June 22, 2011

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C. W. Gortner

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is an historical fictional account of one of France's most notorious Queens.

Catherine is a very loyal child, she understands her role in the political aspirations of her Medici family name.  Even at a young age, she realizes that her destiny is one of greatness.  Having the gift of 'sight', she becomes a very superstitious person, who sees signs and portents and dabbles in magical arts.

Her uncle, Pope Clement, has betrothed her to the King of France's second son, Henri d'Orleans.  She has no love for this man, but her duty requires her to stand strong in faith and with much determination, she makes the best of her situation.  Ingraining herself into France's culture, she emerges as a champion of the countries soil.  Amidst strife, and massacres like the one of St. Bartholomew, she must find her way.

After several years of unsuccessfully producing an heir, Catherine becomes afraid for her future, however, King Francois I, has a special place in his heart for her, in another time, they may have been man and wife.  He assures Catherine that she will produce him many fine grandchildren and Catherine is determined to fix her place in the royal family.

Prince Henri believes he has married beneath himself and for many years, successfully ignores his marriage duties.  His long time mistress, Diane de Poirtiers, keeps him away from court, and no matter what Catherine does to entice her husband, she fails.  Ordered by his father to perform his marital duties, he dispassionately rapes her.  However, no heir was produced and the two struggle to remain faithful to their duties.  When Diane realizes her only hope to remain mistress is to encourage Henri of impregnating Catherine, the two begin to successfully produce the heirs that France so desperately yearn for. 

Catherine turns to magics to help her produce an heir and keep her husband coming to her bed, tired of court discussing her barreness.  Whether they were successful or not, after eight years of non-production, Catherine goes on to birth six children.  They are her life's passion and in her mother's undying love, she fails to see the jealousy and hidden innuendos amongst her own children.  Diane continues to add strife to Catherine's life by having a hand in the raising of her children, sometimes adding fuel to the fire, discouraging Catherine's children from fully loving their mother.

Catherine de Medici is a woman of many mysteries and C. W. Gortner has given her a different portrayal, of the woman beneath the rumours.  Beginning from when she is a child, we read her thoughts and positions as she grows into womanhood and as she ages with time we learn of another possibility behind what made Catherine motivate herself to do the things she did. 

I truly enjoyed the book, the flow was excellent, the characters believable in their mannerisms and dialogues.  I thought the passages descriptive and easily found myself envisioning the surroundings being described.  I enjoyed C. W. Gortner's portrayal of Catherine, so much in history has her painted as an evil witch who poisoned those at her fancy, who controlled and manipulated everyone to her will, even when her judgements were lacking.  Seeing her being portrayed as neither victim nor heroine but as a woman who has accepted what life has offered her and making the best of what is being presented to her.

I was equally impressed with the graphic nature of some scenes, the author doesn't coat the facts when it comes to histories account of situations involving the players mentioned throughout the books pages.  The references to the historical data being shared was interesting to read, such as Nostradamus, the religious persecutions of the Huguenots  happening in France at the time, or the hostilities between Catherine and her daughter. 

Catherine de Medici becomes endearing to the reader through C. W. Gortner's portrayal.  We learn that even though one wishes for the best outcomes, judgement and the machinations of those around you sometimes play a hand in even the best of plans.  I found the story to be gripping, filled with mystery and magic and even though we know the outcome through history, I couldn't help turning the pages to see what happened next.

The truth is, none of us are innocent. We all have sins to confess.

So reveals Catherine de Medici in this brilliantly imagined novel about one of history’s most powerful and controversial women. To some she was the ruthless queen who led France into an era of savage violence. To others she was the passionate savior of the French monarchy. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner brings Catherine to life in her own voice, allowing us to enter into the intimate world of a woman whose determination to protect her family’s throne and realm plunged her into a lethal struggle for power.

 The last legitimate descendant of the illustrious Medici line, Catherine suffers the expulsion of her family from her native Florence and narrowly escapes death at the hands of an enraged mob. While still a teenager, she is betrothed to Henri, son of François I of France, and sent from Italy to an unfamiliar realm where she is overshadowed and humiliated by her husband’s lifelong mistress. Ever resilient, Catherine strives to create a role for herself through her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer. But in her fortieth year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children as regent of a kingdom torn apart by religious discord and the ambitions of a treacherous nobility.

Relying on her tenacity, wit, and uncanny gift for compromise, Catherine seizes power, intent on securing the throne for her sons. She allies herself with the enigmatic Protestant leader Coligny, with whom she shares an intimate secret, and implacably carves a path toward peace, unaware that her own dark fate looms before her—a fate that, if she is to save France, will demand the sacrifice of her ideals, her reputation, and the passion of her embattled heart.

From the fairy-tale châteaux of the Loire Valley to the battlefields of the wars of religion to the mob-filled streets of Paris, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is the extraordinary untold journey of one of the most maligned and misunderstood women ever to be queen.

** Disclosure: I did not accept any compensation from the sponsors other than review copies, my views are my own, reviewed by me..as I see it~!! ** 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the fabulous review of Christopher's book. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I've been a fan of his books for years. He's recently signed a new book deal, so we'll be seeing more from him.