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Katherine Paperback – May 1 2004

4.9 out of 5 stars 114 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (May 1 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155652532X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556525322
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.7 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 458 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars 114 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #209,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Seton breathes life into this little-documented historical fact…a glorious example of romance in its most classic literary sense.” -- The Austin Chronicle

About the Author

Anya Seton was the author of 10 bestselling historical romances, including Avalon, Devil Water, Foxfire, Green Darkness, and My Theodosia. She lived in Greenwich, Connecticut.

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IN THE TENDER GREEN TIME of April, Katherine set forth at last upon her journey with the two nuns and the royal messenger. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Written over half a century ago, this well-researched historical fiction is as vibrant and as stirring today, as it, undoubtedly, was when it was first written. It regales the reader with the story of Katherine De Roet and John of Gaunt. Beautifully written, it tells the story of Katherine, the youngest daughter of a herald who was knighted before he died.

Born commoners, Katherine and her older sister Philippa, who went on to marry Geoffrey Chaucer, were left poor as church mice. While Philippa managed to obtain a post in the household of the Queen, wife to King Edward III, Katherine went to a convent where she grew up.

When she had grown into her early teens and become a raving beauty, she left the convent to join her sister at Court. Upon doing so, her youthful beauty captivated a boorish knight, Sir Hugh Swynford, who lusted after her. He, eventually, married Katherine, when it became clear that it would be the only way by which he could satisfy his desire.

At the same time that she met her husband to be, she also caught the eye of John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, son of King Edward III and brother to the heir to the throne, Edward, the Black Prince. John was, at the time, happily married to a beautiful woman named Blanche, who would befriend Katherine.

After reluctantly becoming Lady Swynford, Katherine retired to her husband's estates. She would meet John of Gaunt again, igniting a passion that upon the death of Blanche and that of Sir Hugh Swynford would be consummated. For John of Gaunt, Katherine would remain the love of his life and his mistress, even though for reasons of state, he could not marry her, at the time. He, instead, married the heiress to the throne of Castile.
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Format: Hardcover
When I was 13, I had no use for history - just a boring bunch of meaningless facts and dates. Then I read this book. I recently got my MA in history all thanks to this book. When I read Chaucer, I thought of how he was portrayed (He was Katherine's brother-in-law). I grasped English history and Shakespear's plays because John of Gaunt as portrayed by Anya Seton was my touchstone for the history of the period. Of course, my liking for history began with loving the book. I read it several times. Looking back, some of the attitudes are dated; I can pick out little flaws, but why bother? This is a wonderful book to make the middle ages come alive plus the romance is incredible because it's a true story! It's a story no fiction writer would dare to invent!
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Format: Paperback
This book is more than just a good romance. It is an all-time classic. I am a younger reader, and so I don't have fond memories of the first time this book came out; but I'm glad that they brought Katherine back into print. It is one of those books that all lovers of historical fiction should read, not simply for the history, but because this is an elegantly crafted novel; unarguably one of the very best I've read in a long time.
The story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt is set against a backdrop of chivalry and heroic adventure during the 14th century. I thoroughly loved this novel; there are parts of it that still stay with me two months after reading it. Whenever I read historical fiction, I always look to see whether the author has done her research- Anya Seton most definitely did hers.
I decided it doesn't matter whether or not you love the heroes of this book- they were real people, and that's what makes this book so much more vibrant. Thats what I loved most- I felt that I actually knew these characters, had actually sat down at a meal with Katherine Swynford or gone hunting with Prince John. The author Geoffrey Chaucer has become mythical in the annals of English literature; however here he becomes humanized, a real person with a wife and children of his own. I was absolutely amazed by it.
Another great thing about this book is that the author never mentions what will happen in the future for these people (even though she, and the reader, obviously know). Anya Seton simply let the story take itself along. For example, at the end of Katherine, Richard III is a little boy, newly crowned king. Even though we know he was a tyrant, Seton never lets on that this is what, in fact, he will become. Richard seems like a lost, lonely little boy trying to fill shoes that are too big for him.
Shame on the publishers for letting Katherine go out of print for so long. It is a book that should be read over and over again.
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Format: Paperback
If you talk to someone who enjoys historical fiction, it is more than likely that they have read at least one book by Anya Seton. It seems to be a tossup as to whether "Katherine" or "Green Darkness" is mentioned as their favorite of her works. It is difficult to believe that "Katherine" is the only one of her works currently in print. This wonderful new edition, reissed by Chicago Review Press in 2004, is hopefully part of an effort to reissue some of the author's other works.
What sets "Katherine" above other historical novels and especially above historical romances? Like the best historical novels, "Katherine" is specific to its time period, in this case 14th century England. It is the story of real people, John of Gaunt and his mistress, and, later, third wife Katherine Swynford. The charcters are congruent with their time period: Katherine is not a 20th-century politically correct feminist decked out in a 14th century gown. While we will never know if she experienced the thoughts and emotions ascribed to her by Ms Seton, they were correct for the time period and give the novel that feeling of reality.
John and Katherine's story has been outlined in other reviews on this page, so I do not feel it is necessary to rehash the plot.
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