Katherine by Anya Seton

Pages: 500

Published: 1954

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Read: September 2010

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.

I read this after a recommendation as it is meant to be one of the greatest love stories of all time. John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.

When reading up on this book, it would seem that this book spawned many Historical Authors to write. Phillipa Gregory and Anne O’Brien is counted as the few.

I was hesitant at first given the age of the book. I find it really difficult to connect to a book that’s older than i am, especially ‘Classics’

I think I get this feeling that even if I hate the book I MUST like it because its a classic? Does anyone else get that?

Anyway, first lets look at the plot.. there’s about a good 30 years covered in this book, all from the protagonist Katherine Swynford’s portrayal. Katherine meets john through his first wife Blanche, but it isn’t till after she has died that John and Katherine start an affair. The children from this union would birth Kings and Queen of England and Europe for many ages.

Presently comfort came to him, and he thought the she had always given him of her strength though he had never quite realised it until now.
Glory had passed him by; fame too perhaps would not endure; it might well be that the incalculable goddess would decree ill fame as his due. Perhaps there might not be included in his epitah the one tribute to his knighthood the he knew he deserved “Ii fut toujours bon et loyal chevalier” (He was always good and loyal knight)
But whatever the shadowed years might bring, as long as life should last, he knew that he had here at his side one sure recompense and one abiding loyalty.”

It seems like a simple love story, but what’s love stories without a little conflict.. well hell I’ve never read a book with so many. Betrothals, war, Plague, famine, marriages, births.. you name it.

If I should never see him again—she thought, Blessed Mother, how could I live, and yet it was the fear of seeing him again which had driven her to this desperate haste. The fear that if he were there so near her she” 

I read ‘Katherine’ many years ago, but still i often think about the all-encompassing world that Anya Seton wrote and would love to read again soon.

I have brought Katherine on Kindle, and will read it again soon, but this novel also reminds me of a friend who hurt me very dearly, so I’m sure it’ll be therapeutic to re-read.

Il fut toujours Bon eat loyal chevalier

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