Katherine by Anya Seton

Classic storytelling  

Katherine by Anya Seton
Medieval hist-fic
Originally published early fifies
Source is a personal copy/not for review purposes
Burton Book Review Rating:Four and a Half Stars


This classic romance novel tells the true story of the love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets—Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II—who ruled despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king’s son, falls passionately in love with the already married Katherine. Their well-documented affair and love persist through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption. This epic novel of conflict, cruelty, and untamable love has become a classic since its first publication in 1954.

Katherine is a book that many of my fellow historical fiction readers have read and recommended to me, and it took the 2013 TBR Challenge and an online group read to get-er-done. I was totally loving the classic prose of Anya Seton, and winged through the first half of the book as Katherine became the loving mistress to John of Gaunt, and thus the famous ancestor of many of the royal line. Katherine Swynford was a commoner, and portrayed as a bewitchingly ethereal beauty. Some of her ‘magnificence’ became a little tedious as things were getting tense in the real world around her but she would presently “forget” all about such and such and move along her merry way. The character seemed to be a bit bland as we got to know her better but the classic writing style of Seton really won me over in the end.

I would recommend this classic novel to anybody who is interested in the story between John of Gaunt and his eventual wife, Katherine. While I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would as it seemed to drag a bit here and there, I still enjoyed it very much; especially because of the myriad of characters who helped portray an evocative part in history. John of Gaunt was a very intriguing figure, and I have to wonder about this characterization of him.. he was portrayed as being adored by the people and a strong leader, which I wonder if his one flaw was falling in love with the Swynford woman. The beginnings of their relationship were very dramatic, and again I have to wonder what is reality. Definitely a fantastic era for a movie..the setting of the era was a character in itself, a testament to Seton’s writing talent.

The edition that I read is shown in the picture above which was a reissue with several typos. I have an older edition that I didn’t want to mess up, but I kinda wish I had read that one instead.

This novel was one of my picks for the Roof Beam Reader’s 2013 TBR Challenge. Click the button to see my progress thus far:



Filed under 14th Century, 2013 Review, Anya Seton

7 responses to “Katherine by Anya Seton

  1. This is one I've been dying to read. I actually have it sitting on my shelf, just haven't gotten around to it. Sorry about the typos.Kimberleewww.girllostinabook.comgirllostinabook@hotmail.com

  2. One of my most loved books of all. The most amazing part is how John of Gaunt loved her as what seemed to me to be "truly". I don't remember her ever going on her merry way, but mostly "enduring". Loved library copy, bought from Alibris, lent to neighbor, gone forever I guess. Must order another.

  3. Hey Marie:) Loved this read-along- gotta get my review up soon! xo

  4. This is on my own TBR Challenge list and for some reason I keep on putting off reading it (actually I find the font a bit off-putting, if that makes any sense). However, being caught up in The White Queen, currently reading The Plantagenets, and anticipating THe HOllow Crown this fall, I am planning to read this next on my TBR list, thanks to your review. I sort of had forgot that it was based on a real historical figure. Thanks for the inspiration to read it next–I enjoyed your review.

  5. I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Marie. It's one of my all-time favourites. I love the historical detail in this book, which I thought complimented the love story between Katherine and John nicely.

  6. I like historical detail myself so I think this would be a good read for me as well.

  7. Also loved the detail in this book – I read it a few years ago so I'm not sure how I'd feel about it now, but my memories are fond. Glad you enjoyed it for the most part!

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