Katherine

Katherine

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...

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Title:Katherine
Author:Anya Seton
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Katherine Reviews

  • Lynn

    This book is both a spiritual coming of age tale and a hauntingly-beautiful love story.

    wrote some other good books, but make no mistake — this is her masterpiece.

    is based on the true story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt from 14th Century England. John, a younger son of King Edward III, was one of the richest and most powerful men of his day. His marriages were strategic alliances — but the great love of his life was Katherine, the humble, orphan daughter of one

    This book is both a spiritual coming of age tale and a hauntingly-beautiful love story.

    wrote some other good books, but make no mistake — this is her masterpiece.

    is based on the true story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt from 14th Century England. John, a younger son of King Edward III, was one of the richest and most powerful men of his day. His marriages were strategic alliances — but the great love of his life was Katherine, the humble, orphan daughter of one his father's heralds.

    Katherine grows from an love-struck teenager into an intelligent and aware heroine over the thirty-year course of the story. John has moments of arrogance, but is also capable of tender acts of sweetness — He should join Rhett Butler and Mr. Darcy on the list of sexiest men in literature.

    The couple's relationship develops slowly over the first half of the book, but the payoff is well worth the wait. The last page of this story

    makes me sigh.

    is the kind of novel that sucks you right in to its time and place. If you're anything like me, you're going to want to rush out and find out the true story behind it when you're done because you just can't let it go.

  • Diane

    This is the book that made me fall in love with historical fiction. It's based on the true story of the 14th-century love affair between Katherine de Roet and John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster.

    As a young woman, Katherine was a reputed beauty but had few prospects, so she married the brutal Sir Hugh Swynford and had two children. By chance, her marriage put her in the path of the Duke, who was struck by her beauty. After Hugh died, Katherine and the Duke stole away and had their long

    This is the book that made me fall in love with historical fiction. It's based on the true story of the 14th-century love affair between Katherine de Roet and John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster.

    As a young woman, Katherine was a reputed beauty but had few prospects, so she married the brutal Sir Hugh Swynford and had two children. By chance, her marriage put her in the path of the Duke, who was struck by her beauty. After Hugh died, Katherine and the Duke stole away and had their long anticipated love affair.

    While the plot sounds simple, the time and setting were not. There was a plague going on. There were peasant riots. War. Political battles. Katherine suffered many trials in her life -- this is not a romantic comedy. Indeed, I was so captivated by the story and the details in Seton's writing were so vivid that I felt as if I had been transported to medieval England.

    Published in 1954, the book has been beloved by innumerable readers over the years. I remember when a fellow librarian first mentioned Katherine to me. "Read it," she implored. "You'll LOVE it." And she was right.

  • Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

    Widely considered to be Seton's best work, this is a fast paced and fascinating interpretation of Katherine's life lived in a time of turmoil and copious bloodshed.

    The only thing that made me read this slowly was the edition I had

    has a small font and little space between the lines. At first I could only manage 20 pages at a time. I guess kindle has left me spoilt. However, I soon

    Widely considered to be Seton's best work, this is a fast paced and fascinating interpretation of Katherine's life lived in a time of turmoil and copious bloodshed.

    The only thing that made me read this slowly was the edition I had

    has a small font and little space between the lines. At first I could only manage 20 pages at a time. I guess kindle has left me spoilt. However, I soon adjusted and this morning I was so eager to find out Katherine's fate that I was up before 6am, feverishly reading.

    I've read this account isn't historically accurate (how could it be when so many records were destroyed by the fire at the Savoy and so many other events in these tumultuous times) but in any case I was happy to make allowances for crackling dialogue, a novel that doesn't shy away from showing the importance of religion in medieval life and a great and passionate love story - a really racy one considering this was written in 1954! Seton even captures the smells as well as the customs of the times and I felt like I had jumped into the pages and was on this journey with Katherine.I don't share Katherine's love for John of Gaunt

    but wow. A fearless, decisive, clever man.

    My only quibble which is not going to make me lower my rating is

    But a cracking tale until then.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Sara

    It is important to say up front that I am a sucker for good historical fiction. I like knowing that these people existed, that these events are part of the human record, that no one can know what these people actually thought or felt, but that this is one possible scenario that fits all the historical information. What is sure is that some things about people do not change with the exchange of horses for automobiles and kings for ego-driven politicians and that it is our ability to find common

    It is important to say up front that I am a sucker for good historical fiction. I like knowing that these people existed, that these events are part of the human record, that no one can know what these people actually thought or felt, but that this is one possible scenario that fits all the historical information. What is sure is that some things about people do not change with the exchange of horses for automobiles and kings for ego-driven politicians and that it is our ability to find common grounds in our feelings that make us relate to history so viscerally.

    Having laid my prejudice for this genre on the table, I wish to say Anya Seton excels at what she does. I was completely invested in Katherine and John of Gaunt as historical characters and as individual people. It took quite a lot to survive in the sphere of the royal house in the 1300s and it is fascinating that these two persons so far down in the line of succession would be the grandfather and grandmother of a bevy of future kings and queens, including the Tutors.

    It has been a long time since I have stayed up until 2:00 in the morning because I could not wait until the next day to finish a novel. I could not bear to leave John and Katherine hanging on the edge of finishing their story. I didn’t want to break the flow of the narrative and when I was done I was not ready to let go of these characters at all. I hope the real Katherine Swynford was half as strong and resilient as this novel heroine; I hope John was as handsome and charming and torn as this John. I hope they did experience a love that transcended common understanding. They broke the rules of their time. He lifted her to his station. There was a reason for that, that only a great love could explain. We all have heartbreak and tragedy, but not all of us have a love that makes that tragedy a footnote.

    I have marked all Seton’s novels to read. I hope I enjoy them all this much.

  • Gary

    A detailed and rich novel, with the author showing a flair for the English language and a deep understanding of medieval English history. Colourful wording, and a balance between passionate scenes and descriptive tracing of the events of the life of the incredibly interesting and beautiful Katherine Swynford.

    One may have to reread parts, but if you focus you will find this a rewarding historical page turner, and understand why after 55 years it is still a best loved classic of historical

    A detailed and rich novel, with the author showing a flair for the English language and a deep understanding of medieval English history. Colourful wording, and a balance between passionate scenes and descriptive tracing of the events of the life of the incredibly interesting and beautiful Katherine Swynford.

    One may have to reread parts, but if you focus you will find this a rewarding historical page turner, and understand why after 55 years it is still a best loved classic of historical literature.

    The author meticulously researched her sources, and even for minor characters, used where she could, those mentioned in the chronicles.

    Hence we definitely do gain an insight into the lives of royalty and nobility as well as the ordinary people of the England of that time.

    Katherine Swynford was born from a humble background, the daughter of a herald. While her older sister Phillipa gained a position in the royal court, Katherine through her beauty and charm, beguiled the powerful nobleman John of Gaunt Duke of Lancaster, father of Henry IV, and ancestor of most of today's royal family, through his eventual marriage to Katherine, his long time paramour.

    Katherine is first pressured into marriage to the boorish and brutish knight, Hugh Swynford. She gains the friendship and gives her loyalty to Blanche, John of Gaunt's first wife. After the deaths of Blanche and Hugh, so begins the passionate liaison between the flame haired beauty Katherine, and the charismatic Duke of Lancaster and player in the power of England's politics of the time. John is haunted by malevolent slander of being a changeling while he determines to revenge himself on those behind this false charge. Katherine of course was dogged by the charge of the time often levelled against beautiful and passionate women, of harlotry.

    But instead of marrying his love Katherine john married the Spanish princess Constance of Castile

    Only years later did the lovers meet again after much pain and turmoil and spend three years of marriage before John of Gaunt's death.

    Covers events such as the Black Death, and the rebellion of the time led by Wat Tyler, during the reign of the boy king Richard II.

    We also get to meet characters such as John Chaucer (married to Katherine's sister) and the mystic Nun, St Julian.

    A great work of literature, well worth the effort

  • Kiri Fiona

    Either Katherine Swynford, her beloved John of Gaunt, or both (because she gave him 4 -

    - kids as his mistress), gave rise to the royal lines that include Kings Henry IV, V, VI & VII, Richard III, Edward IV, a Queen of Scots, every sovereign of Scotland since ages ago (sorry, my google is down or I'd sound way smarter right now) and every sovereign of England in the last 400 years. Meanwhile, my branch of

    Either Katherine Swynford, her beloved John of Gaunt, or both (because she gave him 4 -

    - kids as his mistress), gave rise to the royal lines that include Kings Henry IV, V, VI & VII, Richard III, Edward IV, a Queen of Scots, every sovereign of Scotland since ages ago (sorry, my google is down or I'd sound way smarter right now) and every sovereign of England in the last 400 years. Meanwhile, my branch of our family tree includes an overweight cat.

    This isn't the kind of romance I normally read. Like, it's not the kind of romance where it's all about the couple, all the time, and I start to get pissy if they're apart for too much of the book. It's a romance in the way Gone With the Wind is a romance - there's a beautiful thread of love and loyalty and connection that weaves it's way through 30 years, but most of what happens on the page sees our couple separated. We've got crazy mothers-in-law, sniping sisters, arranged marriages, lots of babies being born, strained relationships between a mother and a daughter, Katherine coping with being

    , gossip, rioting, plague, wars, and royal dramas. There was

    going on.

    And Geoffrey Chaucer was in it. He's super smart.

    I really admired her resilience. When we first meet her she's a naive, wide eyed young girl with dreams and ambitions and very little idea of the world. Over time, her shine wears off but her character grows and we get to grow along with her. She suffered a lot through her time with Hugh, but she bore the burden graciously and I loved, loved, loved that she carried herself with integrity throughout her marriage. And she was funny! I didn't expect a 14th century real life person to be funny, but she was a quirky little thing.

    Yum. He was everything I imagine when I read regency romances - heroic, strong, practical, protective, cold, brave. And we saw a different side of him when he and Katherine were alone - he was actually the more sweet and loving one of them when they were alone - but I think at the end of the day he was a knight, through and through. Everything he did was for the betterment of his line, his family, and his king, but I never doubted that he loved Katherine.

    I didn't like them all, but Ms Seton's writing bought them all to life in a way that I was interested in them all. And, ok, was Nirac gay? I feel like he was, but then I thought maybe I'm projecting because I read too much M/M romance. But was he?

    Things like Constanza rejecting her physical body to embrace godliness. Which, ew, by the way. Blanche's birth.

    How they treated legit medical conditions.

    Ok, here's why it's not a full 5 star read for me. The religion side of this, while I learned a lot from it, bordered on fantasy for me. I could literally feel myself tuning out when Katherine was paying penance, and through every reference to God. There was a lot of that, for me.

    And also, you just

    , even before she admitted to it, that had Blanche not

    , Katherine would have carried on

    I just felt that the whole phase was unnecessary. But it was a small thing.

    The Afterword. I felt like that 1 page could have been a whole other book? Or even just more chapters? Is it just me? All the time had been taken to weave a gorgeous, multifaceted story, and days of my life were spent enthralled in this other world, and then suddenly it was like

    I wasn't ready!

    Ok, so I didn't love every page, but the story was rich and layered and colourful, divine in the development of it's characters, and heartbreaking because these people all existed, and I'm having a hard time letting it go. I finished this book on Thursday (so, 4 days ago) and I haven't been more than 2 chapters into any other book since.

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  • Chrissie

    Finished: The last 100 pages or so I was thinking - stop with the crap about the customs of medieval times and just let me know what is going to happen to the main characters! I cared about them very much. I ended up totally loving Katherine. She was real. She made tons of "wrong steps" in her life, but damn it all we all have to live don't we! Who says we have to be perfect? Who says we SHOULDN'T fall in love and be carried away by our emotions. Also I REALLY learned about life in the middle

    Finished: The last 100 pages or so I was thinking - stop with the crap about the customs of medieval times and just let me know what is going to happen to the main characters! I cared about them very much. I ended up totally loving Katherine. She was real. She made tons of "wrong steps" in her life, but damn it all we all have to live don't we! Who says we have to be perfect? Who says we SHOULDN'T fall in love and be carried away by our emotions. Also I REALLY learned about life in the middle ages. It felt that I was no longer looking at a foreign time and place, but was part of it. Part of the times - castles with their solars and kitchens and clothes (both jeweled and ragged) and strange foods and smells and holidays and chivalry and plagues, scarlet fever and stupid political and religious leaders, but also truly religious individuals who helped and were kind and understood others' weaknesses. What else? Pilgrimages and shrines and a corrupt Church and Chaucer. All of this came alive and it was an enjoyable read! Not heavy.

    Any happiness attained was certainly earned!

    Through pages 455: Politics - lies, lies, lies. Will the serfs attain freedom? Katherine has gotten off her high pedestal.

    Quick changes here - I am on page 410 and, yup I do like it again. I guess it is just that I got so terribly annoyed with Katherine. Is that b/c the author has made me care for her? Anyhow the following pages with Katherine and her first daughter, Blanchette, sucked me in again. I am not giving any spoilers!

    Through 399: Sometimes the stupidity of Katherine annoys me. I am happy that the serfs are being egged on by John Ball. Katherine is getting spoiled by her good living. Is her memory so short? Here is a short conversation between Katherine and her maid, Hawsie:

    Katherine says, "The poll tax is hard on folk, no doubt, but wars must be paid for, Hawsie. Why must they show so much hatred?"

    "Tis easy to hate, lady dear, when you be poor and starving."

    "But they are not!" cried Katherine, her eyes flashing. "Nobody starves in Leicester, or any of the Duke's domains. The kitchens often feed three hundred a day."

    "Tis not everyone wants to be beggars, sweeting," said Hawsie.

    Katherine has changed. I remember when she behaved more as a commoner, on May Day festivities when she ran barefoot and frolicked with the others. And NOW she is finally beginning to realize that if the Duke dies she will be in quite a pickle...... Everybody makes choices. You have to live with these choices.

    Through page 392: Not as good as before. Why - well I am really not into politics, whether it be of today or the 1300s. It is 95% of the time corrupt and self-centered. Who is ruling is interesting to me more in terms of how it affects the normal lower status people, the masses. That is just where my interest lies. Neither am I that interested in who is marrying who. The more one knows of history the more one is interested in it, and I quite simply don't know very much about medieval royalty! So this book has to be more interesting to those who knows a lot about the various kings and queens and their personal traits. I DO have to start somewhere. And then Katherine's role as acknowledged mistress just rolls along. I do admire the blatancy with which the Duke shows this to all and everyone - BUT what about the misery he is causing his Castilian wife? He did marry her, and if he is such a kind person .... Yes, yes, I know, politics and how kingdoms were made and broken, well that is how it was done - through battles and marriage and then the bed to produce the needed heirs. Furthermore, now "romantic developments" are sprouting for the children too! I am not as attached to them as I am to Katherine so it means little to me. Books often drag 2/3 - 3/4 through. History continues to be deftly interwoven into the story. The book continues to describe the customs of the times. This I continue to enjoy! So it is not hopeless. I have forgotten to mention that the plague - the Black Death - was well depicted, and bits about Chaucer are interesting! Also the historical developments of part of the 100 Years War are explained.

    Through page 151: What a surprise. This is fun to read. The author has correctly followed the historical facts. I read that some say the ending is not agreed upon by all historians, but I am not there yet. So the history is correct and small details of how things were done in the 1300s are interestingly and accurately described. This is history that is fun to read. Never dry text. It takes place during the 100 Years War. Reading it feels simply like reading a fun novel - and you are leaning at the same time. What could be better! There is something about the way the author depicts people that makes them very real. Flesh and bone. Physically when Katherine is frolicking on the day before her wedding, a beautiful spring day of May, you feel the dew on the grass on your own bare feet. She somehow with just a few words catches how one's body interprets the weather, physical contact or sickness. The smells are in your own nostrils. The wetness on your own skin. And it is all done so naturally that it seems you are simply there, not reading about it. The characters are not one-sided. The same person has both good and bad qualities, just like in real life. So far so good. I am enjoying myself. A delightful surprise.

    I am worried about this one. I feel I OUGHT to read it, but will I like it?! It seems like it has a religious ending - gulp. And the romance - won't that be too much?. Also some say it has a slow start. With all these negative points, why does it have such a high rating? I can always just stop if I really cannot stand it.......

  • Alice Poon

    I’m giving this novel 3.5 stars. It is overall a meticulously researched and well-written historical romance set in 14th century England about Katherine Swynford, the third wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.

    The first half of the book is dedicated to describing the romantic love that develops in a tortuous way between the two protagonists. Katherine is initially married off against her wish to a brutish husband, whose faults include poverty that results from mismanagement of his estates.

    I’m giving this novel 3.5 stars. It is overall a meticulously researched and well-written historical romance set in 14th century England about Katherine Swynford, the third wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.

    The first half of the book is dedicated to describing the romantic love that develops in a tortuous way between the two protagonists. Katherine is initially married off against her wish to a brutish husband, whose faults include poverty that results from mismanagement of his estates. Then Prince Charming, who is happily married to a charming and kind princess, comes along and delivers the poor girl from despair. Then the lovers find ways to carry on with their illicit love affair, always plagued by guilt towards their respective spouses. I find this portion too drawn out with too many happy coincidences, that is, too much of a Cinderella type of story. The bits about John’s childhood bête noire and his squire’s murder of Katherine’s husband are contrived.

    The second half is much better and more realistic and the pace is quicker. I like the back stories about the Plantagenet family, the political intrigue surrounding religious reform and the lead-up to and the actual June 1381 peasants’ revolt in London. But the part about Katherine’s self-imposed penitence drags too much.

    By the time I was near the ending, I could pretty much predict what was going to happen.

    I’m glad though to have learned where Henry V and Henry VI of England came from, and the origins of the Beaufort/Tudor line and of the Yorkists.

  • Melody

    Solid, engaging historical fiction about the mistress of John of Gaunt who was the ancestress of the Tudors. Rich with period detail. The part that makes me knock the rating down is the horrible passage wherein Katherine becomes a guilt-ridden Christian who repudiates her own happiness. It was such a jarring disconnect and so typical of everything I loathe about Christianity that it spoiled the book for me. It's hard to imagine a moral and spiritual about-face of this magnitude and swiftness.

    Solid, engaging historical fiction about the mistress of John of Gaunt who was the ancestress of the Tudors. Rich with period detail. The part that makes me knock the rating down is the horrible passage wherein Katherine becomes a guilt-ridden Christian who repudiates her own happiness. It was such a jarring disconnect and so typical of everything I loathe about Christianity that it spoiled the book for me. It's hard to imagine a moral and spiritual about-face of this magnitude and swiftness. Now I wonder about the accuracy of this passage. Luckily, Alison Weir has just come out with a book about Katherine which may answer my question.

  • Richard Derus

    Rating: 2.75* of five

    : Since this is a resurrected review, I'm putting the Amazon book description here:

    “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—

    Rating: 2.75* of five

    : Since this is a resurrected review, I'm putting the Amazon book description here:

    “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.”

    : Whoo baby! And we thought our generation invented sex, lust, and lechery! Our mamas read this paean to the ripped bodice and flung codpiece with, I feel morally certain, cool detachment and a keen analytical eye for its prosody. Because our

    didn't *ever* think about s-e-x or l-u-s-t, now did they, because that would be ewww.

    Well ha ha ha on us. This story of lusty Katherine the Flemish wench, sister-in-law of Chaucer and lover of a Royal Duke, wife of a stunningly boring man who just ups and dies (most handily) one day, and mother of something like six or seven kids (now doesn't that make your baby-maker sore just thinkin' about it?) was about as close to one-handed reading for girls as things got in 1954.

    Not being a girl, I had a few problems with it. Crotch-fog did not obscure my vision of the novel as told tale. And there are some things that don't work about it. First is the Romance, the zeal of the organs for their mates, between Duke and minor court lady. It's not a romance, it's his dukeliness wantin' him a piece and Katherine, no dope, trottin' right along with the program. He's ROYAL! What kind of stupid wench says no to a ROYAL in that day and time?! He turns out to be my-t-fine in the sack, bonus!, but he is busy as hell plotting and scheming and what-all, plus he's got a political marriage to contend with, and he and Katherine raise his kids by his first wife, her kids, and their kids in a kind of modern blended family. It is this central fact that makes Katherine important: She did not marry the Duke until they were old, but her four surviving kids by him are...listen carefully, this is true and it's amazing...the direct ancestors of ALL SUCCEEDING ENGLISH ROYALS TO THIS GOOD DAY.

    Here's one of the problems: Which story is Seton telling, the one-handed one or the historically astoundingly important one? It's never all that clear. And it's not unclear because the book is too short, because this damned thing is almost 600pp! (Ow.) It's not clear because Seton isn't clear in her mind what she's doing here. She's got two good plots and switches back and forth between them, which makes the book feel patched together.

    Another issue obscured by the anticipation felt by lubricious readers of an earlier time is the book's clunky prose. This is La Seton describing Katherine, in her youthful innocence, meeting her future baby-daddy's first wife:

    That is the narrator, laddies and gentlewomen. The Narrator speaks in this breathlessly leaden, numbingly enthusiastic way from giddy-up to whoa. I won't go into what she has the lovers say to each other.

    So don't go into this expecting new and exciting prose experiments, and don't go expecting a clearly defined plot. Do, however, go expecting the story to suck you right in and sweep you along, and do go expecting to keep your pillow-sharer awake from the fanning of turning pages. Repress your snorts of outrage at some of Seton's more moistly written passages, overlook some of her wrong-headed guesses at what filled the spaces in Katherine's historical record, and this could be a decent read.

    For me, the seams itched and the sleeves were too short and the zipper caught me in a painful and distracting way. I say it's spinach salad, and I say to Limbo with it. (Not quite spinach and hell like the old cartoon. Guess you hadda be there. Sounded funnier in my head.)

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