Monday 11 April 2016

Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir ** GUEST REVIEW by Catherine Hokin **

A Spanish Princess. Raised to be modest, obedient and devout. Destined to be an English Queen.
Six weeks from home across treacherous seas, everything is different: the language, the food, the weather. And for her there is no comfort in any of it. At sixteen years-old, Catalina is alone among strangers. She misses her mother. She mourns her lost brother. She cannot trust even those assigned to her protection.
Katherine of Aragon. The first of Henry's Queens. Her story.
Acclaimed, bestselling historian Alison Weir has based her enthralling account of Henry VIII's first wife on extensive research and new theories. She reveals a strong, spirited woman determined to fight for her right and the rightful place of her daughter. A woman who believed that to be the wife of a King was her destiny.
History tells us how she died.
This captivating novel shows us how she lived. 
Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen is the first in a spellbinding six novel series about Henry VIII's Queens. Alison takes you on an engrossing journey at Katherine's side and shows her extraordinary strength of character and intelligence. 

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen, book one in the Six Tudor Queens series by Alison Weir is published in hardback by Headline Review on 5 May 2016.

I am delighted to welcome Catherine Hokin to Random Things today, and to share her review of Alison Weir's latest book.

Catherine is a Glasgow-based author whose fascination with the medieval period began during a History degree which included studies into witchcraft, women and the role of political propaganda. This kick-started an interest in hidden female voices which resulted in her debut novel,  Blood and Roses . The novel brings a feminist perspective to the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430 - 1482, wife of Henry VI) and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses, exploring the relationship between Margaret and her son and her part in shaping the course of the bloody political rivalry of the fifteenth century.

Catherine also writes short stories - she was third prize winner in the 2015 West Sussex Writers Short Story Competition and a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition.
She regularly blogs as Heroine Chic, casting a historical, and
often hysterical, eye over women in history, popular culture and life in general.
She is profiled in the March 2016 edition of Writing Magazine. For 2016 she has been awarded a place on the Scottish Book Trust Author Mentoring Programme to develop her second novel.
In her spare time she listens to loud music, watches far too many movies and tries to remember to talk to her husband and children.

Check out Catherine's website, and her Blog
Find her Author page on Facebook       Follow her on Twitter @catokin

Katherine of Aragon; The True Queen by Alison Weir
Review by Catherine Hokin

'As the holly growth green
And never changeth hue,
So I am, e're hath been,
Unto my lady true.'

If ever there is an example of irony, this poem written by Henry VIII must surely be it. Alison Weir, the UK's fifth best-selling historian and writer of works of both historical fact and fiction, uses these lines at the front of her latest novel, Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen, and they stand as a sad reminder of the hope that Katherine clung to so misguidedly through her marriage to King Henry, a marriage that she never accepted as anything but true.

Weir starts her novel with the young Princess Catalina sailing across the sea from Spain, her 'tendrils of red-gold hair whipping about her face', to meet her future husband, Prince Arthur, heir to Henry VIII. The princess is full of hope but, more importantly, she is filled with a sense of destiny. In this re-telling of Katherine's story, her belief that she is the rightful Queen of England is a key theme a is the life-long pull of the Catholic religion learnt in her Spanish homeland. As anyone who knows her story can expect, these are not compatible forces.

Alison Weir has set out on quite a task: a novel for each of Henry's six wives, a group of very different women who have been explored in fiction many times. The question for any reader is, can Weir bring anything new to such a wide body of work? The answer, for me, is yes.

Weir is first and foremost a historian: the wealth of fact she brings to the novel creates a world that lives and breathes the daily life of Henry's court with all its intrigue and political turmoil. There is a downside to this - there are parts later in the novel where the detail threatens to overwhelm the personalities and the reader can feel a little removed from the action and the desperate emotions being played out as Katherine is brutally stripped of everything she holds dear. However, Weir's portrayal of Katherine not as the stubborn bitter woman she is sometimes reduced to but as a deeply loving woman of high-principal, fighting to save her husband from himself and to secure her beloved daughter's future is very well drawn and rightly sympathetic. Weir also writes a brilliantly mercurial Henry who can switch from ardent lover to sullen child in a heartbeat: a dark waning of the character to come.

The six novels will form a set: a wife in one will have a different viewpoint on key events to a wife in another and there will be, of necessity, overlap. In that sense it is difficult to review one in isolation. Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen is, however, a very impressive start and I defy anyone not to leave it feeling desperately sad for the pretty princess whose hopes and dreams were destroyed at the hands of a man slipping into tyranny.

Alison Weir is the biggest-selling female historian (and the fifth best-selling historian) in the United Kingdom since records began in 1997.
She has published twenty-three titles and sold more than 2.7 million books - over a million in the UK and more than 1.7 million in the USA.

For more information about Alison Weir and her writing, visit her website
Find her Author page on Facebook     Follow her on Twitter @AlisonWeirBooks


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