This was my first foray into historical fiction. Over the past few months I had picked up four of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor novels, and so when I decided to take a break from fantasy and finally read one of these (as I have heard good things about her), I went hunting to see if the series needed to be read in order. It doesn’t, but chronologically, this one, about Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, comes first, so happily I plucked it off the shelf and gave it a read.
My first thoughts, admittedly, weren’t brilliant. Her writing style feels strange to me with the constant switching between scenes and italic monologues from Catalina. At first, this threw me off a little. Though with a bit more time I got used to it. I noticed later in the book that more and more scenes were written in Catalina’s point of view and this inconsistency in the writing was a little off-putting. However, this was nowhere near as bad as the point of view switching in the middle of a scene. No warning, no line breaks. One moment we would be following Catalina and then it would switch to Henry VII. This is not brilliant writing.
That being said though, Gregory is a good story teller and aside from the odd writing error, she isn’t a bad writer. I did enjoy the story, even if it may not be entirely historically accurate, so long as you know that going in, it is a good story. Of course, a lot of it will be historical fact, but I figure that if I want fact, I will read a non-fiction book which I’m entirely willing to do, especially about the Tudors. This was always my favourite point in history in school and I will always have a soft spot for the family.
The ending itself felt a little rushed. One moment she’s discovered she’s pregnant, then several years have passed and it seems they are attempting to annul her marriage and then it just ends. I expected a little more, admittedly, and I am a little disappointed, though I suppose if Gregory had taken it further it wouldn’t have been a particularly happy ending. Either way, I have given this book 3 stars because it’s an enjoyable read and not everything needs to be 4 or 5 stars after all.
As for my opinion on historical fiction: I want to read more. If other historical fiction can catch my attention like this then it’s well worth reading. I did keep expecting a mysterious wizard to appear, or for Arthur to appear riding a flying dragon for a while, but I think that just means that this fantasy break was well-warranted! The weirdest part for me though is fully backing a plotline and hoping it lasts or ends, but knowing what’s coming not because I know the history. It’s like the ultimate spoiler.