katherineKatherine by Anya Seton is one of those books that is right up my alley. I first read it when I was in high school, before my Anglophilia went rampant. It was however, right at the perfect time when the romance part of this novel was best appreciated by my melodramatic teenage heart.  It is the novelization of Katherine Swynford who, with her lover and eventual husband, John of Gaunt, are responsible for the majority of England’s (and Europe’s) royal families.

I hadn’t thought of this book in years, until I was in a store a few weeks back spending a gift certificate for my birthday.  When I have “free” book money I tend to buy impulsively and wildly, getting things I wouldn’t spend my own money on.  Katherine was sitting on a table and I wondered how it would read for an adult mind, so I snatched it up.  Interestingly, I also picked up the new Alison Weir book, Mistress of the Monarchy, barely glancing at the title (I LOVE Ms. Weir!).  I brought them both, in a stack with two other titles, to the register, I brought them both home, I put them both on the shelf. 

It was only weeks later, when I finally picked up Katherine to read, I looked at what was underneath it and saw the subtitle of MistressThe Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster.

No one , certainly not the cashier, or anyone looking at my bookshelf, will believe it was unintentional, but it truly was.  It’s funny how your mind keeps working even when you aren’t paying attention.

Katherine  is still a good read, and Ms. Seton was as historically accurate as she could be.  It is a romance novel more so than a historical novel, but for all that it is well done.  I thoroughly enjoyed the re-read and I’m sure I’ll delve into the story in a few years when I have some time to devote to a pure pleasure read.

Once I made the realization that I had her biography, I had to read Mistress next (of course!) though I was a bit concerned that it would detract from the enjoyment of the novel.  Far from it.  I am impressed with Ms. Seton’s comprehensive research, and where she got it wrong, it’s understandable why she did.  Because in the beginning of Mistress, Ms. Weir warns that there isn’t a lot of solid information about Katherine. 

Because of this most of the biography was conjecture.  Though at first the constant “perhaps’s” “possibly’s” and “maybe’s” were annoying, but after a while, I settle into it.  Moreover, I found her arguments solidly researched and soundly analyzed.  She painted the best possible picture of Katherine as a person, though the sources had reduced her to the receiver of wine and silver.  She was a mother, grandmother, lover and eventually, a duchess, and Ms. Weir brought her to life out of almost literally, nothing. 

Quite the feat.

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