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The Fifth Queen (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – September 1, 1999

3.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Ford’s last Fifth Queen novel is amazing. The whole cycle is a noble conception.” —
Joseph Conrad

“The best historical romance of this century.” —The Times Literary Supplement (London)

The Fifth Queen is a magnificent bravura piece.” —Graham Greene

About the Author

Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939) began his career writing fairy tales before collaborating with Joseph Conrad on several novels. After publishing successful solo works, he established the Transatlantic Review and divided his time between France and America.

A. S. Byatt, novelist, short-story writer, and critic, is the author of many books, including Possession, winner of the Man Booker Prize.

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Product Details

  • Series: Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (September 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141181303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141181301
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,076,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I read this book about ten years ago. I bought it at a sale out of idle curiosity, having once read that it was one of Ford's three best works, though much less well known than "The Good Soldier" and even than "Parade's End." Until I had it in hand I had no idea that it was about Tudor England, a subject about which I had no prior interest. It took about five pages for me to get into the narrative, and after that it was spellbinding. Every character in the novel is interesting, and most of them are deeply engaging, most particularly Katherine and Henry. The sense of fear in and around Henry's court is palpable, and this is a great suspense novel, though certainly a curious example of the genre. The novel opened my eyes to the deep ambivalence felt in England about the Reformation and the loss of the Catholic church--something which must be understood to make any sense at all of the era and of the life of Elizabeth I. I can't praise this novel highly enough, and I am bewildered that it remains so far under the radar. While not an easy read, this isn't challenging modernist prose. What makes it hard is the strangeness of the milieu and of the preoccupations of the characters--and this is exactly what makes it great historical fiction, far superior to "Wolf Hall," which despite its merits has a set of characters who think like our contemporaries. How true can the novel possibly be to the life of the historical Katherine Howard? It hardly matters. Ford has invented a new fifth queen, and given her a gripping and convincing story.
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Format: Paperback
Ford Madox Ford's "The Fifth Queen" - actually a collection of three separate novels - is a fictionalized account of the fifth wife of England's Henry VIII, Katharine Howard. As A.S. Byatt explains in her Introduction, "This figure bears little relation to what we have about the real Katharine . . ." and thus the reader should be conscious that Ford's Katharine - a young, pretty, pious woman who yearns for a return to Catholicism after Henry's split with Rome - is strictly fictional. That said, the only real failure of this work is that Katharine is the least appealing, least interesting character; we first meet her as a dispossessed ingenue seeking entrance to Henry's court around the time of his disasterous fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves, and it is this description which will follow her throughout the book. Even as she becomes Queen, it is almost by accident, surviving the machinations of Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal and the recklessness of her devoted cousin Culpepper. She is Queen by default. She constantly protests that all she seeks is a Catholic England - the "old ways" - and yet throughout she resigns herself to letting events happen to her, as if she cannot control the consequences of her own life. Indeed, her final speech to Henry where she confesses to an adultery which did not occur, becomes her last fatal act of passivity, for which she pays with her life. She cannot see that there are those who wish to help her and that her naive, narcissistic piety does not have to be her ruin. What holds these novels together is the rich supporting cast: the aforementioned Cromwell, who has his own sovereign Protestant image of England, free from the entanglements of Rome.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Intrigue and romance in the court of Henry VIII
Katherine Howard, armed only with education, wit and honesty, becomes the Fifth Queen, Henry VIII's fifth wife in this amazing historical trilogy. The plot-ridden court comes to vivid life as everyone high and low maneuvers for advantage. Everyone except Katherine Howard, whose unwillingness to scheme will make her queen and defenseless at the same moment. Even knowing the general story this is a fascinating and occasionally shocking novel, with a stunning ending...
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Format: Paperback
I'm a Henry VIII nut. I have quite a few books on him - from the recent historical fiction ones to old library tomes almost too dry to read. And I love historical fiction about England, particularly when the - what's the word I'm looking for? it's eluding me at the moment - their speech is true to form.

This is not quick reading, and yet it seemed like the book was finished in nothing flat. It does for Katherine Howard's reputation what Sharon Kay Penman did for Richard III's and the twins in the tower (the antithesis of shakespear's play.) Who's to say what the truth is? Because history potrays Richard as a power hungry, murdering rogue (except for a sect of people these days who are out to clear his name), and Katherine (except in this book) has always been said to be a wanton and promiscuous woman.

In The Fifth Queen, however, her character is wise and virtuous; but that Henry would have her as his wife, she'd have gone to a nunnery by choice. She believes strongly in the Catholic God and sees it as her mission to return Henry to Rome and to Catholocism and to persuade his daughter to reconcile with him.

But she's too innocent and good-hearted for those at court, who are always thinking of themselves and what's to their best advantage. As restoration of the Catholic faith would re-instate to the church lands and riches previously taken, those who are Lutheran would be left without what they gained when Henry became head of church and state. So Katherine must be dispensed with by whatever means possible.

Thus Ford's quite rational and lucid explanation for history's version of her background.
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