- Age Range: 12 and up
- Grade Level: 7 - 9
- Lexile Measure: 660L (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers (May 15, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670013994
- ISBN-13: 978-0670013999
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.3 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 52 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,747,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gilt Hardcover – May 15, 2012
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“In modern times, Cat would most likely be a cheerleader; the king, captain of the football team. But the royal backdrop with historical underpinnings makes a far more interesting story…Readers can practically feel the embroidered ball gowns and hand-stitched lace.” –The Los Angeles Times
"I believe I found my new favorite series"- MTV.com
“Longshore, who's clearly done her historical homework, takes full advantage of the Tudor standards. . . and surroundings. . . but Cat is a completely contemporary American teenager.”—BCCB
“Longshore writes a believable novel of historical fiction with well-developed characters and entertaining . . . plot twists.”—VOYA
“A good, juicy story . . . royally riveting for the reader.”—Booklist
“A substantive, sobering historical read, with just a few heaving bodices.”—Kirkus Reviews
From the Inside Flap
Kitty Tylney has always lived in the shadow of her best friend, Cat. Then Cat worms her way into the court of King Henry VIII - and into the King's heart. When Cat brings her best friend into her inner circle at court, Kitty is thrust into a glittering new life of fabulous gowns, opulent parties, and dashing men vying for her attention. But Kitty soon discovers that beneath the golden veneer lies a world of secrets and lies, trysts and back-door deals, where the price of gossip could literally be her head.
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I was in the mood for a soap opera, and as absolutely nothing beats the Tudor court for juicy scandal and drama – something Gilt’s lushly appointed cover promised in spades. This novel marks Katherine Longshore’s first young adult foray into Henry VIII’s glittering world, and she couldn’t have picked a more perfect subject than Henry’s infamous teenage bride, the ill-fated Catherine Howard. I’ve always rather thought Catherine must have been rather silly and immature, an opinion that seems to be supported by the historical record. She was certainly far out of depth as her end proves, her rise and ruin complete in just eighteen short months, her fate sealed by the confidence that consequences were for other people – an assumption that as undone many a person, teenage or not, throughout history.
Within the pages of Gilt, Catherine Howard is transformed from arguably Henry’s most inconsequential wife into a fully-realized, deliciously manipulative Mean girl, with stars in her eyes and venom on her tongue, fiercely determined to succeed and equally blind to the pride that would prove to be her downfall. But rather than choose Cat as her point-of-view character, Longshore smartly selects Katherine Tylney as voice and lens through which to view Cat’s rise and fall – as who better to relate Cat’s story than one who knew her best and lived it alongside her? The names and lives of those who served royalty are largely lost to time, as history typically preserves the detailed minutiae of those whos lives are instead writ large across history’s pages. Taking as her inspiration for Kat’s character the brief recorded testimony of the Katherine Tylney who testified at Cat’s trial, therein identified as one of the queen’s servants, Longshore re-imagines Kat as a long-time friend and companion of Catherine, and as such the perfect foil to the ill-fated queen’s temperament and trajectory at court.
How much is history and how much is supposition is up for debate, but Longshore has certainly done her research and her case for Kitty’s role in Cat’s life is a compelling one (Longshore’s author’s note his an informative and interesting glimpse into her research process). Regardless, I cannot recommend this novel highly enough as a stellar example of juicy, compulsively readable historical fiction. I devoured Gilt in a less than two days, a rare feat anymore for this reader – but more importantly than that, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the character of Kitty. She may be largely Longshore’s invention, but that said she’s a believable one, and a starkly honest sketch of a woman’s worth and prospects in the sixteenth century. Longsore doesn’t shy away from the sexual politics or attitudes of the day, but she isn’t gratuitous in the least. And given the recent outcry over the ruling in the Stanford rape case, it’s equal parts disheartening and maddening to read of Thomas Culpepper’s lechery and realize just how far we haven’t come in over four centuries as regards the issue of consent.
I absolutely loved the dysfunctional, occasionally toxic, sisterhood at the center of this novel. Cat and Kitty’s circle is completed by two additional alumna from Norfolk – Joan Bulmer and Alice Restwold (although their intimacy with Catherine pales in comparison to her friendship with Kitty). For all of the jealousies and petty squabbles that ran rife within a circle of four teenage girls, Kitty comes to realize the full value of that circle only when it has been irreparably broken by Cat’s arrest and trial. But even a queen’s ruin cannot dissolve all the bonds of such a sisterhood, as Kitty discovers in her most critical hour that it is Alice, she whom she liked and trusted least, perhaps knew her best, and in doing so orchestrated her unlikely path of salvation. In a world ruled by men, it will never cease to fascinate me to read stories of women fighting to determine their own futures.
Gilt is the perfect summer read – a lushly told, wildly entertaining historical romp. While grounded in history, Longshore gleefully embraces Catherine’s reputation as something of a witless flirt, hopelessly out of her depth at court, but with the added edge of calculating, biting selfishness. Cat is a mean girl on a power trip, which makes for a crazy entertaining, compulsively readable experience. I loved seeing Cat and the Tudor court through the lens of Kitty’s experience, as through her eyes, Longshore examines the cost of power and double-edged sword of secrets and friendship. Kitty’s ending isn’t wrapped in a neat bow as I expected, and I loved it all the more for that air of authenticity. With the far-off promise of possible romance and the hard-won chance at self-determination, Kitty’s story is a welcome, refreshing entry in the ranks of Tudor-set fiction, a world I’ll happily revisit.
I absolutely love the concept behind this book. Catherine Howard's story told via her best friend? Yes, please.
What knocked off a star or maybe 2 was that I found the book to be a bit... slow.
There was some really great detail, and then there was a bit too much detail. And I think that "too much" slowed down the pace for me too many times. There were also a few chapters where nothing really happened.
What really kept me going during the slow times, was my anticipation to see how Longshore handled Catherine's demise (I hope that's not a spoiler, since this mirrors real life). It's not that it was bad, but I think I was expecting a bit more from these scenes -- although I did enjoy the 'practicing' part.
I was expecting a bit more with the ending in general -- the one relating to Kitty. I think the story could have gone further and wrapped things up a bit more.
But overall, I enjoyed the story and the look into King Henry and Cat's life via an 'outsider'. I think I may stick with the historical fiction genre for a bit, and make even seek out some more Henry VIII books.
Catherine Howard is probably the wife I learned the least about when studying Henry VIII's reign in history classes, and even a fictional account of her rise to power in the court taught me a lot about the historical information that Longshore used in constructing this novel.
I was a little surprised that the narrator of the novel was not going to be Catherine, but her friend, Kitty. However, I do think that this was an extremely good move on Longshore's part. Not only is Kitty able to give us insight into how Catherine was raised and her life before court, but we are given a lot of detail concerning her personality. Cat, in this depiction, wants to be remembered as more than just a Howard and to be adored by men and women of higher birth than she. And as we all know from history, Cat gets everything she wants.
The narrative was extremely well plotted and the time line was impeccable based on the historical facts that do exist concerning Cat and her arrival at court and her eventual marriage to King Henry VIII. She certainly had her sights set high, didn't she? I was concerned that it might be hard for the reader to understand how a young adult could be swayed to marry a man who was more than a bit older than the protagonist and one who was notorious for his affairs and treatment of his wives. However, Longshore did a great job of focusing on how the allure of royalty for Cat was all of the opulence, parties, and courtly intrigue--instead of focusing on a relationship between the King and his extremely young bride.
Kitty did not just serve as a narrator, but as a victim of the court and King Henry's wrath at the end of the novel. I found myself much more attached to Kitty than I was to Cat, and I think that the ending was extremely satisfying for Kitty supporters. Be aware that going into this novel that Catherine Howard was executed by King Henry VIII, and that this story is as true to history as it can be.
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