Book Review: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici – C.W. Gortner

Title: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
Author: C.W. Gortner
ISBN: 9780345501868
Pages: 416
Release Date: May 25, 2010
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

In The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, C.W. Gortner takes us inside the mind of one of the most notorious queens in European history.  The book begins with her difficult childhood and forced marriage to Henri, the second in line to the French throne.  Catherine schemes and plots in order to retain her position and power, especially since her husband shows little interest in her, setting the stage for what is to come.

Review:

I didn’t know much about Catherine de Medici going into this novel, but I wasn’t really certain I wanted to read an entire book about her.  The little I did know was that she was greatly feared in her lifetime, suspected to be a witch, and was responsible for the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre.  All in all, while she seemed like an interesting person, it would be difficult to write a sympathetic book about her.  Still, I knew it was by C.W. Gortner, who is an excellent author.  His previous novel The Last Queen was really an incredible piece of historical fiction, and I knew if anyone could make me sympathetic to Catherine de Medici, it would be him.

And lo and behold, that’s exactly what Gortner did.  He presented an entirely new look at Catherine de Medici, one in which she was a victim of her circumstances.  Though she did have a lot of power, it was never enough to be able to suppress her enemies.  Events happened that were entirely out of her control, though she was blamed for them.  She was a vivid, vibrant woman and leaped off the page; Gortner did an incredible job bringing Catherine de Medici to life.

However, Gortner never apologizes for or tries to hide the fact that Catherine was an incredibly ambitious woman.  Before herself, before her husband, before her children was France.  She was willing to subjugate all of her wishes, and those of her children, in order to ensure that their line stayed on the French throne and did what was best for the country.  That’s not to say she was a bad mother, as she did love her children.  She just loved France more, and was willing to be horribly ruthless in order to achieve her ends.  The key, though, and what makes her a sympathetic, rather than unpalatable, character is that she only used drastic means when she saw no other choices.

The history presented in The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is impeccably researched.  The novel was fun to read because I felt like I learned a lot whilst simultaneously being entertained.  Gortner is a master of historical fiction, and it shows in every page of the book.

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is an incredibly fresh look at a complicated and misunderstood woman.  Yes, Catherine was ambitious and ruthless, but she also was a wife and mother.  Her myth has escalated and eclipsed the person she was; Gortner peels away the layers in order to expose the woman she was underneath.

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Comments

  1. Sounds like a delicious read – something I will love. The Medici name itself is enough to get me interested – from your review it sounds like an extremely well written book as well. On my TBR list this goes!

  2. Sounds like a delicious read – something I will love. The Medici name itself is enough to get me interested – from your review it sounds like an extremely well written book as well. On my TBR list this goes!

  3. Ever since the first time I heard this book mentioned, I have been excited about it. I love detailed and well written historical fiction, and know very little about Catherine, so there are a lot of reasons that I really want to read this book. Great review! I am glad that you liked this one so much!

  4. Ever since the first time I heard this book mentioned, I have been excited about it. I love detailed and well written historical fiction, and know very little about Catherine, so there are a lot of reasons that I really want to read this book. Great review! I am glad that you liked this one so much!

  5. I love historical fiction, especially about royalty (huge Philippa Gregory fan). Thanks for the review – I will likely pick this one up.

  6. I love historical fiction, especially about royalty (huge Philippa Gregory fan). Thanks for the review – I will likely pick this one up.

  7. I thought this one was very good as well. I find it surprising that there is not more written about Catherine – her life is full of such juicy material!!

  8. I thought this one was very good as well. I find it surprising that there is not more written about Catherine – her life is full of such juicy material!!

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  13. I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t know anything about Catherine de Medici when I picked it up, but was intrigued enough to do some additional research after reading the book.

    CW Gortner is one of my new favorites. I have The Last Queen on my shelf to read and I’m looking forward to it.

  14. I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t know anything about Catherine de Medici when I picked it up, but was intrigued enough to do some additional research after reading the book.

    CW Gortner is one of my new favorites. I have The Last Queen on my shelf to read and I’m looking forward to it.

  15. Ah, this book sounds good, I know very little about Catherine de Medici. I really enjoyed reading your review!

  16. Ah, this book sounds good, I know very little about Catherine de Medici. I really enjoyed reading your review!

  17. I did know that de Medici influence French cuisine, but that’s about it. The book sounds great. Everyone seems to love Gortner’s work.

  18. I did know that de Medici influence French cuisine, but that’s about it. The book sounds great. Everyone seems to love Gortner’s work.

  19. I absolutely love Catherine’s life story. I always loved the stories of how she enlisted astronomer’s to make sure her children’s lives would be awesome. There is also speculation that she poisoned the water her oldest son drank on the tennis court to make way for the second son as the stars reported would happen. People thought he was strange for drinking water anyway.

    I always have felt sympathy for her for her circumstances. She genuinely wanted her husband to love her. I think if he had we would have seen a different Catherine in history.

  20. I absolutely love Catherine’s life story. I always loved the stories of how she enlisted astronomer’s to make sure her children’s lives would be awesome. There is also speculation that she poisoned the water her oldest son drank on the tennis court to make way for the second son as the stars reported would happen. People thought he was strange for drinking water anyway.

    I always have felt sympathy for her for her circumstances. She genuinely wanted her husband to love her. I think if he had we would have seen a different Catherine in history.

  21. I enjoyed this book a lot. Catherine has been a minor character or presence in so much of the historical fiction I’ve read, yet this is the first book about her that I have read.

    It was also my first Gortner book and I guarantee it won’t be my last. I need to read The Last Queen between now and when his next one (about Isabel of Castile) comes out. I see he’s also coming out with a Tudor period thriller series which looks interesting. I’m definitely hooked on this author now.

  22. I enjoyed this book a lot. Catherine has been a minor character or presence in so much of the historical fiction I’ve read, yet this is the first book about her that I have read.

    It was also my first Gortner book and I guarantee it won’t be my last. I need to read The Last Queen between now and when his next one (about Isabel of Castile) comes out. I see he’s also coming out with a Tudor period thriller series which looks interesting. I’m definitely hooked on this author now.

  23. I was so happy to read your review of this! I was a Medievalist as an undergraduate, and was hoping this would be worthy of the character. It’s definitely on my TBR list!

  24. I was so happy to read your review of this! I was a Medievalist as an undergraduate, and was hoping this would be worthy of the character. It’s definitely on my TBR list!

  25. I so want to read this one! It sounds like something I would definitely enjoy!

  26. I so want to read this one! It sounds like something I would definitely enjoy!

  27. A book where Catherine de Medici is not portrayed totally black? This definitely sounds interesting.

    I wish the cover was a little less generic – it could almost get mistaken for a period romance.

  28. A book where Catherine de Medici is not portrayed totally black? This definitely sounds interesting.

    I wish the cover was a little less generic – it could almost get mistaken for a period romance.

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