Category Archives: Anya Seton

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

Synopsis:

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:

7 Comments

Filed under 14th Century, 2013 Review, Anya Seton

>Mailbox Monday Goodies Galore!

>Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. And I am adding what I purchased, swapped, etc.

 

A fellow HF Blogger Round Table member sent me the following, all out of the sheer delightful kindness of her heart because she is just beyond cool that way:
Avalon by Anya Seton (originally published 1965)
This saga of yearning and mystery travels across oceans and continents to Iceland, Greenland, and North America during the time in history when Anglo-Saxons battled Vikings and the Norsemen discovered America. The marked contrasts between powerful royalty, landless peasants, Viking warriors and noble knights are expertly brought to life in this gripping tale of the French prince named Rumon. Shipwrecked off the Cornish coast on his quest to find King Arthur’s legendary Avalon, Rumon meets a lonely girl named Merewyn and their lives soon become intertwined. Rumon brings Merewyn to England, but once there he is so dazzled by Queen Alrida’s beauty that it makes him a virtual prisoner to her will. In this riveting romance, Anya Seton once again proves her mastery of historical detail and ability to craft a compelling tale that includes real and colorful personalities such as St. Dunstan and Eric the Red.”

Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life by Alison Weir (April 3, 2001)
Renowned in her time for being the most beautiful woman in Europe, the wife of two kings and mother of three, Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the great heroines of the Middle Ages. At a time when women were regarded as little more than chattel, Eleanor managed to defy convention as she exercised power in the political sphere and crucial influence over her husbands and sons. In this beautifully written biography, Alison Weir paints a vibrant portrait of this truly exceptional woman, and provides new insights into her intimate world. Eleanor of Aquitaine lived a long life of many contrasts, of splendor and desolation, power and peril, and in this stunning narrative, Weir captures the woman— and the queen—in all her glory. With astonishing historic detail, mesmerizing pageantry, and irresistible accounts of royal scandal and intrigue, she recreates not only a remarkable personality but a magnificent past era.”
King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett
With the same meticulous scholarship and narrative legerdemain she brought to her hugely popular Lymond Chronicles, our foremost historical novelist travels further into the past. In King Hereafter, Dorothy Dunnett’s stage is the wild, half-pagan country of eleventh-century Scotland. Her hero is an ungainly young earl with a lowering brow and a taste for intrigue. He calls himself Thorfinn but his Christian name is Macbeth.

Dunnett depicts Macbeth’s transformation from an angry boy who refuses to accept his meager share of the Orkney Islands to a suavely accomplished warrior who seizes an empire with the help of a wife as shrewd and valiant as himself. She creates characters who are at once wholly creatures of another time yet always recognizable–and she does so with such realism and immediacy that she once more elevates historical fiction into high art.”

From Paperbackwap, I was happy to get a beautiful hardcover of The Diamond by By Julie Baumgold, after reading a review by Arleigh at historical-fiction.com

“The Diamond is a brilliant, dazzling historical novel about a famous diamond — one of the biggest in the world — that passed from the hands of William Pitt’s grandfather to the French kings and Napoleon, linking many of the most famous personalities of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and serving as the centerpiece for a novel in every way as fascinating as Susan Sontag’s The Volcano Lover or Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. Rich with historical detail, characters, and nonstop drama, the story centers on the famous Regent diamond — once the largest and most beautiful diamond in the world — which was discovered in India in the late seventeenth century and bought by the governor of the East India Company, a cunning nabob, trader, and ex-pirate named Thomas Pitt. His son brought it to London, where a Jewish diamond-cutter of genius took two years to fashion it into one of the world’s greatest gems. After hawking it around the courts of Europe, Pitt sold the diamond to Louis XIV’s profligate and deeply amoral nephew, the Duc d’Orlans. Raised to glory by this fortune, Pitt’s grandsons would rule England and devote their lives to fighting the very Bourbon kings who wore their diamond, the enduring symbol of the rivalry between France and England. The diamond was worn by Louis XIV, Louis XV, and by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. A beautiful blond whore placed it in her private parts to entice Czar Peter the Great on his visit to Paris. A band of thieves stole it during the bloodiest days of the Revolution. Found in an attic, it was pawned for horses for Napoleon’s first campaigns. Napoleon redeemed the diamond and, though his wife Josephine craved it, set it in the hilt of his sword, where it appeared in many of his portraits. After his fall, his young second wife, Marie-Louise, grabbed it when she fled France. The Rgent was hidden in innumerable secret places, used by Napoleon III and the ravishing Empress Eugenie to impress Queen Victoria, and finally ended up on display in the Louvre museum, where it remains today, then and now the first diamond of France. Julie Baumgold, herself the descendant of a family of diamond merchants, tells this extraordinary story through Count Las Cases (author of Le Mmorial de Sainte-Hlne), who writes it in his spare time while in exile with Napoleon I. The book is in Las Cases’s words, those of a clever, sophisticated nobleman at home in the old regime as well as in Napoleon’s court. As he tells his story, with Napoleon prodding, challenging, and correcting him all the while, they draw closer. The emperor has a kind of love/hate relationship with the diamond, which represents the wealth and fabulous elegance of the French courts as well as the power for good or evil that possessing it confers on its transient masters. He thinks of it as his good luck charm, but is it? For the diamond has its dark side — murder, melancholy, and downfall ever shadow its light. A glittering cast of characters parades through The Diamond: a mesmerizing Napoleon and the devoted Las Cases, stuck on Saint Helena with their memories; Louis XIV and his brother, the dissolute Monsieur; Madame, the German princess who married Monsieur; the Scottish financier John Law and Saint-Simon, who sold Pitt’s diamond to Madame’s depraved son; the depressed Louis XV; and Madame de Pompadour. Here too are the families, the Pitts in England and the Bonapartes in France; the men of Saint Helena; nobles and thieves; Indian diamond merchants and financiers — nearly everyone of interest and importance from the late seventeenth through the early nineteenth century. Written with enormous verve and ambition, The Diamond is a treat, a plum pudding of a novel filled with one delicious, funny, disgraceful episode after another. It is grand history and even grander fiction — a towering work of imagination, research, and narrative skill.”
And for review, from the fabulous Christine Trent, The Queen’s Dollmaker (Jan 1, 2010).. I know I am late to the tour party on this one.. so by the time my review posts you will all need to be reminded of it again so you can go out and buy it =) And I am extremely pleased to announce that we will have Christine Trent as one of our Round Table authors when her NEXT book comes out!! Gotta get in on the HF Bloggers Round Table list EARLY, folks!
On the brink of revolution, with a tide of hate turned against the decadent royal court, France is in turmoil – as is the life of one young woman forced to leave her beloved Paris. After a fire destroys her home and family, Claudette Laurent is struggling to survive in London. But one precious gift remains: her talent for creating exquisite dolls that Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France herself, cherishes. When the Queen requests a meeting, Claudette seizes the opportunity to promote her business, and to return home…Amid the violence and unrest, Claudette befriends the Queen, who bears no resemblance to the figurehead rapidly becoming the scapegoat of the Revolution. But when Claudette herself is lured into a web of deadly political intrigue, it becomes clear that friendship with France’s most despised woman has grim consequences. Now, overshadowed by the spectre of Madame Guillotine, the Queen’s dollmaker will face the ultimate test.”

10 Comments

Filed under Alison Weir, Anya Seton, Christine Trent, Mailbox Monday

>Mailbox Monday!

>

Mailbox Monday is hosted byMarcia at The Printed Page. We share what books that we found in our mailboxes last week. And I am adding what I purchased, swapped, etc.

I broke down and bought some more books. It’s that old book disease again (insert zany insane smiley face here).

Oh well.
At least they were cheap.

Symphony by Jude Morgan: this is a gorgeous hardcover that I got dirt cheap from Amazon.. see that “best price” of .01? Awesome deal. Sarah of Reading the Past has touted this author, so I picked one.

In 1827 Harriet Smithson, a beautiful and talented young Irish actress, makes an unusual decision. Determined to avoid the traditional route to stardom via the manager’s bed, she joins an English company in the bold experiment of taking Shakespeare to Paris.
With the ferment of revolution in the air, the new generation is longing for a novel kind of passionate, spontaneous art. And to Harriet’s astonishment, it is embodied in her—La Belle Irlandaise. In the midst of this frenzy she finds herself pursued by a strange, intense young composer named Hector Berlioz. So begins a painful and profound love affair. She is his muse, his idée fixe, his obsession; and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, directly inspired by Harriet, will change music forever.
Symphony is an audacious, brilliant, and haunting novel, set against a background of nineteenth-century theatre, Romantic art, music, and revolutionary Europe. But at its heart lies the story of two lives transfigured and destroyed by genius, inspiration, and madness.”

(*Sounds PERFECT for Enchanted by Josephine’s Oh LALA Challenge!)

Here’s a couple I’ve coveted for awhile. After no luck on wishlists I just had to breakdown and buy them. I just had to!!
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=D9A849&fc1=BD1010&lc1=E91A1A&t=theburrev-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&m=amazon&f=ifr&md=10FE9736YVPPT7A0FBG2&asins=1556525761Green Darkness by Anya Seton
This unforgettable story of undying love combines mysticism, suspense, mystery, and romance into a web of good and evil that stretches from 16th-century England to the present day. Richard Marsdon marries a young American woman named Celia, brings her to live at his English estate, and all seems to be going well. But now Richard has become withdrawn, and Celia is constantly haunted by a vague dread. When she suffers a breakdown and wavers between life and death, a wise doctor realizes that only by forcing Celia to relive her past can he enable her to escape her illness. Celia travels back 400 years in time to her past life as a beautiful but doomed servant. Through her eyes, we see the England of the Tudors, torn by religious strife, and experience all the pageantry, lustiness, and cruelty of the age. As in other historical romance titles by this author, the past comes alive in this flamboyant classic novel.”

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=DBE14A&fc1=DF2E2E&lc1=BF215D&t=theburrev-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&m=amazon&f=ifr&md=10FE9736YVPPT7A0FBG2&asins=155652532XKatherine by Anya Seton
“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 untameable love has become a classic since its first publication in 1954.”

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=A2BAD7&fc1=04030C&lc1=3232AB&t=theburrev-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&m=amazon&f=ifr&md=10FE9736YVPPT7A0FBG2&asins=1416550453
The King’s Grace by Anne Easter Smith: another cheap best price.. this came out in 2009 with mixed reviews. So we shall see how I feel about it, but this is right along the current events of the reads that I have been enjoying lately.
All that history knows of Grace Plantagenet is that she was an illegitimate daughter of Edward IV and one of two attendants aboard the funeral barge of his widowed queen. Thus, she was half sister of the famous young princes, who — when this story begins in 1485 — had been housed in the Tower by their uncle, Richard III, and are presumed dead.
But in the 1490s, a young man appears at the courts of Europe claiming to be Richard, duke of York, the younger of the boys, and seeking to claim his rightful throne from England’s first Tudor king, Henry VII. But is this man who he says he is? Or is he Perkin Warbeck, a puppet of Margaret of York, duchess of Burgundy, who is determined to regain the crown for her York family? Grace Plantagenet finds herself in the midst of one of English history’s greatest mysteries. If she can discover the fate of the princes and the true identity of Perkin Warbeck, perhaps she will find her own place in her family.”

 
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=281717&fc1=E58D8D&lc1=D1D1DF&t=theburrev-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&m=amazon&f=ifr&md=10FE9736YVPPT7A0FBG2&asins=0393040607
The Players: A Novel of the Young Shakespeare (Hardcover)~ Stephanie Cowell
“A graceful and sensual historical novel tracing William Shakespeare’s momentous path of self-discovery, both as a writer and as a young man. Before he was William Shakespeare, playwright and poet, he was simply Will, a young man who dreamed of the writer he would someday be. Based on extensive research and historical fact, this richly detailed fictionalization of Shakespeare’s formative years begins with the glover’s son roaming the fields of Stratford, hungry for knowledge and restless to escape the boundaries of his small town and loveless marriage. Will leaves his family for London and becomes a struggling actor whose charmed, reckless circle of literary and theatrical friends includes John Heminges, Ben Jonson, and Christopher Marlowe. All the while, however, Shakespeare continues to challenge himself as a writer; soon he is selling his plays and earning acclaim in the world of the London theater and aristocracy. Yet perhaps his finest and most heartfelt writing of the period can be found in the sonnets written for the Earl of Southampton, the beautiful young lord whose affection and aloofness stir the poet’s soul. The earl becomes Shakespeare’s patron, friend, romantic rival, and eventually, his lover. With the earl and the bewitching Italian musician Emilia Bassano, Shakespeare plunges into a tempestuous love triangle that will threaten both his desire to write and his sense of himself.”

And another Amazon purchase:
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=CED520&fc1=9B0F0F&lc1=FF0048&t=theburrev-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&m=amazon&f=ifr&md=10FE9736YVPPT7A0FBG2&asins=0618462333The Vanishing Point by Mary Sharratt
In the tradition of Philippa Gregory’s smart, transporting fiction comes this tale of dark suspense, love, and betrayal, featuring two star-crossed sisters, one lost and the other searching.

Bright and inquisitive, Hannah Powers was raised by a father who treated her as if she were his son. While her beautiful and reckless sister, May, pushes the limits of propriety in their small English town, Hannah harbors her own secret: their father has given her an education forbidden to women. But Hannah’s secret serves her well when she journeys to colonial Maryland to reunite with May, who has been married off to a distant cousin after her sexual misadventures ruined her marriage prospects in England.

As Hannah searches for May, who has disappeared, she finds herself falling in love with her brother-in-law. Alone in a wild, uncultivated land where the old rules no longer apply, Hannah is freed from the constraints of the society that judged both her and May as dangerous—too smart, too fearless, and too hungry for life. But Hannah is also plagued by doubt, as her quest for answers to May’s fate grows ever more disturbing and tangled.”

And from Paperbackswap I received:
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=C5A00B&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=theburrev-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&m=amazon&f=ifr&md=10FE9736YVPPT7A0FBG2&asins=0553295187
Wicked Company by Ciji Ware
At a time when female writers are considered a scandal, Sophie McGann, an independent Scottish lass living in 1761 London, pens plays for David Garrick, the legendary actor-manager of Drury Lane.” OK, so it’s a lame description. But I really enjoyed Island of The Swans by this author, so much so that I will soon own all of her fiction. (insert that insane smiley here!)

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=D3BABA&fc1=1E0C0C&lc1=FF006C&t=theburrev-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&m=amazon&f=ifr&md=10FE9736YVPPT7A0FBG2&asins=0451220544Too Great A Lady: The Notorious, Glorious Life of Emma, Lady Hamilton:A Novel by Amanda Elyot
Emma Hamilton is renowned as the real-life heroine of the greatest love story in British history. Now, Amanda Elyot breathes new life into this remarkable woman, in what might have been Emma’s very own words.
The impoverished daughter of an illiterate country farrier, young Emily Lyon sold coal by the roadside to help put food on the family’s table. By the time she was fifteen, she had made her way from London nursemaid to vivacious courtesan, and continued a meteoric rise through society, rung by slippery rung, to become the most talked-about woman in all of Europe, mistress of many tongues, a key envoy in Britain’s and Italy’s war against the French, and confidante to a queen.
This novel, inspired by her remarkable life, recounts Emma’s many extraordinary adventures, the earth-shattering passion she eventually found with Lord Nelson, and how they braved the censure of king and country, risking all in the name of true love
.”

I have a feeling I forgot something. But this is certainly a fun list to ponder.. and I love Amazon. Just posted today is my review of Island of The Swans by Ciji Ware, giveaway is Tuesday!

16 Comments

Filed under Anne Easter Smith, Anya Seton, Ciji Ware, Jude Morgan, Mailbox Monday, Mary Sharrat, Stephanie Cowell