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Katherine Parr had been a widow three times, and this book is written in the point of view of the Queen Dowager's best friend, Catherine, the Duchess Of Suffolk. Katherine Parr is an unusual subject for a novel and the famous rhyme about the fate of Henry's wives ends with her. Katherine is known as the survivor because she outlived Henry, but the marriage was not scandle- free. She was almost executed for heresy.
The author explains very well why she chose to wrote about Katherine Parr as opposed to any of the other wives. Anne Boleyn has been done to death and I think Suzannah Dunn wanted to make people think that she wasn't as boring as some would describe her. She even states that Katherine was at the height of her power but her fatal mistake was falling in love with the wrong man.
As already seen in history books, The Seymours were an ambitious family, especially brothers Edward and Thomas Seymour, but they both get what's coming to them. If history ever teaches you anything, it should teach you this: there is no running from karma. Though these two are only a side of the story, but Catherine does express her concerns when Katherine Parr marries Thomas Seymour.
Dunn is a decent writer and I find her style very easy to read and not very intimidating. Her work has been praised by the Daily Express and The Sunday Times. She's even had praise from Alison Weir, an accomplished historian and to get her praise you have to not only be very good, but also historically accurate.
I really enjoyed reading this book, but there was a couple of things that either annoyed me and I think the book could have improved on. The first one which I think is really obvious is the title. I think this title has already been used before, and I think Jean Pleady used this title too. I think Dunn could have came up with a more imaginative title that hasn't already been used. I also think that the the book would have more interest if it was written in Katherine Parr's point of view, bit I think doing it in her friend's view also helps make the reader feel as if they were actually there.
As Dunn has received praise from an acknowledged historian, I feel it's safe to say that the majority of this is historically accurate, but sometimes the modern writing makes it hard to picture the medieval atmosphere, as some other readers have already said. In the end the book portrays Katherine Parr as as both a hero and a tragic figure who was betrayed by the one she loved the most. Sadly Thomas Seymour tried to get it on with her stepdaughter, which would've made her fee horrible.
I found this book very thought provoking because it focuses on the Tudor period, which I love looking at stuff about. I think this book is worth having a look at if you are into this sort of stuff and also if you're interested in Katherine Parr.
*** The Author ***
Sazannah Dunn had seven contemporary novels published before trying her hand at historical fiction. I haven't read any of her previous books. This is her second Tudor novel. The first was about Anne Boleyn called The Queen of Subtleties. Her third Tudor novel, The Queen's Sorrow, about "Bloody" Mary is due out in hardback in July.
She hasn't researched back to the original Tudor sources, but seems to have enjoyed reading the studies of others and visiting locations relevant to the time such as Hever and Sudeley Castles. Hever was the Boleyn family home, and Sudeley was the last home of Catherine Parr.
*** Style ***
Some authors who write in-depth historic novels assume that readers know, at least a little, about the setting of their work, or else want to give you a history lesson. Neither is true with this book, and there are no complications that warrant complex family trees or maps either.
If her characters were in a novel set in modern times, I would say the characterisation was excellent. However, I think that the Tudor perspective of events is partially lost by making the characters too modern in their thinking. Although it is good that the characters are shown to us with a combination of strengths and weaknesses, the author fails to show the Tudor culture as being as significantly different from ours as I believe it should be.
*** The Plot ***
This book is about the life of Catherine Parr (the sixth wife of Henry VIII), after the king's death.
There are some references to her previous life, so that readers can make sense of her feelings "after Henry". She had no choice about marrying the King. It would have been very dangerous for her, as one of Henry's subjects, to refuse this, by then, old man. So after his death was she able to lead a life of her choosing? This book gives a good idea about the answer to that question.
*** Fact or Fiction ***
The main historical personalities in the book are Katherine (Kate) Parr, her last husband Thomas Seymour, Catherine (Cathy) Duchess of Suffolk, and the two girls who lived with the Seymours at the time, Princess Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey.
The Duchess of Suffolk narrates the story. The author tells us that the Duchess' friendship with Katherine is fact, but that the relationship between the Duchess and Katherine's husband is fictional. Apart from that, I believe that because of the lack of historic detail, what does exist is acceptably accurate enough for a light novel that is written in a modern way, with the aim of being better understood by present day readers. I would have preferred greater Tudor cultural depth though.
*** Recommendation ***
It is worth noting that I am unlikely to write a book review to which I would give less than 3 out of 5 stars, as I doubt that I would be bothered to finish one that was worth less. So I still recommend this book, even though I would praise others more.
I would try another of her books, if I wanted to read but found to hard to concentrate, eg through tiredness, but only if there were nothing more tempting available.
This could be a good introduction to historical fiction for readers who usually read modern "chick lit", as I think her style is similar to the best in this genre.
Give this a try if you would enjoy a largely romantic, easy to read, historical novel set in Tudor times without an overload of historic detail.
NOT RECOMMENDED for historical purists.
RECOMMENDED for introducing modern chick-lit readers to the historical novel. But please note that many regular readers of historical fiction would suggest Philippa Gregory's books as a better starting point for period accuracy.
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: HarperPerennial (15 Sep 2007)
List Price: £6.99