Sunday, 20 March 2011

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Confessions of Catherine De Medici

Release Date: 06/01/11


I was ten years old when I discovered I might be a witch...The sixteenth century: the era of queens. Catherine de Medici is an impressionable, mystical girl. She is orphaned and taken hostage by her enemies, and manipulated by her advisors; yet she is to become France's most powerful regent. History will make her name synonymous with evil, but she is all too human. Humiliated at the hands of her husband and his mistress, and haunted by her gift of second sight, she must rise above her troubles and fight to save her dynasty and adopted country from the brutal Wars of Religion...In THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI, C W Gortner vividly depicts the turbulent life of one of history's most notorious yet misunderstood women.


Whilst I am a reader of Historical Fiction I tend to stick to names I know such as Philippa Gregory who presents me with a tale that not only hooks me with the lead characters but also gives me a story based on historical events, so when I was given this title to review I was a little apprehensive as I’m a creature of comfort who likes to stick with what I know.

What originally struck me with the book was the cover image which whilst it was similar to a lot of the HF titles out there was (after finishing the title) a little bit misleading and I would have preferred a portrait of the leading lady as the courage displayed within the book should be recognised rather than prettied up to appeal to the modern audience. It also would have made the title stand out more rather than fitting in with the multitude of other books out there in the same genre.

Whilst I am aware of the Medici name as a leading power in Italy during the renaissance, I wasn’t that familiar with Catherine or who she married so it was an adventure to embark upon this fictionalisation of her life based on surviving documents and one that I wasn’t sure where it was going to lead. What unfurled within the first few pages however had me hooked from the outset and with the wonderful addition of a family tree to the proceedings kept it not only easy to follow but allowed me to observe things that might otherwise have passed me by which when added to the authors own unique voice allowed me to become easily drawn into this world of murder, deceit and politics within one of Europe’s Royal Courts.

All in this book is beautifully written, the characters almost reachable across the centuries and the author knows how to hook a reader to the last page, especially when you add his afterward that allows you to learn the fate of the lead characters surviving children. The only downside was, as mentioned before, the samey cover and the title which I felt would have been better had Confession not been used as to me it has a seedy aspect associated with it. The Catherine within this book had nothing to repent and lived her life based on the cards that she was dealt to have to confess felt not only misleading but wrong. Other than this the only thing that I would have done would have been to add portraits of the principle players for the reader as CW made me curious enough to look them up on line and it would have added a whole other layer to the title had they been to hand during the reading.

That said, I definitely enjoyed this book so much that I will actively seek out other titles by this author and with luck others will discover his talent in order to give some of the more established genre names a run for their money.

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