Bella’s Book Club: occasional recommendations from an avid reader
February calls for a romantic read and for me that will always mean a return to Katherine by Anya Seton. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read this book – it’s at least five.
It’s not a fluffy Mills & Boon-style romance. It’s a well researched historical novel, set in 14th century England, with a true love story and an incredible woman at its heart. Katherine Swynford was a real person with very royal connections – a direct ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II. Her first husband was Sir Hugh Swynford of Lincolnshire and when he died, she became the mistress of John Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the third surviving son of King Edward III. She had six children in all, and met all sorts of adversity along the way. But she remains a really strong character throughout the book, quite an amazing woman for her time. Despite being 800 years old, her story of motherhood and the battles of family life, seems so very relevant today.
Another interesting aspect of Katherine is that it features the marvellously-named, real-life character Blessed Julian of Norwich (a woman) and excerpts from her work Revelations of Divine Love, which was the first book written in English by a woman.
It’s a long book, not a quick read. But it’s full of love and longing, adventure and danger, spirit in the face of adversity – all against the vivid backdrop of mediaeval England. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.