Lisa (Harmonybites)'s Reviews > Katherine

Katherine by Anya Seton
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Mar 15, 11

bookshelves: historical-fiction, ultimate-reading-list, romance, fiction, novels
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
Recommended for: Lovers of Medieval Historical Fiction
Read from March 12 to 15, 2011, read count: 1

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 Austen, Michael Chabon and Alice Hoffman (and Margaret Mitchell for that matter.) I don't feel Seton is one of them. Points of view were sometimes changed even within paragraphs, which can be confusing, and I didn't settle inside Katherine's head early on enough to get immediately invested. And it seemed at first a rather empty head for the sister-in-law of Chaucer, a commoner who gained the passionate love of a great prince, John of Gaunt, who was a son of Edward III. However, when the novel begins, Katherine is a naive fifteen-year-old coming to court straight from the convent where she was raised. But I also found the way John of Gaunt was portrayed in the beginning rather off-putting as well. He at first feels this instinctive dislike for Katherine because she resembles his wet-nurse, a take hit on again and again in the book I found tiresome. The prose at times seemed stilted.

What kept me reading though was the picture of the medieval world which was vivid, well-detailed and seemed well-researched. I reveled in being taken to a a tourney and inside a medieval manor with its trestle tables, a leaking thatched roof with rushes on the floor. Eventually--I can even pinpoint where, the scene right after Katherine first gives birth--the love story took fire for me. From plague to peasant revolt, and portraits of figures such as Alice Perrers, Julian of Norwich, John Wycliffe, Wat Tyler and Geoffrey Chaucer, the novel offered up a fascinating historical tapestry. I did wind up totally absorbed in the story and sorry when it was over.
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