tells the true story of the love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets—Edw
This is the book that made me fall in love with historical fiction. It's based on the true story of the 14th-century love affair between Katherine de Roet and John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster.

As a young woman, Katherine was a reputed beauty but had few prospects, so she married the brutal Sir Hugh Swynford and had two children. By chance, her marriage put her in the path of the Duke, who was struck by her beauty. After Hugh died, Katherine and the Duke stole away and had their long anticipat
Jan 01, 2008 Melody rated it it was ok
Solid, engaging historical fiction about the mistress of John of Gaunt who was the ancestress of the Tudors. Rich with period detail. The part that makes me knock the rating down is the horrible passage wherein Katherine becomes a guilt-ridden Christian who repudiates her own happiness. It was such a jarring disconnect and so typical of everything I loathe about Christianity that it spoiled the book for me. It's hard to imagine a moral and spiritual about-face of this magnitude and swiftness. No ...more
Jul 13, 2009 Dottie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any who like history and love stories
Recommended to Dottie by: Mary Lee Ruoti
Anya Seton was a best selling author in the 50s and 60s. I read it in 1970 because a friend told me it was her favorite book, and it became 2nd on my list (after Jane Eyre) for many years. Anya wrote historical romances based on factual history, and her extensive research for her novels is usually noted in any of her bios. This book is based on the lives of Katherine and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. John is son of Edward III. Katherine comes to court as to join her sister as a servant to th ...more
I think I like historical fiction better than historical romance...

Overall I enjoyed this story of Katherine and the fate of her relationship with the Duke of Lancaster. For a “classic” this was a fairly easy read, even if it was a bit overly descriptive. The medieval times were an interesting time period to read about and the historical aspects were certainly not lacking. I enjoyed reading about characters based on real people, but somehow I never felt an emotional attachment to them. Had it no
Sara Steger
Jun 26, 2016 Sara Steger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is important to say up front that I am a sucker for good historical fiction. I like knowing that these people existed, that these events are part of the human record, that no one can know what these people actually thought or felt, but that this is one possible scenario that fits all the historical information. What is sure is that some things about people do not change with the exchange of horses for automobiles and kings for ego-driven politicians and that it is our ability to find common g ...more
Mar 09, 2009 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Recommended to Stephanie by: Leslie O
If you suspend a string in water saturated with salt or sugar, a beautiful crystal will gradually grow on it. That’s what I thought of as I read Katherine. The string is the love story that runs throughout the novel. The crystal is the meticulous detail that Anya Seaton has used to embellish that love story.

Katherine is a beautiful young commoner. John of Gaunt is the King’s son. Their love is thwarted at nearly every turn: by marriages, by duty, by social norms and the dictates of their own con
Feb 01, 2011 Danielle rated it it was amazing
I did it! And it only took me a week and a half! The hubby was even getting sick of seeing me reading the same book for so long. And because it was long, it gets a long review. This book was a daunting task and were it not for a sworn pledge from a fellow trusted reader, I'd have tossed the book aside by Chapter 3 and 'promised' myself I'd read it later when there wasn't anything else to do. But I pressed onward, even while hating the first quarter of the book and being miserable along with Kath ...more
Kate Quinn
Nov 28, 2009 Kate Quinn rated it it was amazing
This is one of the great historical fiction romances of all time, and a surprisingly accurate portrayal of the Middle Ages. Katherine is a pretty fifteen-year-old girl in 13th century England, just come to the glamorous court of King Edward III of England - and no one is more glamorous than the King's third son, the handsome and charismatic Prince John of Gaunt. John saves Katherine from rape in a moment of kindness, but nothing can stop her marriage to the clumsy and sometimes brutal Sir Hugh S ...more
Aug 10, 2009 Shelbi rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Shelbi by: Steph, Amy
In keeping with my Barnes and Noble binge, I also bought this wonderful book. But I am so mad that it doesn't have a family tree in the front!! I may have to photocopy it from someone.

This book is amazing. I had my doubts when I first picked up my borrowed worn out copy, but hearing Steph and Amy rave about it finally piqued my interest.

It is a book of adventure, romance and suspense. If you do happen to pick it up, it starts off a little slow, but I strongly urge you to keep with it. This is
English history is as heavily populated by royal and ducal mistresses as it was with battles. Whether dramatic or not, having a mistress was commonplace and often changed the course of history. One of these women whose mere presence and bloodline altered royalty was Katherine Synford. One time mistress and later wife of John of Gaunt; she was the matriarch of the Beauforts whom later spawned the Tudors. Prolific author Anya Seton fictionalizes Katherine and her relationship with John in the 1954 ...more
Here's the thing about historical fiction: we already know what happened.

So the wiles of plot are nullified. There's no reason to wonder how everything will turn out when Wikipedia exists.

Okay, then how about the writing? We may know what happens but the author can sprinkle the story with good prose and keen insights to keep us reading.

Unfortunately, most historical fiction authors try to echo the language spoken in days of yore. A good tactic, certainly, but one that is rarely successful. The
Jul 18, 2014 CLM rated it it was amazing
Perhaps my favorite book in the whole world! Anyone who loves historical fiction, but has not read it, should immediately buy the 50th anniversary edition.
Laura Leaney
Sep 11, 2013 Laura Leaney rated it liked it
Oh Sweet Lord. Two lovers “bathed in light.” A woman “so pure” that the “beauty of her arms and breasts gleam[ed] like alabaster between strands of long auburn hair.” Her lover? The most powerful man in England. Swoon. This is the tale of long-term love based loosely on the facts we know about John of Gaunt and his “paramour” (later wife) Katherine Swynford. Medieval romantics need not fear; this novel is fat with surcotes, prie-dieux, jeweled coifs, emblazoned hanaps, and fearful gorge-swallowi ...more
Aug 13, 2007 Nicole rated it really liked it
Unfortunately, this book didn't quite live up to its 5 star (!) rating on Amazon. It was good, but maybe I've been reading too much historical fiction because it just felt a little flat to me. It's the story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, a famous couple from 14th century England. Their well-documented affair spans many decades to the point when they finally marry, despite British convention, late in their lives.

Katherine was written in 1954, and the language has an old-timey feel to i
May 14, 2011 Michele rated it liked it
I may be the only reader out there who does not care for this book. While the historical details are rich, it was the title character of Katherine (mistress and later wife to John of Gaunt) that kept me from loving this novel. Katherine is painted as such a goody-two-shoes that it's nearly impossible to identify with her in any way. Her thoughts are all pure, her actions impeccably motivated and it just rings.....well, untrue. This woman chose to engage in an affair with a wealthy, married man. ...more
Apr 14, 2008 Laura rated it it was amazing
I adored this book when I first read it at 12, and I've reread it numerous times and still adore it.

The writing is quite good--clear and compelling, never a chore to slog through. The characters are well-imagined and vividly drawn. And the telling takes what information is available about Katherine's life (not much) and spins it out into a lush and moving narrative that also incorporates political and social events that certainly are more well-documented than Katherine's life.

Seton's research i
A favourite of many, but sadly, not me. The first half didn't enagage me at all, and I'd have given up on it had it not been for so many rave reviews. I'm glad I stuck with it as I liked the second half much more than the first. Overall though, this was not a book for me.

Jun 28, 2016 Susan rated it really liked it
One of the appeals of this book for me, is that, written in the 1950's, its very much of its time in the way it's written, therefore different from more modern historical fiction in the language and phrases used, much in the way 19th century classics are enjoyable for the way in which authors of that time used the language of their era.
Anya Seton describes the love affair of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt in an almost genteel way, but without losing any of the love and passion they undoubt

I persisted with this book for as long as I did because it is so overwhelming rated highly and described as a “classic” of historical fiction. But I’m very much afraid I have to pull a DNF on this one. I just can’t stand to read any more of this novel. I’ll try and explain the good and the bad below, and why this book just didn’t work for me.

The Good:

Anya Seton has really done her research trying to get the historical setting as detailed and accurate as she can. The ins and outs of daily life in
Sep 19, 2009 J'Nette rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-recently
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 15, 2009 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finished: The last 100 pages or so I was thinking - stop with the crap about the customs of medieval times and just let me know what is going to happen to the main characters! I cared about them very much. I ened up totally loving Katherine. She was real. She made tons of "wrong steps" in her life, but dam it all we all have to live don't we! Who says we have to be perfect? Who says we SHOULDN'T fall in love and be carried away by our emotions. Also I REALLY learned about life in the middle ages ...more
Katherine Coble
I've read this several times now; it's the book I was named after and I enjoy revisiting it from time to time. Each time I read it I find something new, and am appreciative of a different angle than on previous re-reads. This (2012) read I found that I was less interested in the romance and more focused on the later years and the theme of Foi Vanquera.

I am not generally a fan of historical romances, and this one has its obvious inaccuracies and pitfalls. But overall I do think it is a masterwor
Jun 30, 2016 Natalie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2016
Čista petica jer sam se stvarno mogla uživiti u to razdoblje i kad ju nisam čitala, likovi su mi se motali u mislima. Ima situacija u kojima me Katharina nervirala svojim postupcima ali Bože moj!! Meni je bila baš zanimljiva. Kraj je prebajkovit ali ovo dvoje ''ljubavnika'' stvarno je postojalo! Katherine je baka kraljice Isabelle (udane za kralja Ferninanda- Španjolske koji su financirali Kolumbova putovanja). Isabella je svoju kćer Katherinu (koja je postala prva žena Henrya VIII) nazvala po s ...more
May 22, 2016 Gary rated it it was amazing
A detailed and rich novel, with the author showing a flair for the English language and a deep understanding of medieval English history. Colourful wording, and a balance between passionate scenes and descriptive tracing of the events of the life of the incredibly interesting and beautiful Katherine Swynford.
One may have to reread parts, but if you focus you will find this a rewarding historical page turner, and understand why after 55 years it is still a best loved classic of historical literat
May 14, 2016 Wendy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anya Seton’s Katherine has pride of place on my bookshelf. Its hard-backed cover is tatty and falling apart; I ‘borrowed’ it from a communal bookshelf in my WRNS quarters when I was a seventeen year-old girl and herewith confess my crime – I never returned it. It’s THAT book, that ONE book that one never forgets, the one that started my fascination with the Plantagenet dynasty and John of Gaunt in particular, and it is a fascination that has never faded. It says a lot about a book when it has ra ...more
3.5 stars.

Katherine by Anya Seton follows the infamous love story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, in 14th century England. It is considered a classic in the historical fiction genre, mostly because it was one of the first novel which combined romance and historical plot. However, be aware that this book is far from the modern historical romances.

I loved the historical details. It is clear that Anya Seton did a lot of research before writing this book. The setting is so detailed that so
Steven Peterson
Jan 23, 2010 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing
The original copyright on this book is dated 1954. Thus, this is a relatively old work as things go these days. Nonetheless, it still reads well and does not have a dated, stale sense to it. A major challenge facing the author, Anya Seton, is that rather little is known of Katherine Swynford. As she says (Page x): "Of her, little is known, except when her life touched the Duke and there are few details of that." She notes that although this is fiction, she has tried to ground it in authentic his ...more
Sarah Fay
Dec 30, 2013 Sarah Fay rated it really liked it
"Katherine" is a well-done historical novel depicting the story of the woman who the Duke of Lancaster loved, but did not marry until the last years of their lives. It provides an education on politics, living conditions, social norms, and the important figures of mid 1300's, England. The most famous character of the novel (and most likely the reason Katherine's story is known) is Geoffrey Chaucer, who plays a supporting role as her brother in law. Katherine is raised in a convent, and only her ...more
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Around the World ...: Discussion for Katherine 5 22 Mar 13, 2016 03:26PM  
2015 Reading Chal...: Katherine by Anya Seton 2 21 Jan 27, 2015 09:55AM  
Classic Historica...: Part Five: Chapter 22 - 29 15 29 Sep 29, 2014 04:03AM  
Classic Historica...: Part Two: Chapter 9 - 12 15 31 Aug 05, 2013 07:49PM  
Classic Historica...: Part Three: Chapter 13 - 15 9 22 Aug 05, 2013 07:21PM  
Classic Historica...: Part Six: Chapter 30-32 and Final Thoughts 13 31 Jul 30, 2013 04:14AM  
Classic Historica...: Part One: Chapter 5-8 30 38 Jul 26, 2013 07:49AM  
  • The Greatest Knight (William Marshal, #2)
  • Falls the Shadow  (Welsh Princes, #2)
  • Within the Fetterlock
  • Hugh and Bess: A Love Story
  • Daughter of York
  • The Shield of Three Lions (Alix of Wanthwaite, #1)
  • Legacy
  • Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Duchess
Anya Seton (January 23, 1904 (although the year is often misstated to be 1906 or 1916) - November 8, 1990) was the pen name of the American author of historical romances, Ann Seton.

Ann Seton was born in New York, New York, and died in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. She was the daughter of English-born naturalist and pioneer of the Boy Scouts of America, Ernest Thompson Seton and Grace Gallatin Seton-
More about Anya Seton...

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