Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Review: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

Summary: The truth is, none of us are innocent. We all have sins to confess.

So reveals Catherine de Medici in this brilliantly imagined novel about one of history’s most powerful and controversial women. To some she was the ruthless queen who led France into an era of savage violence. To others she was the passionate savior of the French monarchy. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner brings Catherine to life in her own voice, allowing us to enter into the intimate world of a woman whose determination to protect her family’s throne and realm plunged her into a lethal struggle for power.

The last legitimate descendant of the illustrious Medici line, Catherine suffers the expulsion of her family from her native Florence and narrowly escapes death at the hands of an enraged mob. While still a teenager, she is betrothed to Henri, son of François I of France, and sent from Italy to an unfamiliar realm where she is overshadowed and humiliated by her husband’s lifelong mistress. Ever resilient, Catherine strives to create a role for herself through her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer. But in her fortieth year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children as regent of a kingdom torn apart by religious discord and the ambitions of a treacherous nobility.

Relying on her tenacity, wit, and uncanny gift for compromise, Catherine seizes power, intent on securing the throne for her sons. She allies herself with the enigmatic Protestant leader Coligny, with whom she shares an intimate secret, and implacably carves a path toward peace, unaware that her own dark fate looms before her—a fate that, if she is to save France, will demand the sacrifice of her ideals, her reputation, and the passion of her embattled heart.

From the fairy-tale châteaux of the Loire Valley to the battlefields of the wars of religion to the mob-filled streets of Paris, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is the extraordinary untold journey of one of the most maligned and misunderstood women ever to be queen. -- Ballantine

I know I've been raving about books lately -- one good review after another, but I've just read so many terrific books in the past few weeks. (Evidently, I'm getting really good at picking up books that are a good fit with me!) My most recent must-read book is THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI by C.W. Gortner. I loved this book -- it's historical fiction at its best! And to think, I thought I was sick to death of books about kings and queens.

I have been anxiously awaiting the publication of this novel because I think Catherine de Medici is just a fascinating character. There are so many wonderful stories about her (some probably true and some probably exaggerated), and she's definitely one of the most interesting (and also controversial) characters that I can imagine. Mr. Gortner did a great job staying true to the stories about her, but what I absolutely loved about this book is how the author chose to interpret Catherine's behavior. He approached this character in a new and very unique way, and he actually made me rethink everything (I thought) I knew about her!

This book has a little bit of everything, and that's exactly what makes it a perfect escape read! Naturally, the book is filled with so much history (and you know I consider historical fiction to be my educational reading!) But the book is also filled with lots of attention to historical details including costumes, buildings, customs, etc -- it's apparent that Mr. Gortner did a ton of research. In addition, Catherine's story is filled with lots of suspense and some pretty major twists and turns. There is also the epic battle of good versus evil as well as murder, mystery, romance, and betrayal. This book is really gripping and intense, and I'm pretty sure you will be highly entertained the entire time!

There is little doubt that Catherine de Medici was a complex character (especially if the rumors are true!) However, I loved how Mr. Gortner brought her to life. He made her particularly complex and he didn't show her as entirely evil. He did portray her, though, as having a love of France that at times caused her to lose valuable things in her life. (I'm not sure I totally understand how she grew to love France above all else, especially since she was so sad to leave Italy, but I wasn't in her shoes!) And I liked how he showed that many of her questionable actions came about as a result of heartache, loss and loyalty to her family and her country.

I think C.W. Gortner is up there with with the best of historical fiction authors. I absolutely loved his last novel THE LAST QUEEN (my review) and I had pretty high expectation for this one. I can now say after reading (and loving) two of his books that he is now one of my must-read authors. He writes beautifully and definitely gives a unique perspective on the characters and their stories, and I will never cease to be amazed by how well he captures the voice of a woman. Plus, he gives credit to book bloggers in his Acknowledgment section at the back of the book!

If you are a fan of historical fiction, then you must read THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI! It's really that good!

Thanks to Pump Up Your Book! for allowing me to participate in this book tour.


Jamie said...

This sounds like a very interesting read! Thanks for posting this review!

bermudaonion said...

From the reviews I've read of his previous book, I think you're right about Gortner's work - he's one of the best. I know Catherine de Medici had a lot of influence on France, but I'm not sure in what ways, so I bet there is a lot to learn in this book.

Meghan said...

I cannot wait to read this book! I think it's my next review book to go for, and you've made me thrilled about that. =)

Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

I'm dying to read this one! I've heard so many good things about it!

S. Krishna said...

Yay! So glad this one lived up to expectations. Mine are high after the amazingness of THE LAST QUEEN.

Daphne said...

I thought this one was really good too! I can't wait for his next one.

Beth F said...

Okay, okay -- I must get to these books!

Cheryl said...

Thanks for the excellent review of Christopher's latest. I know I am slightly biased because I'm promoting this one, but I love historical fiction and I could read his work all day long. I just feel so drawn into his stories, and I like how he approaches the historical figures we think we know.

For anyone who is interested, I am giving away a copy of this book at my blog. You can find details at

Thanks again. I'm glad you enjoyed the book.


Serena said...

I'm not going to read your review right now, but I cannot tell you how much I love Gortner's writing. I'll be reviewing this book later in the month, and I've already started it and love it!

Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

I'm going off on a tangent because of your post -- I wish someone would write a historical fiction novel of Katherine of Aragon (deposed wife of Henry VIII). I just finished the cerebral Wolf Hall, and Katherine was one of the more fascinating characters. I would love to read more about her. Does such a book exist?

Daphne said...

If I might respond to Gerber Daisy:
there are a few books about Catherine of Aragon:

Katherine of Aragon by Jean Plaidy
The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory;
The King's Pleasure by Norah Lofts The Spanish Princess by Laurien Gardner
Katherine of Aragon by Julia Hamilton (out of print)

If you have any interest in non-fiction, a really good biography is Catherine the Queen by Mary Luke (out of print) and there is a new one coming out this fall by Giles Tremlett.

You can sometimes find copies of the out of print books on ebay or online used book sites. You might also try your local library.
My Catalina by Maureen Peters (out of print)

Jo-Jo said...

What an awesome review...I am definitely adding this one to my list!

C.W. Gortner said...

Thank you for your marvelous review. I'm very touched and honored that you enjoyed Catherine de Medici's story so much and I hope you readers will enjoy it, as well.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I really want to read this one. I'm bummed that I missed the blog tour. I need to check and see if my library has it.

Great review!

Amused said...

You sold me! I'll add it to my wishlist!

Karlie said...

I cannot wait to read this one!

Alyce said...

Very cool! I was hoping this one would live up to the hype and from your review it sounds like it does. said...

I read another book about Catherine de Medici earlier this year and really enjoyed it. I'll have to add this one to the list. She makes a great character.

Kristi said...

This sounds like a book that I would adore. I have seen multiple good reviews. So glad that you liked it!