Saturday, August 3, 2013

"Katherine"


I never thought that such a simply titled book would excite and move me in the ways it did. If you enjoy reading Medieval history, I highly recommend this book to you. It could be called a romance novel, but that is a small part of the story. The characters and events are real and the author, Anya Seton, did a remarkable job of fleshing them out.

Katherine Swynford was forced, at the age of 15, to marry an older, somewhat brutish man. He was smitten with her, but had no idea how to express his feelings or how to be a gentle, loving husband. Having no choice, she submitted to him and bore his children.

John of Gaunt, aka the Duke of Lancaster, and son of King Edward III of England was an older, man who, after his beloved first wife, Blanche died, was forced to marry a member of Castile’s royal family for political gain. It was in no way a love match, but they both did their duty.

During the 14th century, the Black Plague wiped out much of Europe’s population. By some lucky fate, Katherine Swynford survived the disease when she was a child and became immune. Subsequently, she was brought to the royal court to tend to the Duke’s wife who was afflicted with the dreaded disease. She became governess to the Lancaster daughters and in short order, she and the Duke of Lancaster started to fall in love. Being devout Catholics, they both tried to avoid the entanglement, but failed.

Geoffrey Chaucer was Katherine’s brother-in-law and adds an interesting element to the story. During this period, the Reformation was also starting to gain strength and was a significant factor in the lovers’ story.

Royal intrigue, bastardy, political machinations, incredible wealth and poverty, lust, mental illness, overwhelming religious fervor and guilt -- it’s all there and makes the book and hard to put down.

The only gripe I have is that the Kindle version I downloaded is full of typos, something all too common in e-books. Still, this story is well worth a read.

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