Monday, June 21, 2010
The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner -- Book Review
A beautifully written historical novel that provides a different perspective on a legendary queen most famous for her ruthlessness, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici: A Novel by C.W. Gortner will pull you in from the very first sentence.
Catherine de Medici is known throughout history as being a ruthless queen who poisoned her enemies, arranged the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, and who practiced witchcraft.
At the age of 14, the last legitimate descendant of Medici blood, Catherine departs Florence for France, to wed King Francois I’s son, Henri II. While knowing this was a political marriage, Catherine would hope for a good life with Henri; all too soon to discover he preferred his former governess, Diane de Poitiers, who he had taken as his mistress, and flaunted in front of his wife.
Together Catherine and Henri would have several children, before his unexpected death placed their sickly son, Francois II on the throne. Tragedy would come to Catherine time and again, as her power grew during a time of unrest in France. Always seeking peace, she attempted to bring Huguenots and Catholics together, though not always assisted by her children--some even plotted against her.
She would die having been accused of many things. The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is her story.
Having previously read The Last Queen: A Novel, also by Gortner, I was anxious for the release of this book. Gortner's latest is at least as good as The Last Queen, if not better.
Bringing Catherine de Medici's story to life through her own confessions pulls the reader in immediately.
"I was ten years old when I discovered I might be a witch."
And so opens The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. Gortner certainly knows the importance of hooking a reader. The important thing, however, is that once he has you, Gortner never lets you go. The abundance of historical details, the numerous complex characters that reside within the book's pages, the perfect blending of fact and fiction, all let you know that you are dealing with a master who has perfected his art.
I found it much more challenging to write a review of Gortner's book than some others because I became so involved in the story, so attached to the characters, I forgot I was reviewing it.
While history has painted Catherine de Medici as a power hungry, maniacal force during her years in France, Gortner paints a much more sympathetic image of the girl sent to marry a king who preferred his mistress. She was a woman who sought to keep peace in a time when war threatened to rip France apart. She was a mother who felt the need to protect her children after the death of their father. She even felt the sting of betrayal by those close to her.
Gortner gives Catherine de Medici a voice. He does so in an eloquent, intriguing manner that will captivate readers and leave them wishing to know more about this misunderstood woman of the Renaissance. I highly recommend The Confessions of Catherine de Medici to any lover of historical fiction and those interested in powerful women in history.
Title: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
Author: C.W. Gortner
Pubisher: Ballantine Books