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Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by…
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Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen (2016)

by Alison Weir

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Sometimes I wonder why I bother to read any new books on the Tudors. Yes, I am rather a Tudor junkie But the point is: what is there to learn that's really new? And in fictional accounts, most new approaches are highly unsatisfying, usually sexing up the heroines and adding a lot of anachronistic 20th-century feminism. At least Alison Weir did not fall into that pit; thankfully, she's too much the historian first. That, however, creates another stumbling block for the reader: Truth be told, Katherine is makes a boring protagonist. She is too good, too righteous, too oppressed, too long-suffering, and, sadly, just too darn attached to that loser Henry. It would be pitiful to see her on her deathbed, praying for Henry's eternal soul and mooning over memories of the honeymoon days, if only I didn't want to slap her and scream, "It's over, capiche? Snap out of it!"

Of course, one can't totally blame Katherine, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, for not wanting to give up her rights and title as queen and for refusing to be locked away in a convent, as Henry wished. But in Weir's depiction, she never once gets angry at Henry for rejecting her, whine as she will about being his "one true wife" in God's eyes. When the Catholic church has been dissolved and your ex sets himself up as the head of the new Church of England whose archbishop declares your marriage invalid, it's over in everyone's eyes but your own (and maybe the Pope's, but his only intervention was to excommunicate Henry, to whom it no longer mattered). History is history, however, and it would be pointless to hope for Katherine to turn over a new leaf and either fight harder or start a new life--that just wouldn't have happened.

So here we are, with yet another dull novel about a dull woman. Weir just came out with a novel about Anne Boleyn, so apparently she plans to walk us through all six wives. (And unfortunately I bought this one before I started on her Katherine novel. At least Anne is more inherently interesting, so there's so hope.) ( )
  Cariola | Jul 7, 2017 |
Catalina is the youngest daughter of two powerful Spanish monarchs. Educated, mannered and devout, Catalina has been raised to make an advantageous marriage and at age fifteen she is sent to England to become the bride of Prince Arthur, heir to the throne. Katherine, as she is now known, is concerned that Arthur is ill and, when he dies only five months later, her world collapses. Salvation comes in marriage to Arthur's younger brother Henry and the couple rule for many years, the only blight on their life is the lack of a male heir. After Katherine goes through the menopause, her paranoid husband starts to worry about the lack of an heir and when he falls for a clever woman at court her decides to divorce Katherine. To Katherine this is unthinkable and her battle for what she feels is right drives her husband to schism with the Church and the rest of Europe.


Essentially this is a fictionalised biography of Katherine of Aragon but it is of excellent quality. Alison Weir is an outstanding historian and this comes across in her historical fiction. Anyone who has read about Katherine of Aragon will recognise descriptions and direct quotes from contemporary sources as they go through this book. Weir avoids the clichés of historical fiction in the main, there is little overt romanticism but by contextualising the story some points become clearer to the modern reader. By looking at the everyday life of a noble Catholic woman in the 16th Century the nature of Katherine's devotion to her cause is more understandable. I look forward to the rest of the series.
( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
OK, I like reading novels about the wives of Henry VIII, but I have read quite a few of them and maybe it's time to stop. This particular book about Katherine of Aragon (and there's 5 more coming in this series) will immerse you in what seems to be every single conversation that Katherine ever had with anybody - it just goes on and on and on. Particularly at the end of her life, when Katherine has been "divorced" by the King and is in exile, being moved from castle to castle while her hopes are raised up and then dashed by Henry again and again and again, the book just seems interminable. For these reasons, I give it a mediocre rating. ( )
  flourgirl49 | Feb 10, 2017 |
I am familiar with Alison Weir’s work, both fiction and non-fiction. I have also read several biographies of Katherine of Aragon as well as books that cover the reign of Henry VIII. Yet I was surprised. It is refreshing to find new information in a subject I thought I knew so well. So hats off to Ms. Weir for the surprise concerning Arthur, Prince of Wales. Once I finish writing this review, I am off to find more information.

Having read Ms. Weir’s fiction and nonfiction books, I have to say I prefer her nonfiction. This novel is a good example of why. In the nonfiction books, Ms. Weir’s exhaustive research produces a feeling like total immersion for the reader. You get lost in the detail. You can see and feel and touch what Ms. Weir is describing. I have not found that in her fiction writing. It is comparatively flat. I just did not get lost in the story.

This is still an enjoyable book. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction or Tudor related books, will enjoy this novel.


I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review. ( )
  nhalliwell | Nov 13, 2016 |
Read 08-23-2016, sold to HPB for 5.50
  trexm5qp7 | Aug 24, 2016 |
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