THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI, by C.W. Gortner is by far the clearest, out-of the box-take on this usually overly vilified queen of France. This in depth biography-type novel reveals a Catherine that not many people know- and that in itself is incredibly original as well as refreshing.
The Catherine in Gortner’s book has been researched to the max- and although the author took the liberty of slightly altering names and events for creativity and flowing purposes (this merely avoided the encumbrance of an historical index of names appearing just for the sake of accuracy- and I appreciated that!), the history is impeccably spot-on. Bravo for a novel that stuck to its essence while bringing us so much more!
How can this Catherine be so different? Well, for one, THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI, portrays an all-around complete Catherine; woman, mother, queen, lover, friend , ruler, patriot, and ultimate monarch. The emotions alone, that each of these roles entail are enormous and not always easy to convey in a novel; especially when written in the first person. Magically, Gortner achieves this to perfection.
Is it possible to love Catherine, when history has done everything possible to morph her into an absolute monster? When you read the how’s and why’s of Catherine’s actions, you begin to understand the person behind the story. It’s often easier to hold on to shock images that create an impact effect rather than to delve into the intricacies of the history itself. After reading Gortner’s magnificent novel, I understood the history so much better.
The details in Catherine’s life, France, her children, the political situation, the religion!- all in flawless account, like layers of a collage with Catherine woven into its web, this story opens up a whole new dimension into France’s ruling family of the time. And, if after reading this novel you still can’t find it in you to love Catherine- I guarantee you’ll begin to sympathize with her in ways you’ve never imagined.
So many facets to this woman: Catherine was headstrong for her nation, yet showed vulnerability in the face of love. She kept strong for her husband and endured the belittlement and embarrassment caused by his mistress and that whole awkward situation. She arranged marriages for her offspring with the nation in mind- yet had immeasurable love for them and an acceptance of their choices which was unparallel of her time (Her love for her son, Henri, poured unconditionally-beautiful!). Catherine had an uncanny foresight for great things, but sadly never had anyone to completely share her own doubts, needs, fears and- love. The enlightenment that no religion should divide a country and that France was all her people, not only Catholics-this too was grand.
I have to admit that I never truly believed the Jezebel portrayal, so I was especially glad to read this fantastic novel which revealed Catherine as a woman of immense substance. I now see Catherine as a woman and ruler who sacrificed all for the ultimate good of France- a huge responsibility which she took charge of with all her might. Her focus never deviating from her purpose –no matter the cost.
I happen to love this quote from the book;
Catherine while on her deathbed:
“...I’ve had ample opportunity to reflect on this unseen entity who guides our path and to ponder why he has seen fit to test me so. Have I not struggled as much as any other for my blood? Others live fewer years; accomplish a mere fraction of what I have; and yet they sit enthroned with halos about their brows, while I sink like a villain in my own calumny.
As I wait the inevitable, I see the dead...my sometimes enemies and accomplices, each martyr to their cause. Important as they were in life, through death they have become legend.
And I ask myself, What legend will history inscribe for me?
Read Catherine as you’ve never read before – It’s time history got a dusting-Thank you C.W. Gortner for polishing it to a shine.
Please be sure to read more reviews, creative posts and enter the Giveaways at by checking out the Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table Calendar of Events