“Katherine” by Anya Seton

This historical novel was published in 1954. Many other writers of historical fiction followed in Seton’s footsteps. Philippa Gregory comes to mind. 

The “Katherine” in question was Katherine Swynford, the third wife of John Of Gaunt,  Duke of Lancaster, late 1300s. John was the third son of England’s Edward III and ancestor of future kings and other nobility. His wealth and influence were staggering.

Katherine came from a much more modest background, and the fact that her children, born illegitimate, scaled the heights of nobility and power was surprising. Seton added interest to her fictional account by including real historical figures like Geoffrey Chaucer and Julian of Norwich.

So what’s the point of historical fiction, aside from keeping me entertained on rainy days? Seton tries hard to convey life in a highly stratified, pre-scientific society. The role of the church was crucial. Omens, astrology. folk wisdom and superstition made for a heady mix.

Seton takes her time developing characters. I enjoyed this book and recommend to reader’s of romance novels who are ready for a little more depth.



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