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Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson
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Agincourt Bride (edition 2013)

by Joanna Hickson

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398292,072 (3.41)1
Member:tanzanite
Title:Agincourt Bride
Authors:Joanna Hickson
Info:Harpercollins (2013), Paperback, 400 pages
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The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson

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The Agincourt bride is Catherine de Valois, daughter of Charles VI, the mad king of France. Her mother, Isabeau of Baveria, doesn’t care about her children and neglects them until she needs them for her plotting. So when Catherine is born, a wet nurse is needed immediately. Teen aged Guillaumette (Mette) has just had her first child, which does not survive. She is pressed into service to nurse the newborn Catherine. A bond is formed, like that between mother and child. Mette loves Catherine as much as she would her own child- in fact, sometimes it seems like she loves Catherine more than she does her own two children who are born later. She cares for Katherine- and two of her brothers- while she is a toddler, but they are split up when Catherine is sent to a nunnery to be educated. They do not meet again until Catherine is a teenager and is brought back to court to be used as bait for the English king, Henry V. Catherine has Mette brought back to court as her lady of the robes, giving her a post which allows her to be at court. As battles between Henry’s armies and the French forces rage (including the famous Battle of Agincourt where so many French knights were killed) and diplomacy goes back and forth, Catherine is one minute to be given to Henry and the next minute to have an uncertain future. She has to deal with her monstrous mother, and, worse, the Duke of Burgundy, a nasty piece of work if there ever was one. Catherine has few friends- everyone spies on each other- and Mette is the one person who knows everything about her.

The story is written in first person by Mette, who knows how to read, write and do arithmetic because she was brought up in the family baking business. It’s written with a sense of distance from the subject, both in time and proximity. We get to watch Catherine grow and mature and develop an inner self that is like a slim blade of steel. Her family is incredibly dysfunctional; her mother declares her own son a bastard, her father is psychotic, another son has an eating disorder that kills him, and her mother allows Burgundy to do what he wishes with Catherine. Mette looks on with her middle class sensibility that allows us to see the nobility with no varnish of adoration. Interspersed are letters that Catherine wrote but never sent, showing us her heart.

I enjoyed the book, although at times it seemed slow. I suppose that is necessarily so, as much of Catherine’s life is spent waiting to see what will be arranged for her. The book is dense with details that bring the time and people to life vividly, right down to the meals they ate and the clothes they wore. While this era – the early 1400s- is not as popular as the following Tudor era, the Tudors dynasty would have never existed had it not been for Catherine. ( )
  dark_phoenix54 | Sep 21, 2014 |
Mette’s first child is stillborn, and the grief threatens to overwhelm her. Her enterprising mother whisks her daughter to the palace, where Mette is hired to nurse the newest royal princess Catherine. Thus, a bond between a peasant woman and a princess of France is born, strengthening as the years pass and Mette watches over several young royal children in the nursery. As the King of France suffers fits of madness, the Duke of Burgandy and the Queen team up against the Dauphin for control of the country, with Catherine – sweet, virgin, marriageable Catherine – a pawn trapped between them, unable to trust anyone but her faithful nurse.

As the daughter of a baker, Mette’s entirely unused to the wealth and glamour of the French court, but no matter, for she rarely sees it. Instead she is shocked by the corruption that lets the nobles in charge of the childrens’ household pocket the money while feeding Catherine and her siblings little and letting them run about in ill-fitting, dirty clothes. Catherine takes the place of Mette’s first child in her heart, and even after Mette has had other children her affection for the princess is strong. But that class line always remains, and even as Catherine’s importance increases, raising Mette along with her, no one ever lets the baker’s daughter forget that she is not one of them. This outsider-insider position is perfect; free to move between the two worlds with Mette, the reader can get a clearer picture of events in France and England than most of the people in court.

Catherine is forced to endure much in her early years, and it shapes her into a cautious, politically savvy young woman. Although occasionally a sharp remark slips out of her quick tongue, she is generally a kind girl trying to protect her siblings from danger. When she is forced into a horrible, compromising position by a cruel man, it’s quite heartbreaking – and may be quite triggering for readers who were victims of abuse when they were Catherine’s age, so watch for that.

One thing that really surprised me in the narrative is that Catherine’s marriage to Henry V of England takes place about five years after the Battle of Agincourt. My only other real familiarity with this story is from Shakespeare’s play Henry V, and that play makes it seem like the marriage happens a few days, or at most weeks, after the famous battle. This made me wish that an author’s note had been included that talked a little more about the historical record versus the novel’s version of events. This feeling was amplified later in the book, as Catherine and Henry tried to settle into marriage despite being virtual strangers, because I kept wondering what was the novelist’s imaginations and what was pulled from old letters and diaries and other records.

The book ends as Catherine sails across the Channel to England to take her place as Henry’s queen, and her adventures will continue in The Tudor Bride, which will be published in the US in March 2015. ( )
  makaiju | Sep 19, 2014 |
I chose to read this book because I enjoy historical fiction and I especially enjoy historical fiction about the royal families. I also was drawn in by the cover. This is a story of Catherine of Valois, the bride of King Henry V of England. The story is told by her nursemaid, Mette, and covers the period from Catherine’s birth to shortly after her marriage to Henry.

I admit it got off to a slow start….for about 30 pages! After that I could hardly stop reading! The book is well over 500 pages, but it didn’t feel long at all. In fact, it left me wanting more! I’d met some of these characters in previous reading, but only briefly. Most of what I’ve read has been set in England, so it was interesting to read from the French point of view.

One of the things I enjoyed about this book is the historical detail. It is obvious that the author has has spent time researching this story. I loved reading about the details about the clothing and the court protocol. Even though I knew about arranged marriages, it was really interesting to see how the royal women of the era were basically pawns, used to make alliances with other royal families. It was easy to empathize with Catherine, who really had no choice in who she was to marry, or when. It was also easy to feel the fear her sisters felt as the left the court to be married off very young. I very much appreciated that the author included a family tree at the beginning of the book. As I got to know the characters, it became unnecessary, but at the beginning I was referring to it often. It really helped me to keep the characters straight!

The only negative about this book is that the story ended shortly after Catherine’s marriage to Henry. However, I did learn there is a sequel to be released early next year, The Tudor Bride. I will definitely want to pick that up and continue the story! If you enjoy fiction based on the royal families of Europe, you will want to pick this one up!

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes and have written an honest review which appears above. ( )
  Time2Read2 | Sep 18, 2014 |
The Agincourt Bride tells the story of Catherine de Valois from her birth through her marriage to King Henry V of England. Told through the eyes of Catherine's faithful nurse turned Keeper of the Robes, Mette, her story is recreated with a caring and knowledgeable tone that only one so close to Catherine could have.

I do love history written from a women's perspective and learning about women in history that I didn't know a lot about. The Agincourt Bride fulfilled both of these for me, so needless to say, I enjoyed this book. I very much liked that this was written from Mette's perspective. This gave me a deep sense of caring and compassion for Catherine as well as an older and outside voice in order to narrate what happening when Catherine is only an infant as well as give Catherine knowledge from outside the court's walls.

It was interesting to learn about Catherine's life as a child, how she and her siblings were essentially neglected. This is where Mette's character is the most intriguing, to learn about the other side of courtly life and the ins and outs of the nursery. Another captivating character is Catherine's father, the Mad King, Charles VI. Catherine's first encounter with her father is when he is raving about being made of glass; however, this does not seem to tarnish Catherine's view of him forever and she even helps him through his delusions later in life. As Catherine grew and matured it would have been nice to know a little more of her own feelings about what was happening to her as she is used over and over as a political pawn. We get to know some of this through letters that Catherine has written but were never sent; however the point of view is from Mette's perspective throughout.

A great start to learning more about Catherine de Valois. I'll be reading about the rest of her life in the next installment, The Tudor Bride soon.

This book was provided for free in return for an honest review. ( )
  Mishker | Aug 31, 2014 |
I knew a little about Catherine de Valois prior to reading this book but not as much as I know other famous women in history which is a bit surprising given that she is the matriarch of the Tudor dynasty. This novel is told from the point of view of her nursemaid, Guillamette. The tale starts with Catherine as an infant and it progresses until just after her marriage to Henry V. (I don't think I've giving anything away here as the history is well recorded.)

The story focuses on Catherine but also on Gullamette, called Mette and her family. This I found interesting because it showed the differences between the classes. France was not exactly well governed with Charles VI - modern historians are not sure what his brain disorder was but whatever it was it certainly passed to Henry VI in England through Catherine.

I enjoyed reading this tale of a girl's change from child to strong young woman. It was a time when women had little power and control over their own lives - even women of wealth. Catherine was little more than a pawn for her mother then her brother to play as they tried to negotiate with Henry V of England. Catherine and Mette were well developed characters as were Mette's children. Some others were more caricatures - Queen Isabelle for example seemed to be a one note character and with the lack of an author's note I had to go a'googling and much of what I found disagreed with the portrayal in the book. I respect the fiction part of historical fiction but I also welcome a note at the end of a story to help me parse that fiction from fact.

The Agincourt Bride was an easy read - I don't think it took me much more than a day and a half. I had the benefit (?) of a power outage which gave me many hours of uninterrupted reading time. I did find myself lost in the story and not wanting to put it down to cook dinner. It did keep me enthralled despite some undeveloped characters and somewhat of a misnomer if you ask me on the title - Agincourt barely appears in the book and Catherine doesn't marry Henry V until several years after that decisive battle.

I am very much looking forward to the next chapter (and book) in Catherine's life as told by Ms. Hickson - The Tudor Bride. ( )
  BrokenTeepee | Aug 18, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0007446977, Paperback)

The epic story of the queen who founded the Tudor dynasty, told through the eyes of her loyal nursemaid. Perfect for fans of Philipa Gregory. Her beauty fuelled a war. Her courage captured a king. Her passion would launch the Tudor dynasty. When her own first child is tragically still-born, the young Mette is pressed into service as a wet-nurse at the court of the mad king, Charles VI of France. Her young charge is the princess, Catherine de Valois, caught up in the turbulence and chaos of life at court. Mette and the child forge a bond, one that transcends Mette's lowly position. But as Catherine approaches womanhood, her unique position seals her fate as a pawn between two powerful dynasties. Her brother, The Dauphin and the dark and sinister, Duke of Burgundy will both use Catherine to further the cause of France. Catherine is powerless to stop them, but with the French defeat at the Battle of Agincourt, the tables turn and suddenly her currency has never been higher. But can Mette protect Catherine from forces at court who seek to harm her or will her loyalty to Catherine place her in even greater danger?

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:41:59 -0400)

This is the epic story of the queen who founded the Tudor dynasty, told through the eyes of her loyal nursemaid. Her beauty fuelled a war. Her courage captured a king.

(summary from another edition)

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