My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Suzannah Dunn tells the story of young Katherine Howard, a girl who gets thrown into the life of being the Queen of England and the wife of famous Henry VIII at the tender age of eighteen. The young Queen makes the King smile again after his fourth failed marriage, and despite the age gap the two genuinely seem to be moving forward. But what Katherine has done before she became Queen has disastrous consequences for her position at court, and the story unfolds as her friend Catherine Tylney reveals more and more about her.
I got this book at a book faire for, if I’m not mistaken, most likely 2 euros, which is a bargain for any book really – but seeing as it was a Tudor related book, I definitely had to pick it up. As someone who has spent several hours digging through the Tudor history, I know my fair share of information on the six wives of Henry VIII. Katherine Howard is no exception. Known as the playful, dancing Queen, Katherine is extremely young compared to the wives the King of England had before her, and she is seen as a breath of fresh air. If you go into this book with knowledge on what happened, the entire read changes.
The story is told through the eyes of Katherine’s friend, Catherine Tylney, who spends most of her teenage years with her and experiences what life is like when you have a friend like Katherine around. Katherine loves men and is not shameful in admitting such. She has a natural charm to her and, before the eyes of her friends, basically captures the heart of one man after the other. Seemingly harmless, were it not for the fact that one of these contacts, Francis Dereham, will be part of her downfall once she’s Queen.
Dunn manages to almost effortlessly weave fiction and reality together, mixing actual conversations and quotes, locations and dates with fiction that is very believable and on point. Though I was under the impression that the main character was a figment of her imagination, it is stated in the acknowledgements that there was a woman by the name of Kat Tylney, which made it all the more worthwhile in my opinion. Despite knowing that this was partly fiction, it still felt like it had all been a part of reality.
I usually struggle with the word usage in historical fiction and I tend to take longer to finish these books, as was the case with this, but I found that after the 150 page mark the story became a lot easier to read. Perhaps because I’d grown accustomed to the writing by then. Understandably that might be too many pages to cover for some, but I did not find it to be bothersome because of my genuine interest in Katherine Howard.
Once again reading the outcome of the whole ordeal brought tears to my eyes, despite knowing that it was coming, but I realized this was also because of Dunn’s writing as I – stupidly – actually rooted for a good outcome. If a book can make you wish for something despite knowing the outcome, the author has done well.
A full four stars for The Confession of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn, for imaginative writing, for having a believable mix between reality and fiction and for shattering my heart all over again.