Catalina is the youngest daughter of two powerful Spanish monarchs. Educated, mannered and devout, Catalina has been raised to make an advantageous marriage and at age fifteen she is sent to England to become the bride of Prince Arthur, heir to the throne. Katherine, as she is now known, is concerned that Arthur is ill and, when he dies only five months later, her world collapses. Salvation comes in marriage to Arthur’s younger brother Henry and the couple rule for many years, the only blight on their life is the lack of a male heir. After Katherine goes through the menopause, her paranoid husband starts to worry about the lack of an heir and when he falls for a clever woman at court her decides to divorce Katherine. To Katherine this is unthinkable and her battle for what she feels is right drives her husband to schism with the Church and the rest of Europe.
Essentially this is a fictionalised biography of Katherine of Aragon but it is of excellent quality. Alison Weir is an outstanding historian and this comes across in her historical fiction. Anyone who has read about Katherine of Aragon will recognise descriptions and direct quotes from contemporary sources as they go through this book. Weir avoids the clichés of historical fiction in the main, there is little overt romanticism but by contextualising the story some points become clearer to the modern reader. By looking at the everyday life of a noble Catholic woman in the 16th Century the nature of Katherine’s devotion to her cause is more understandable. I look forward to the rest of the series.
I am embarrassed to say that this book had been sitting unread for several years which is a real pity. The translation is excellent in the fact that it keeps a real lyricism to the writing but seems to flow incredibly smoothly. The plot is very tight, there are numerous twists and turns and a nicely unresolved resolution. By looking at what seems a ritualistic crime Enger highlights the tensions between immigrants and the local populace in Norway, the crude approach of the police exemplifies this. Juul is sympathetic character with an excellent backstory and this has the makings of a really gripping series of novels