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Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Last Wife of Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson

Genre: Historical Fiction

Copyright: 2006

Pages: 326


A novel about Catherine Parr, The Last Wife of Henry VIII. The least known of Henry VIII’s six wives was the cleverest of them all. Alluring, witty, and resourceful, she attracted the king’s lust and, though much in love with the handsome Thomas Seymour, was thrown into the intrigue-filled snakepit of the royal court. While victims of the king’s wrath suffered torture and execution, Catherine withstood the onslaught, even when Henry sought to replace her with wife number seven. She survived her royal husband, and found happiness with Seymour---but it was shadowed by rivalry with the young Princess Elizabeth, whose affection Seymour coveted. Catherine won the contest, but at great cost.

This was a quick, entertaining read following the dramatic life of Catherine Parr from childhood to her death. Told from Catherine's point of view it spans the history of all of King Henry's wives giving the reader a brief overview of  much of Henry's life as king & the ill-fated outcomes of each of his marriages. Cat is familiar with the workings of King Henry's court from a young age, her mother being Catherine of Aragon's lady-in-waiting. She finds favour with the King over her lifetime not only for her fairness but her wise & often refreshingly honest counsel until she finally becomes his sixth & last bride.
Erickson takes some liberties re-creating Catherine's life but as this is a work of fiction I wasn't bothered by the inaccuracies, if anything I found the embellishments added to the romance & drama. However if you're pedantic about an author taking artistic licence with history, then this may not be the novel for you. To give you an example, the novel recounts Catherine's 4 marriages, the first to Ned Burgh (Cat's one true love according to Erickson) then John Neville, King Henry VIII and finally Thomas Seymour but Catherine's first marriage was actually an arranged one, to the elderly Edward Borough.

Catherine was quite the humanitarian, skilled with herbs & poultices, well educated & level headed, although I did wonder at her intelligence when she recommenced her affair with Tom Seymour while married to Henry, obviously passion outweighed the possible loss of her head. She skillfully manages the delicate & often dangerous dance between honesty & protecting herself & those she loves.   I thoroughly enjoyed her often un-complimentary thoughts about Henry's character & her opinion of his former wives and I actually laughed at her audacity in voicing some of those thoughts. The following response from Catherine to King Henry, regarding his marriage proposal is a wonderful example of her temerity (and she managed to keep her head lol)

"I still feel fear and revulsion at the memory of you putting your hands on me, kissing me, when I was a young girl. I still feel the fury and anguish I knew when my beloved Ned died, a victim of the heartless demands of your court! I feel sorrow for poor Queen Catherine of Aragon, that noble and gracius lady, and for poor foolish Catherine Howard, and even for the one you call the Witch. They all got entangled in the deadly web of the court, and in the end the great spider at the heart of the web devoured them! As he will no doubt devour me!"

Plenty of page-turning action in this one, the usual court intrigue & treachery, religious turmoil, pilgrim revolts, accusations of heresy & treason. All in all, a fascinating look at the last woman standing.

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Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

Yes this one was great, I really enjoyed it!

Kate said...

Wow, I love the emotional quote. This sounds superb. Awesome review!

dolleygurl said...

I have Ericksons Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette to read soon, I haven't read any of his books before. This one sounds fascinating. I have enjoyed reading about Catherine Parr.

lilly said...

I haven't read anything by Erickson yet but I do own one NF and I think two HF novels by her so I better get to read her since she sounds like a fun writer.

Just Mom said...

Thsi sounds good - I haven't read a book about Parr before. Great review!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like something I would love. Love the layout btw!

Teddyree said...

Alaine ~ yeah this was definitely an entertaining read.

Kate ~ Cat often voices what others are thinking but are often too scared to say lol

dolleygurl ~ I've read The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette & really enjoyed it. Interesting diary/letter format too.

Lilly ~ I really enjoy Carolly Erickson's writing style; light, entertaining historical reads

Just Mom ~ thanks, I wouldn't mind reading something else about Catherine Parr, just not sure what!

Insert Book Title ~ thanks for popping in and commenting!

Tena said...

I really enjoyed this book!!!
Great review

Deanna/ibeeeg said...

This does sound like an entertaining book. I like the Tudors and whatnot but sometimes get a little overdosed on the same story told over and over again but by different authors. I think, reading about the other wives beyond Anne and Catherine (the first one) is what I need to do such as reading about this one.
Thanks for the review. I enjoyed the passage you included - that intrigued me greatly.

Teddyree said...

Tena ~ thanks for commenting

Deanna ~ this is a good one in that it's an overview (from Cat's point of view) of most of that era. Nicely condensed about each wife, so you feel like you've learnt a bit without being completely overwhelmed or overdosed if you've done the tudors to death LOL