The Confessions of Catherine De Medici - C.W. Gortner NO SPOILERS!!

I have finished the book and want to say very clearly that this is a wonderful book. For me the the latter half is much better than the first, but you need the first to get acquainted with the characters. I did come to empathize with Catherine. It just took me a while. My sole reservation about this book is that love is poorly portrayed. This is not a romance novel. It is full of action and murder and poisoning and family bruhaha. You think you've got family problems. Forget it. Your problems are a piece of cake compared to the Royal House of France during the 1500s. Nevertheless, you will recognize disfunctions that can occur in any family.

I praise the author for explaining clearly a difficult time period and for his ability to bring this time period to life. If someone should mention the Bartholomew Massacre or the Huguenots or the Guise family or Mary Stuart or Diane de Poitiers or Henri de Navarre and Queen Jeanne d'Albert or Philip II of Spain, Francçois I and II or Nostradamus and many many others, after reading this book, you will understand who they were and what they did and why. Heavens, I forgot Gaspard de Coligny. Don't forget him!!! The Tudors and the Bourbon family, yes they are part of this too. So if it takes a while to know all these people, be a little patient, at least more patient than I was. The author does a magnificent job of teaching you all this. You do not even need a pad of paper and pencil. It does not matter to me that the romance portrayed in the novel did not work for me. I promise you, by reading this book you will learn a lot, and you will enjoy the exciting history that it portrays. Other books will be much more interesting having read this first. So four stars it is.

There is an informative author's note at the end. The author's interpretation of the known facts is convincing, and I appreciate that he takes the time to explains his interpretation to the reader.

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Wow, Part Three is action packed! I sure am glad there is a family tree in the front. How many Henris are there?! The kids grow up quickly and are married off, always to promote political ties. That is history. Historical romance is really not my cup of tea, and there is too much of that here. I feel the same when the theme concerns occult beliefs. Some of the episodes are so terribly predictable. The different historical events are presented in a quick and neat manner. Not terribly much depth..... I hope the book improves. On to Part Four.

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Through Part Two: Naked as a Babe (page 101)
Having read through part two, I am quite disappointed. I have no complaints with the presentation of the historical facts. My complaint is that I do not believe the emotions expressed by Catherine. I am told she loves France and King François and that she feels physical attraction to her absentee husband Henri, but the author has not made me believe that these emotions could really exist. Below I will give specific reasons for my thoughts.

As a young woman of fourteen when she first arrived in France Catherine emphasizes how she misses home, Italy. In one sentence she says she has these Italian companions to give her comfort in the strange new land. Yes, France is beautiful, and she sees this from the start, but everything is in comparison to the art and beauty she has experienced in Italy. Here, look at this description of Fontainebleau:

I recognized François's passion for everything Italian. He had sought to re-create a vision of my land that I no longer held, one of supreme artistry and extroverted exuberance, and he was so delighted with my interest he even took me on a personal tour of his chateau, pointing out the oleander-dusted grottoes that echoed courtyards of Tuscany and bathing chambers that boasted heated floors and mosaics like those of ancient Rome. (page 46)

(Isn't it grammatically correct to write François' rather than Françcois's?) As the years go by and she never becomes pregnant, rumors abound. They are not complimentary. She is not accepted by the French people. She is ostracized and very much disfavored. Sorry, but where does this love of France come from?

Catherine supposedly feels a strong, immediate friendship with her husband's father, King François. Their love for each other just happened in the twinkling of an eye. Such can occur, but sometimes the prose is just too overblown. The reader is given only one episode, a day of hunting, where the two really interact. Oh yes, there is that tour of Fontainebleau. The reader is told that the two felt great affection and love for each other, but I haven't seen it grow. On his deathbed, Cathrine reflects:

How could I live in a world where he no longer existed? (page 95)

Catherine supposedly feels physical attraction to her husband, a man she never sees and who has humiliated her countless times. Her husband's mistress realizes that Catherine must bear a child. If she doesn't she will be thrown out and replaced by another who will. This could be ever so troublesome for the mistress, Diane de Poitiers! So she gets involved and makes sure that heirs are produced. She taught them exactly what to do, down to "providing them with a chart detailing the best positions for conception" (page90) !Can you imagine anything so horrible? She is standing in the dark corner of the romm while they have sex. Do you believe that Cathrine would think the following?

...I stole every bit of pleasure I could in the process, acting the bawd for my husband and his mistress, for she'd told us that only the heat of our ardour would ripen my womb. (page 90)

It is those first words of the quote which I find unbelievable.

I do not feel that at this time the author has shown me, the reader, believable emotions. I am disappointed. Due to these false emotions I feel like I am reading a light novel. I will continue and concentrate on the historical facts. Maybe the characters will turn around too. I hope so.

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Through Part One: The Tender Leaf, (page 33)
I have only read part one, but yes I like it. The author has included a family tree and a map, which are helpful. Also the chapters are dated, so you can keep straight in your head when the historical bits really did occur. History is explained clearly. It is interwoven into the sory, so it never becomes "a lesson". It is just useful to know so the reader understands why the characters make the choices they do. It is not heavy reading, just fun! And you learn at the same time. :0) What I particularly like is that you see how childhood experiences of Catherine de Medici, who is called Catarina in the book, are shapping her character. She is only thirteen by the end of part one. You know already that she has the ability to speak diplomatically although her emotions push her to scream. She can control her temper. She does not enjoy the "silly curtsies, fluttering hands and coy glances" (page 28) demanded by society and she abhors dancing! Lastly she learns from the past - she will not be duped. So the author has made me empathize with Catarina's childhood difficulties. I like her very much.

Lastly some lines make you think twice, as this one:

Remember, whatever he says, you're more important to him than he is to you. (page 29)

This is said by Lucrezia, Catarina's maid servant, just before Catarina is called into a meeting with Pope Clement VII, her uncle. What does this sentence say? To me it illustrates the close relationship between the two, and it exhibits strength and self-reliance. I am sure this is a forewarning of what is to come.

Before reading: I have to check this out. I am adding it b/c I so loved The Last Queen by Gortner.