Sunday, October 18, 2009
This was not just because of the book, which I shall talk about in a moment, but because (warning: run-on sentence to follow - it nicely captures the sense of panic I feel when I think about this) this book was so good and so well written, and it was written half a century ago yet the first time I'd heard of it was the day I ordered it from the library, and so my desperation stems from the realization that if this book exists, others like it do as well, and I'm left wondering how many great historical novels are still out there that I haven't read and how I'm going to find them all and read them while keeping up with all the great new historical novels that keep getting written.
(This is the point at which my youngest daughter, karate girl Grace, will call out Mokuso and remind me to breathe: in through the nose, out through the mouth.)
Calmed now by breathing exercises, I have to say that this true tale of 14th century romance between John of Gaunt (third son of King Edward III) and young Katherine Swynford nee de Roet was one of the best books and most beautiful love stories I've read. For a complete and cohesive review, you can do no better than read the online one posted by Kit Thomas: Why I love Katherine, who ends her review saying that, "he (John of Gaunt) has dragged me kicking and screaming into the fourteenth century never wholly to return. I hope he and his good Lady Katherine will do the same for you as their story leaves a little warm glow in the heart which never really goes away and the conviction that somewhere, sometimes fairy tales really can come true..."
For my own part, suffice it to say that I too have been unrequitably fixated by John of Gaunt since first reading this book. Anya Seton's meticulous research and well crafted story brings him to life against a backdrop of plague, betrayal, and war, and though traditional romantic hero he is not, there is something about his unswerving passion for Katherine that touches the heart and makes this a love story never to forget.