One of the greatest books of all time. Anya Seton was a fantastic writer, conducting an extraordinary amount of research in order to write all of her...moreOne of the greatest books of all time. Anya Seton was a fantastic writer, conducting an extraordinary amount of research in order to write all of her books. "Katherine" is by far her best one, following the life (from an early age) of Katherine de Roet, up through her marriage to Hugh Swynford and eventual marriage to John of Gaunt in 1300's England.
Little is known of Katherine's life. Many have tried to write her biography, with little success, as we just don't know enough about this woman. But Seton does an amazing job of weaving a plausible story around her life, touching on several fascinating periods of the time - such as the Black Death of the mid-1300's and the rising of the Lollards.
Recommended for anyone, really - even if you don't normally read historical fiction, you won't be able to put this book down.(less)
The cover and title of this novel are a bit misleading - to me, I thought the book would be cheesy and only checked it out because of the rave reviews...moreThe cover and title of this novel are a bit misleading - to me, I thought the book would be cheesy and only checked it out because of the rave reviews on here. I'm glad I did. This is a great historical fiction novel - set in the 1600's, starting in plague-infested England and moving its way to Puritan Massachusetts and Rhode Island. I immediately felt attached to the heroine. The writing was very well done and character development was superb. For me, this book falls into the same category as top-notch, well researched historical fiction like Anya Seton's "Katherine" and Kathleen Winsor's "Forever Amber." Highly recommended, looking forward to reading the sequel.(less)
Another great novel by Susan - and perhaps my favorite of hers so far. The story of Eleanor & Hugh le Despenser and all the people around them is...moreAnother great novel by Susan - and perhaps my favorite of hers so far. The story of Eleanor & Hugh le Despenser and all the people around them is a fascinating one. I don't know much about this period in history so I was actually amazed that so much of this story was true. You can always count on Susan staying as close to the truth as possible. Her creativity comes where there are gaps in historical record, which, in my opinion, is how every historical fiction author should write. She also does a really good job in developing the personalities of all characters involved. Highly recommended.(less)
Sharon Kay Penman is probably one of the best historical fiction authors around today. I tag her as 'best' largely because of the amount of research s...moreSharon Kay Penman is probably one of the best historical fiction authors around today. I tag her as 'best' largely because of the amount of research she puts into each novel.
'When Christ and His Saints Slept' is a novel about a time in English history labelled 'The Anarchy' due to the civil war between Empress Matilda and King Stephen (or Stephen of Blois). The history itself is gripping, and Penman does a good job of telling the story.
My one complaint is that the novel felt a bit too long for me. I found myself constantly checking to see how many pages I had left. Because of the nature of the history, it focused more on battle scenes than love stories, which just isn't to my taste. But it's well written, and you'll likely learn a lot about the time period by reading it, so recommended for historical fiction lovers.(less)
Seems like an interesting story, but I really couldn't get into it. The writing is very good so I tried hard to keep reading, but in the end I was unm...moreSeems like an interesting story, but I really couldn't get into it. The writing is very good so I tried hard to keep reading, but in the end I was unmotivated to read on. (less)
Such an enjoyable read! Story was gripping from the start, and the author did a great job formulating personalities around the relatively unknown hist...moreSuch an enjoyable read! Story was gripping from the start, and the author did a great job formulating personalities around the relatively unknown historical figures of Kate Woodville and Harry Stafford. I even found myself close to tears at certain points due to how emotionally gripping reading the novel was.
Minus 1 star only because certain points were a bit too summary-like. There is a lot of historical back story to this and Susan clearly did her research, and unfortunately at times this felt like her writing parts of a Wikipedia page on the Wars of the Roses. That being said, I did appreciate the research done by the author.
Overall, a highly recommended medieval/early modern historical fiction novel.(less)
Alison Weir takes an interesting, unique look at the life of Jane Grey 'the Nine Days Queen' and pays particularly close attention to Jane's relations...moreAlison Weir takes an interesting, unique look at the life of Jane Grey 'the Nine Days Queen' and pays particularly close attention to Jane's relationship with her husband, fellow traitor Guildford Dudley.
This is the first of Weir's novels. She is better known as being a pop historian of Tudor history, and in my opinion, she should stick to the novels. Weir has little training as a historian (she lacks the PhD, which begs the question whether she can even be labeled as a historian at all) and makes notable blunders in her historical biographies on the Tudor lives.
Her fiction, however, is riveting. I found it difficult to put this book down. There are a few flaws, however, which warrant the three stars. Her writing, while engaging, is not necessarily the best. Her attention seems to be put in weaving a gripping story as opposed to playing with language. In addition, her take on the relationship between Jane and Dudley is a bit unconvincing,
Still, you can tell that the author has done her research in advance of writing the novel, which is something that can't be said for some other historical fiction novelists (*cough* Philippa Gregory *cough*) and the history behind this story is really quite interesting. Recommended if you're into that historical period, for sure.(less)
Before I start my review, I should say that I know way more about Tudor history than is good for me. I think partly what I like about Susan's medieval...moreBefore I start my review, I should say that I know way more about Tudor history than is good for me. I think partly what I like about Susan's medieval fiction is that the stories are so fascinating to me - because I'm not as familiar with a lot of the history.
For this one, I found some of the historical backstory to be a bit tedious since I already knew, for instance, that Mary Tudor suffered greatly after Henry discarded her mother, or that Frances Grey's mother was Henry VIII's sister who was a Queen of France.
But what I found more difficult was the switching of narration, between Frances Grey and Jane Dudley. Part of this is also because Frances' daughter is named Jane (Grey), so if I picked up the book after a day or two of not reading, I was always confused. And not so much confused about whose part I was reading, but rather I would confused personalities.
Jane Dudley and Frances Grey are written a bit similarly, in my opinion, making it hard to distinguish each woman's character. Part of this might have been intentional, as the two women did go through much the same ordeal in a way (and I do think it was clever for Susan to choose these two women in particular to write about).
One character I really did enjoy though was Jane Grey. I thought Susan portrayed her in a fresh way, and based on my own reading about Jane (though there is very little research to go off of), I think she was spot on. The kind of know-it-all behavior makes perfect sense to me, and I found it refreshing to read a portrayal of her that wasn't overly sympathetic.
Despite some of the confusion I felt while reading, I did still enjoy the novel, and it was still the sort of book that was hard for me to put down (in fact I read it in a matter of days). And despite my knowledge of the Tudor period, I do hope Susan does more novels from this era, if only to erase some of the other horrible ones that exist out there (ahem cough Philippa Gregory).