I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again: historical fiction is one of my great loves. History is filled with fascinating characters, and while we know the facts around their lives, to try and imagine how they got there, what makes them people, is what makes it so much fun to read. Of course, it has to be done right, first, by making sure that things are more-or-less accurate (it is fiction after all, so no need for 100% accuracy), and second, by not getting too bogged down in details, as historians often do.
Alison Weir’s Katherine of Aragon generally gets both of those things right. The story is, as you may have guessed it, about Katherine of Aragon: princess of Spain and Queen of England. We all know this story from Henry VIII’s point of view, which generally brushes over a large part of Katherine’s story to focus on the truly scandalous bits of Henry’s life. What is wonderful about this story is that it gives us a feel of what it was like from Katherine’s point of view. In that way this story is biased in its telling, but that is as it should be, as personal accounts are never unbiased. And so we really get to understand the anger, pain and frustration she has felt as her circumstances continued to change, but also the love, caring and loyalty many had for her.
Of course, through plays, books, tv series and movies over the years we know the story and how it ends. But that doesn’t make it any less interesting. In a way, it makes it more interesting. We can’t help but want to shake some sense into Katherine when Anne Boleyn shows up, or want to whisper in her ear advising her to stop her fervent defence of Ferdinand of Spain when we know he’s not doing much to help her cause. As a reader, I dove into the book and consumed what was laid out before me, panicked and heartbroken because I knew what would happen to her. But I still needed to read about it.
My one criticism about this book is that it starts slowly, in the first part I was really starting to get bored (ok, the sea voyage sucked, ok, it’s cold and her ladies complain a lot, ok Arthur’s sick, ok she’s in love… got it), but then it quickly picked up, and at one point, I just couldn’t get enough of it, needing to know what happened: because, and I can’t emphasize this enough, even if I did know the actual ending, it was wonderful to read how it ended, from her eyes.
Most historical fiction is written by men (or at least historical fiction that I have read), from the male point of view, so it was fascinating to read about this famous woman, to try and imagine what her life was like, what shaped her thinking, her decision making, and how she lived through her tragic story. And when it came to Katherine, what it was that made her so very strong, and so very stubborn. I look forward to reading the rest of the books in this series, and am happy to have (finally and obviously late!) discovered Alison Weir as an author.
You can find more reviews on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26236852-katherine-of-aragon-the-true-queen