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Review: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, C.W. Gortner

Catherine de Medici is just a girl with a little too much life experience when she leaves her home of Italy to be married to the French king’s son, Henri.  Wondering and hoping for the best from her marriage, Catherine is dismayed to discover that her new husband has a mistress intent on keeping his attention away from her.  With her status at stake, Catherine must make sacrifices to take control of her life, but they are sacrifices which only strengthen her for the extraordinary role she must take in the lives of her children and her adopted country, France.

Even though I really enjoyed C.W. Gortner’s last work, The Last Queen, I was worried how I was going to react to this one.  I’ve mentioned my recent disaffection with historical fiction quite a lot, but since I so recently loved The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger, I thought it might be time to give it a try.  And I was right – I loved this book.  I thought about it when I wasn’t reading it and I fully enjoyed immersion in it throughout its 400 pages.  Gortner has penned another winner and I’m glad I didn’t wait one minute longer to read it.

Making Catherine de Medici, one of history’s favorite villains, a sympathetic character is an impressive feat, but Gortner does just that.  Charting her growth from naive girl to married princess to crowned queen to mother and regent allows him to give her life perspective which is rarely achieved in other works that target the same time period but focus on different characters.  As a result, we can see how and why she acts the way she does, and with these believable motives in place, her character shifts and she becomes a character we can relate to instead of a conniving queen, even if she might appear that way to others.

I also really enjoyed the settings; I could picture sixteenth century France and its many troubles easily.  A number of important historic events happen during Catherine’s reign as queen, most notably the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, and the struggle between the Huguenots and the Catholics was, for me, well portrayed, and captured a lot of the frustrations and violence which seethed through France and its neighboring countries at the time.  So much was happening that the book never slows down or feels boring; whether it’s Catherine’s personal life in turmoil or the country itself, something is always going on to keep the reader entertained and captivated.

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici was surprisingly just as excellent as I’d hoped, and I think it’s an excellent choice for other lovers of historical fiction – even if, like me, you are a bit unhappy with the genre as a whole.  C.W. Gortner is an amazing writer and you’ll find me lining up for his next book ASAP.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

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