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This was the first novel I have read by Suzannah Dunn so I didn't know how it would turn out a first but I was looking forward to getting to read it because I find the story of Katherine Howard very enjoyable and interesting although I had some gaps in my knowledge about certain things. This review is also on my ciao account under the username alexcatt97
This book tells the story of the in my opinion spoilt queen from her upbringing all the way to her downfall on the scaffold all from the point of view of a woman called Cat Tilney. Cat Tilney grew up in the same household as Katherine Howard and they were close friends and distantly related and she later went on to become a lady in waiting to Katherine when she became queen.
When you open the book you will see the Howard family tree which I always love to see in books because you get to see who there family were and usually learn a few things. For example if you didnt know, Katherine Howard was also related to Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII second wife. Therefore my first impression of the book seemed to be good and my friends and some of my family who had also read this book enjoyed it so that also gave me a good impression of it as well.
The first thing that is covered in this book is her upbringing which personally I always love reading about and I think that you would definitely agree with me if you read this book whether you are interested in history or not. It makes it even better because the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolks household was one that was different from many others and Dunn really portrayed this fact brilliantly through the book in my opinion although I also knew it was different from past knowledge.
You cannot help but be immersed in her upbringing because in itself, it is shocking to think how such a naughty, rebellious girl who is "interested only in clothes and boys" (stated by the author) could become the queen of England to the King Henry VIII so you instantly want to know how. In addition to this Dunn portrayal of Katherine throughout this part of the book is just exceptional and makes the story of her childhood impact you even more. Also just like Katherine, Dunn portrays the lives of the people around her brilliantly and makes the relationships between all characters very clear which definitely helps you to enjoy this book to the full.
As you go through her up bringing, you begin to see who the real Katherine is, the one who is only interested in clothes and boys and her personality really seems to thrive within this household and it is shocking how it does which Dunn portrays on this book as many of her friends are shocked to different degrees as to what she is doing and whether she will get caught while Katherine carries on like it is nothing to worry about. Because of this you can understand why her character is seems much more different than others would be at the time, which makes this book a real joy to read often feeling the emotions that many of the characters feel throughout this book and not just Katherine which I think is done to Dunn's excellent writing in my opinion.
The next stage in her life and this book is obviously when she goes to the court of Henry VIII's fourth wife Anne of Cleves as one of her ladies in waiting. This was obviously another shocking thing which happens and you can see that the people around her think that too because Dunn's accurate portrayal of her really makes you think whether she is at all suitable for court because of things she had already done and just her personality in general.
She is not a lady in waiting for long as Henry VIII divorces his wife Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard becomes queen. I loved reading about the upbringing on Katherine so I had a very good expectation for the rest of the book and I was not disappointed. Often Katherine Howard is described as a queen who spoilt by her husband and indulged in clothes, Jewelry and men and Dunn manages to portray this exceptionally exceeding many other popular authors that I have read such as Phillipa Gregory (although I still enjoy her books). What I also enjoyed throughout this section is the way the points of view from other people were portrayed because it really gives you a good insight into what people thought about Katherine while interesting you the in the story which both increase the readability of the book a lot.
Another thing which I liked about this book is that it went on to describe the life of the person narrating the book, Cat Tilney who is not from as such an influential family as the Howards so you also get to learn about her life for a bit in her family house which is really interesting and in my opinion it was good to take a break from Katherine's life and to focus a bit more on another person and how their life is.
This book gave me the first knowledge I really had about the details of her downfall. I already knew what her fate was going to be and why (Wont give away spoilers). But I did not know how it came about and who was involved and even though fiction, it really taught me a lot about her downfall. In addition to this I think that the way Dunn writes about this time in Katherine life really makes you feel sorry for her even though she was guilty because ultimately she was only around 18 years old. It also makes you see a different side to this 'spoilt' girl you see throughout the book, because in fact you began to realize that under all of that she is just a girl that cares about her husband the king (although it does seem unlikely from what she did) and really loves him and regrets the things that she did and this is shown by how she runs through the guards to find the king and apologize. When she is caught again the writing of this book really makes you feel sorry for her. I have never realized this side of Katherine until I read this book so I really have to credit the author in that respect for her outstanding writing especially during her downfall where you are really sucked into the the story.
Overall I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot about the characters throughout the story. I think that writing is exceptional throughout the book as well and that is why I have been able to re read this book and still think it is amazing. The only bad thing is that it is not widely available in book shops so you may have to go online t find it like I had to do.
I would recommend this book to people who are interested in history and to people that are not because it gives a good outline and detail of the history with only a few inaccuracies but does not include loads and loads of historical facts like some authors do so it is really easy to pick up and understand if you are a beginner to this part of history like I was when I first read this book. And also simply it just tells a really good story with good characters which is what most people look for in a book so I would definitely recommend considering this book if you haven't read it and if you are considering it I would recommend you read it.
The tale of Katherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife, is surely one of the most tragic tales of the period. A young country girl, from a lesser branch of the Howard line, manipulated by her powerful uncle into marriage with a king much older, much uglier, and due to a suppurating leg ulcer, much smellier than her. Although the date of her birth , as with so many people of the time, went unrecorded, she was probably only around 15 when she married, and only 17 when she laid her slender neck on the block, sentenced to die for the crime of adultery .
It's a story we've all heard, I'm sure, but The Confession of Katherine Howard (Suzzanah Dunn) offers a fresh re-telling, from the point of view of Katherines childhood friend, and maid in waiting, Cat Tilney.
The story switches between two viewpoints - starting with life at the Tudor court as an investigation into Katherines conduct before and after marriage is being carried out, and then switching to a Katherines childhood, spend at the home of her kinswoman, the Duchess of Norfolk.
This could make the story a little confusing, as it switches back and forth between the past and the present in the blink of an eye, but actually the shifts in setting are very well handled, and in no way overcomplicate and confuse the story . The story also shies away from getting bogged down in too much historical detail - the events so far, such as each of Henry's previous wives, are swiftly summed up as little tidbits of court gossip reaching the isolated country house. I liked this way of writing- giving the bare bones of facts so we know where we are in history without an awful lot of court politics, power play, and bestowing of favours.
This means we can focus much more on Katherine, as told through the eyes of her friend, and of the life she led at the Duchess of Norfolk's house. And it certainly seems to have been an interesting life, as Katherine (and Cat) go from innocent young children to teenage girls experimenting with men for the first time . There is lots of giggle chat about which boys around the estate they would like to end up with, and when a handsome music teacher arrives, much giggly speculation about whether he is married, and what kind of love life he might have.
As the two girls become bolder, and start entertaining boys in their communal rooms, we get to see the first hints of flirtation and sexual experimentation. I think these aspects are handled very well, and Katherine actually seems like a very typical teenage girl with regards to gossiping about sex - knowing little, but claiming to know more. Conversations regarding using a hollowed out lemon result in some interesting questions (How do you get it up there, and once you have, how do you get it out again?) and once Katherine goes from virgin to virgin no more, it's still clear she is somewhat of an innocent, asking if it is possible to 'wear it away' with too much sex!
I found this book very enjoyable .Some parts are fictionalised however - such as Cat Tilneys relationship with Katherine ex-lover Francis . However, I personally though this was an excellent literary device, allowing us, through the conversations Francis has with Cat, to get a glimpse a little deeper into Katherine's personality without the presumption of using her voice to tell us of events .
The author does make very clear which parts of the books are deviations from known fact. Shee also includes a brief afterward summing up events after the investigation into Katherines behaviour. This afterward in particular is very interesting, as it points out that Katherine was in fact guilty of no crime . If she had, after all, been pre-contracted before her marriage to Henry, as it was decided she was, then she was never legally married to Henry, and could therefore not possibly have commited adultery (which counts as treason when it is against the king), the crime for which she was beheaded.
Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book . I don't think it will necessarily teach people a lot they don't already know about the story, but it might just help people to remember Katherine, a girl who was queen for only a short while and who left no real mark on history, for what she was - an innocent young girl, manipulated be people she trusted into marriage with a much older man, whose only real crime was falling in love.
5 stars .
I usually love historical fiction and having already read Suzanne Dunn's "The Sixth Wife" I was looking forward to reading this book. The title is true to the content and focusses on Katherine and her friends growing up and finally living at the Court of Henry told in the first person which I know is not always preferred by some readers. Hence, the book didn't really give a personal view of Katherine and therefore I couldn't find much empathy for her. She comes across as slightly self centred and a little selfish. As Katherine Howard only spent a small part of her short life with the King I felt that the author was trying to pad out the story and therefore found it a little long winded and repetetive in places. It lacks a little something. There was no excitement in the novel although the author does seem to be trying to build suspense at one point but it didn't really work for me. I found the modern day phrases a little off putting when trying to read an account as told in Tudor times. Good read but nothing to write home about.
The Confession of Katherine Howard is set over a few days in November 1541 and also told in flashback. We hear the story from the perspective of her best friend and lady-in-waiting Cat(herine) Tilney. In this instance the 'present day' is the Tudor Court where Katherine is Henry VIII's fifth wife. She is only 19 and is really just a young girl from the country who happened to be related to the influential Howard family (The Duke and Duchess of Norfolk's family name). However, something is amiss and the lover of Cat (who was previously Katherine's boyfriend), Francis Dereham, is being interrogated about his previous relationship with the new Queen. This leads Cat to look back at the journey she and Katherine have taken, that brought them to the Tudor Court.
Cat first met Katherine whilst being tutored at the home of the Duchess of Norfolk with a number of other girls. They were supposed to be learning about becoming ladies and how to run their own household, but these teenage girls had lots of romantic dreams. I got the impression that Cat was quite naïve, she was bright but had been sheltered and knew little about 'ways of the heart' and wanted desperately to please her family and make them proud. Katherine meanwhile had no real family, and was much more confident than Cat, but quietly so. She comes across as very enigmatic, and we only learn what she is prepared to reveal to Cat. Katherine has more romances than Cat, and knew how to catch the attention of men, which Cat was clueless about. Whilst neither girl could be considered sophisticated, it is Katherine's influential family connections that get her a place at court, as a lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves, something none of the other girls had even dreamed of. Cat is not included and knows very little about this period in Katherine's life until Katherine weds the king and she is summoned to court to become her lady-in-waiting.
Katherine Howard isn't as well documented as Anne Boleyn in historical fiction, and I like the fact that we only really learn about her through Cat (who was also a real person in history), however because of this we never really get to know Katherine that well, and I can only guess that is the intention. The problem with this is that (admittedly this may be influenced by the fact that the outcome of the events is well-documented) you don't care about Katherine that much, you don't root for her at the end. The book is quite cleverly written, and you may change your assesments of the characters of the two girls, although Cat will still continue to come over as a bit wishy-washy in places.
The author, Susannah Dunn, is an established author who has written other Tudor based historical novels. I enjoyed her story-telling, and I liked how she brought little-known people to life, I would certainly consider reading other works of hers. The book is engaging and well-written although the language used by the characters is a little too contemporary for my liking. Ultra-modern phrases such as 'she would be a laugh' and 'we hung around together' just didn't sit right with me and I wondered if Dunn was targeting the Young Adult market. I don't particularly want to read Tudor English either, but toning down of the modern phrases would have been preferred. It is not a big book - my (over-sized paperback) copy ran to 226 pages and I think it would be enjoyable to most readers, whether they were historical fiction fans or not.
I love historical fiction set in the Tudor times so when I saw this book was available to me on this month's Amazon Vine newsletter, I jumped at the chance to get it. People have asked me about Amazon Vine in the past, more information can be found at this link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/vine/help
But basically, once a month a newsletter comes out with products I can receive for free, all I need to do is write a review on Amazon about them.
~~ We all know how this one ends... ~~
Stories of Henry VIII's wives are quite common place, each one depicting them differently. Katherine Howard was a young, teenage girl, and my image of her has always been one of a young, giggling girl, obsessed with clothes and boys and not realising the consequences of her actions. This book isn't actually written from the point of view of Katherine, but the whole book is told from the first person view of Catherine Tilney who is the childhood friend and maid-in-waiting to Katherine Howard.
From the start we are thrown into the very days before Katherine Howard's downfall, which did seem unusual at first to jump right in, however it only touches the beginnings before it suddenly switches back to when our Catherine Tilney first goes to the Duchess of Norfolk's house, where her and Katherine Howard are brought up. I loved Catherine Tilney's character, although she does come across as a very naive and innocent person, and later on this did irritate me slightly. The time spent growing up in the Duchess' household takes up most of the book, and includes when Katherine Howard arrives, and her romances with Henry Manox and Francis Dereham.
~~ My Opinion ~~
This was when I met a different type of Katherine Howard than the one I have imagined. In this book she doesn't say much, but does like to make remarks about people quietly, however doesn't get involved in girlish conversations or heated arguments. She seems very knowing and controlled, and this is put across when she turns the head of Henry Manox. It doesn't dip into too much of what happened between Katherine and Henry, because it's told from the view of Catherine it's only what she sees or hears that we learn about. The romance with Francis Dereham is very different and we follow this loved up couple from start until end, when Katherine Howard is called to court to become a lady in waiting to the Queen.
The book switches back from live at the Duchess' to events in the present time as they unfold at court. Francis is called away for questioning by Archbishop Cranmer and Catherine knows something big is about to happen, however she likes to think everything will brush over. I loved the way this book was set out, the switches between past and present weren't frequent and it told enough of the history at the Duchess' home to understand what was happening with Katherine's fall from grace.
This isn't too big of a book, however I could not put it down, and I was sorry when it ended. I would have liked to have read more of Katherine's time at court before her downfall; however it seems this part of the book is missed out. Another part which confused me was a romance Catherine has, it takes a big jump without any explanation, and so I feel something is really missing there. It goes from innocent hand holding to sharing a bed so suddenly, and considering the huge build up throughout the book I would have expected more on this part.
If you love historical fiction involving the Tudor times then this is a must read. I was clued to the pages, despite knowing how it would all end, the in-between part was told brilliantly, and it give me a different view of Katherine Howard that I've never imagined before.
The Confession of Katherine Howard will be available to buy at the end of May in Hardback, you can pre-order form Amazon at the moment for £7.99.