Philippa Gregory’s latest novel from the Tudor period is the tale of Henry VIII’s last wife, Kateryn Parr. She was an incredibly interesting and talented woman and it is clear why Gregory chose to tell her story.
At the beginning of the novel Kateryn is involved in a love affair with Thomas Seymour. However, she hears that the King has chosen her for his next wife, and she has little choice but to obey. Initially, the King is very supportive of Kateryn; she is allowed to study religious texts and translate some herself. She becomes a published author (she was the first woman to publish in English in her own name) and she is named Regent in the King’s absence and becomes a mother figure to his three children. However, Henry is always portrayed as a monster; he has gout, an infected leg wound, and he is manipulative, controlling and psychopathic. As time goes on, Kateryn becomes more and more fearful of her life, with the threat of what happened to his previous wives hanging over her. The King’s advisors fear that she is too progressive, and she is powerless to stop their influence over Henry.
For fans of Gregory’s other novels and/or people who are interested in the Tudor period in general this is a great novel. It is fairly slow paced, particularly the middle section but the author builds the tension very effectively throughout.