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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  19,143 ratings  ·  1,386 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 January 1st 1953)
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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. :)…moreI have too many favorite strong women characters to choose one :) Katherine may be added to the list after I read the book about her. :)(less)
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Community Reviews

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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 Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
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
Diane Librarian
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
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 5 of 5 stars
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
Mar 09, 2009 Stephanie rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
Aug 10, 2009 Shelbi rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Kate Quinn
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
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
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
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
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
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.

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
Sarah Fay
"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
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

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
Steven Peterson
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
I have come so late to this book which was originally published in 1954. The fact that it is still in print is testament to its relevance and the skill of its author. This is what historical fiction should be: meticulous historical research; a careful illumination of time and place; and, in Seton's words, 'anxious endeavor to use nothing but historical fact when these facts are known.' That the time is 14th century England makes the endeavor all the more impressive. I will long remember the roma ...more
Cynthia Haggard
Though this book was written many years ago, age has not dimmed its freshness nor blemished the rigorous scholarship that Anya Seton employed to write this book. It is the story of an orphaned fifteen-year-old girl who has spent the last four years in an impoverished convent on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, and has now been summoned to court by the Queen with a view to finding a suitable husband.
So begins the story of Katrine de Roet – Lady Katherine Swynford – sister-in-law to Geoffrey Chaucer,
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 29, 2007 Katie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Tween girls with an anglophile streak and an interest in historical fiction
My mother gave me her original copy of this book when I was 12 or so and I sunk into it with effortless glee. I've reread it (the same copy) countless times and find new reasons to love it each time.

Some characters you know: Geoffry Chaucer, John of Gaunt, the Black Plague (and it is a major character), but others you don't. Great descriptions of life -- probably not as historically correct as some, but close enough to paint a vivid picture. The story is engrossing and Katherine is immensely re
This is sweeping historical fiction with strong romantic elements dealing with John, Duke of Lancester, and his mistress, Katherine, Lady Swynford. Katherine was convent raised when she was brought to court and caught the eye of rough and ready knight Hugh Swynford, one of the Duke's men. She also caught the eye of the happily married Duke who didn't understand the feelings she evoked in him. It wasn't until his wife had died of the plague that he approached her but until her own husband died su ...more
A vivid portrayal of medieval life. Written so that I felt I was living in the era. I was even dreaming about it at night.
Woo finally finished this one! It's a long book but honestly a pretty quick read. However I stalled around the middle section because the focus shifted to John of Gaunt's problems and while I understood them (yes they sound silly, but damage done to someone as a kid can have a lifelong impact) I didn't find them the most riveting reading. So I put this book down for a month and never managed to come back to it until this week. I'm glad I did, though. While not my favorite book of all time, Seton ...more
Josephine Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
“I only know that from wherever it is that we're going there can be no turning back.”

It is absolutely astounding to me that this hasn’t been made into a mini-series yet. It’s a fact that because of Katherine and her illegitimate children, the House of York (and Henry VII) and the Tudors and the Stuarts are not only all Plantagenets but Lancasters as well. So much for the fall of the house of Lancaster!

But for those of you who haven’t come for a summary of Who Dated Who: 1366, you’ll be pleased t
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Mar 15, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of Medieval Historical Fiction
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
I'd long seen this novel, published in 1954, mentioned as one of the great classic works of historical romance in the same breath as books such as Gone With the Wind, Forever Amber and The Far Pavilions and it's based on a true 14th century romance.

It took me a while to get into the book for several reasons. First, the book is written in omniscient, and it bounces between points of views incessantly. I've read writers who can do this expertly and so smoothly you hardly notice--such as Jane Aust
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2015 Reading Chal...: Katherine by Anya Seton 2 18 Jan 27, 2015 09:55AM  
Classic Historica...: Part Five: Chapter 22 - 29 15 23 Sep 29, 2014 04:03AM  
Classic Historica...: Part Two: Chapter 9 - 12 15 29 Aug 05, 2013 07:49PM  
Classic Historica...: Part Three: Chapter 13 - 15 9 20 Aug 05, 2013 07:21PM  
Classic Historica...: Part Six: Chapter 30-32 and Final Thoughts 13 29 Jul 30, 2013 04:14AM  
Classic Historica...: Part One: Chapter 5-8 30 30 Jul 26, 2013 07:49AM  
Classic Historica...: Part Four: Chapter 16 - 21 19 19 Jul 25, 2013 04:37AM  
  • Falls the Shadow  (Welsh Princes, #2)
  • The Scarlet Lion (William Marshal, #3)
  • Hugh and Bess: A Love Story
  • Within the Fetterlock
  • The Courts of Love (Queens of England, #5)
  • Forever Amber
  • A Rose for the Crown
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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“I only know that from wherever it is that we're going there can be no turning back” 10 likes
“I am sure that no man asks mercy and grace with true meaning, but if mercy and grace have first been given him.” 5 likes
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