Katherine Paperback – May 1 2004
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Seton breathes life into this little-documented historical fact a glorious example of romance in its most classic literary sense. -- The Austin Chronicle
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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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
A historical romance classic for good reason! This was my first read of this author and I've since purchased another of her titles based on this positive experience. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Einfeld
Really good read into this time in history and from the point of view of women and their lives. I had read that this book was well researched and kept going to different sources... Read morePublished 18 months ago by bw
I could not put it down. I loved the historical facts and the detail in which the characters were described.Published 21 months ago by Nadine
My mother had a copy. Re-reading it after all this time, I am still charmed by it. Katherine is a classic, high quality historical romance, in a class with Gone with the Wind,... Read morePublished on Aug. 5 2013 by La Sagesse
Seton's Katherine remains my favourite book of all time. I was mesmerized from the beginning, as Seton brought to life 14th century England with an expert hand. Read morePublished on Jan. 10 2012 by Anne_Boleyn
I've only recently discovered the writings of Anya Seton and am systematically devouring each of her novels as I get my hands on them! Read morePublished on Dec 21 2010 by bookworm