When I was in the 10th grade, I had to do a project on a famous person for my AP European history. My teacher teasingly told me that I wasn’t allowed to do the presentation on Henry VIII because I already knew too much about him. So, I decided to do it on Catherine de Medici. Ever since then, I have been fascinated by her. Although she wasn’t queen in her own right, she ruled France at a time when women were usually given a back seat in politics. (Or no seat at all.) So, with C.W. Gortner being one of my favorite authors, I knew that I would love this book.
This book follows Catherine throughout her entire life. It starts with her being ten years old and living in tumultuous, revolt-torn, Florence. With her future uncertain, Catherine is left in a state of limbo. She is eventually wed to Henri, the duc de Orleans and Prince of France. From there, the reader follows Catherine through motherhood, widowhood, and regency. Her life is rich, yet filled with its fair share of tragedy. Through Gortner’s flowing and accessible style, the reader is able to experience everything with her.
Because of the sheer amount of time that takes place during this book, everything moves quite quickly. However, Gortner is diligent and adds a series of notes at the end of the book that tells the reader what he had to leave out and what he took creative license with. I found this to be quite helpful and important because often times, people get their history from fiction and don’t realize the differences.
The best part of this book, in my opinion, was the accessibility of Catherine. She wasn’t the “Madame de Serpent” that history has marked her out to be. But instead, she was a real women who faced real challenges. The reader could relate with her during every stage of her life and was able to better understand the choices that she had to make during her rule.
Catherine isn’t the only character with depth though, all of the people are deep, emotional beings. Gortner has a real talent for writing historical figures that are more than their reputations.
Once again, Gortner crafts an incredible read that draws the reader into the past. I loved seeing his take on this infamous woman and I thought he treated her with the respect that she deserves. I am giving this book 5 stars!
If you are interested in reading this book for yourself, here is the information on Goodreads.