Joan's Reviews > Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Duchess

Katherine Swynford by Alison Weir
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's review
Jul 08, 2009

really liked it
Read in July, 2009

I actually 'read' the audiobook, starting it on the trip back through upstate New York after dropping a child at camp. I don't know that I would have enjoyed reading this book as much as I appreciated hearing it. The narrative is a summary of the life of Katherine Swynford, who was the 3rd wife of John of Gaunt. They lived during the 14th century. At times the narrative seemed tedious, full of details of the comings and goings - and boy, did they move around. Back and forth between England and the continent, trips to the Holy Land, trips to their many houses, estates and where ever the current king was in court, or into hiding when things got difficult. I was impressed by the number of children some families had. John of Gaunt had about 10 brothers and sisters. I was also impressed by how the children were moved around from family to family. Katherine's mom probably died when she was young, because when she was just 2 she was 'sent' to live with John's family. Just when I would think that I couldn't stand another detail about where Katherine went next, the author would move in another direction and pick up the history of a related person, like a sister (Philippa, who was the wife of Chaucer) or fill in a detail about Katherine's father. The text is very detailed, providing currency conversions to modern amounts, and details about the current status of house and castles that are being described. The final chapters are descriptions of the subsequent family tree that came from Katherine and John's 4 children. This is very difficult to follow in an audio book, and I don't know if it would be easier in written form - because there were an abundance of Johns, Henrys, Thomas, and Joans where were children, aunts, uncles and cousins of the orignal Beauforts of that name; made worse by the fact that many had titles.

All this said, the book kept my interest - and I was sorry when I finished.

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