Saturday, May 15, 2010

Book Review: THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI




THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI, by C.W. Gortner is by far the clearest, out-of the box-take on this usually overly vilified queen of France.  This in depth biography-type novel reveals a Catherine that not many people know- and that in itself is incredibly original as well as refreshing.  
The Catherine in Gortner’s book has been researched to the max- and although the author took the liberty of slightly altering names and events for creativity and flowing purposes (this merely avoided the encumbrance of an historical index of names appearing just for the sake of accuracy- and I appreciated that!), the history is impeccably spot-on.  Bravo for a novel that stuck to its essence while bringing us so much more!
How can this Catherine be so different?  Well, for one, THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI, portrays an all-around complete Catherine; woman, mother, queen, lover, friend , ruler, patriot, and ultimate monarch.  The emotions alone, that each of these roles entail are enormous and not always easy to convey in a novel; especially when written in the first person. Magically, Gortner achieves this to perfection.
Is it possible to love Catherine, when history has done everything possible to morph her into an absolute monster? When you read the how’s and why’s of Catherine’s actions, you begin to understand the person behind the story.  It’s often easier to hold on to shock images that create an impact effect rather than to delve into the intricacies of the history itself. After reading Gortner’s magnificent novel, I understood the history so much better.
 The details in Catherine’s life, France, her children, the political situation, the religion!- all in flawless account, like layers of a collage with Catherine woven into its web, this story opens up a whole new dimension into France’s ruling family of the time.  And, if after reading this novel you still can’t find it in you to love Catherine- I guarantee you’ll begin to sympathize with her in ways you’ve never imagined. 
So many facets to this woman: Catherine was headstrong for her nation, yet showed vulnerability in the face of love.  She kept strong for her husband and endured the belittlement and embarrassment caused by his mistress and that whole awkward situation. She arranged marriages for her offspring with the nation in mind- yet had immeasurable love for them and an acceptance of their choices which was unparallel of her time (Her love for her son, Henri, poured unconditionally-beautiful!).  Catherine had an uncanny foresight for great things, but sadly never had anyone to completely share her own doubts, needs, fears and- love. The enlightenment that no religion should divide a country and that France was all her people, not only Catholics-this too was grand.
I have to admit that I never truly believed the Jezebel portrayal, so I was especially glad to read this fantastic novel which revealed Catherine as a woman of immense substance.  I now see Catherine as a woman and ruler who sacrificed all for the ultimate good of France- a huge responsibility which she took charge of with all her might.  Her focus never deviating from her purpose –no matter the cost. 
I happen to love this quote from the book;
Catherine while on her deathbed:
“...I’ve had ample opportunity to reflect on this unseen entity who guides our path and to ponder why he has seen fit to test me so.  Have I not struggled as much as any other for my blood?  Others live fewer years; accomplish a mere fraction of what I have; and yet they sit enthroned with halos about their brows, while I sink like a villain in my own calumny.
As I wait the inevitable, I see the dead...my sometimes enemies and accomplices, each martyr to their cause.  Important as they were in life, through death they have become legend.
And I ask myself, What legend will history inscribe for me?
Read Catherine as you’ve never read before – It’s time history got a dusting-Thank you C.W. Gortner for polishing it to a shine.  
EXCELLENT!


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15 comments:

Morgan said...

I have never read a book about this queen yet and since you loved it, I'm going to have to add it to my wishlist great review!

Marie said...

A fantastic review Lucy! I agree on all counts, and I was eager to read a positive rendition on the queen as opposed to all the ones that probably vilify her. I'll read those next.. eventually. But this one was well worth my time! Catherine was such a strong woman in the face of many adversities and that seems to be forgotten often.

dolleygurl said...

I too never really believed that she was as bad as everyone made her out to be. She is one of those people in history that has just gotten such a bad rap and has been the subject of such bad gossip. Great book and great review.

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

WOW, fantastic review! Can't wait to read it.

Tea said...

Wow! what a poweful review. I especially love that quote. When I think of Catherine De Medici, I think of Marie Antoinette. Each of these women were talked about as being so very evil. I've recently read or seen a documentary about Marie Antoinette saying she did not speak the words "let them eat cake."

I would love to read this book about Catherine De Medici. It's so comforting to know the historical life of this woman is being corrected. Thanks to you and the author for handing out invitations.::))

Marg said...

I am very much looking forward to reading this one! I loved The Last Queen.

elena maria vidal said...

Can't wait to read it!!

Mystica said...

Beautiful review

librarypat said...

This event is wonderful. I have learned much about someone whose historical reputation and image don't appear to match up with the real person. I knew very little about her and look forward to reading this book to remedy that. We often forget there is so much more to someone than history shows us.
Thanks for a good review.

C.W. Gortner said...

Thank you for this very generous review! I've really enjoyed my visits here at Enchanted by Josephine and hope to return soon.

Teddy Rose said...

I am about half way through this book and am LOVING it. I'm trying to read it slow to savor it but it's hard. Christopher is just going to have to finish another book soon because I am addicted to his books.

That said, I have refrained from reading your review until I finish mine. I'm always afraid my review could be influenced by reading others first.

Amy @ Passages to the Past said...

You are so right Lucy - Catherine was a many-faceted woman and I really enjoyed learning about her in Gortner's novel.

And you know what amazed me was how hard Catherine fought for France when she had gotten nothing but grief from the French people since her arrival from Italy. I realize she was also fighting for her sons to be on the throne of France as well, but she had a genuine fondness for the country.

Great review Lucy!!!

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

An excellent review Lucy. This book really sounds like it's going to be a page turner!

lizzy J said...

Lucy, you picked one of my favorite quotes from the book. Is is not so true about life in general? I loved the read too I am glad it was my first on her so now when I read others I have something solid to compare them to. Great review!

Allie ~ Hist-Fic Chick said...

Awesome review, Lucy! I like what you say about how it gives the reader the first look at Catherine from all views...as you say, "woman, mother, queen, lover, friend , ruler, patriot, and ultimate monarch".

I agree with Liz - although it was my second read of her (I read Courtesan years ago but it didn't really affect my ability to enjoy Catherine as her own character here, since Christopher gives her such a great voice and makes her a more sympathetic, likable character!), going forward I will always have this rendition to compare her by.