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Katherine Paperback – 1956

4.6 out of 5 stars 792 customer reviews

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Paperback, 1956
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Editorial Reviews


"Seton breathes life into this little-documented historical fact…a glorious example of romance in its most classic literary sense." ---The Austin Chronicle --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From the Back Cover

“A glorious example of romance in its most classic literary sense: exhilarating, exuberant, and rich with the jeweled tones of England in the 1300s.” —Austin Chronicle

Katherine is an epic novel of a love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant fourteenth century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets—Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II—who rule despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king’s son, falls passionately in love with the already-married Katherine. Their affair persists through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption. Anya Seton's vivid rendering of the lives of the Duke and Duchess of Lancaster makes Katherine an unmistakable classic.

Anya Seton (1904–1990) was the author of many best-selling historical novels, including The Winthrop Woman, Avalon, Dragonwyck, Green Darkness, Devil Water, and Foxfire. She lived in Greenwich, Connecticut.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: The Reprint Society Ltd (1956)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0006DI4M2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (792 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,749,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 14, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written over half a century ago, this well-researched historical fiction is as vibrant and as stirring today, as it, undoubtedly, was when it was first written. A best seller in its day, the book regales the reader with the story of Katherine De Roet and John of Gaunt.

Born commoners to a herald who was knighted before he died, Katherine and her older sister Philippa, who went on to marry Geoffrey Chaucer, were left poor as church mice. While Philippa managed to obtain a post in the household of the Queen, wife to King Edward III of England, Katherine was sent to a convent.

When she had grown into her early teens and become a raving beauty, Katherine left the convent to join her sister at Court. Upon doing so, her youthful beauty captivated a boorish knight, Sir Hugh Swynford, who lusted after her. He, eventually, married Katherine, when it became clear that it would be the only way by which he could satisfy his desire.

At the same time that she met her husband to be, she also caught the eye of John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, son of King Edward III and brother to the heir to the throne, Edward, the Black Prince. John was, at the time, happily married to a beautiful woman named Blanche, who would befriend Katherine.

After reluctantly becoming Lady Swynford, Katherine retired to her husband's estates. She would meet John of Gaunt again, igniting a passion that upon the death of Blanche and that of Sir Hugh Swynford would be consummated. For John of Gaunt, Katherine would remain the love of his life and his mistress, even though, for reasons of state, he could not marry her, at the time. He, instead, married the heiress to the throne of Castile.

Still, Katherine remained with him, bearing him many children.
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Format: Hardcover
I first read this book I was fourteen. Since then I've acquired both hardback and paperback. I read it about three or four times a year, my favorite parts being the Christmas scene and the pilgrimage. As did some of the other reviewers, this book whetted my appetite for medieval history. Katherine Swynford is remarkably free of the histrionics that unfortunately seem to characterize so many historical romance heroines. John's and Katherine's daily lives are realistically portrayed, such as John keeping Katherine as a mistress while he marries for power. Ms. Seton doesn't shrink from depicting the filth and disease rampant in that time period either. Nor does she shirk from depicting the terrible position women occupied in that time period, as when she writes of how Katherine was forced to marry Hugh Swynford. He's also portrayed fairly--a ruffian certainly, but a man who falls love deeply, having nothing in his experience to prepare him. He doesn't metamorphose into a wonderful person as a result of this love. Undoubtedly Katherine would really have been as resentful of him as she is portrayed. Love doesn't exactly triumph in this novel, rather it wins by sheer dogged persistence, as when John and Katherine are finally together when they are middle-aged and free of their other social and personal restrictions. I also enjoyed the religious aspect of the book, in which Katherine goes on a vision quest, or spirit journey, gaining hardwon inner peace. Lady Julian's quotes made me cry, while Julian's prescriptions for Katherine's anemia made me laugh out loud. Katherine's hungering for and finding peace and true oneness with Spirit is a nice contrast to all the bloodbath over doctrinal trivialities. It makes a nice comparison between piousness and spiritual fulfillment. Ms.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I am so glad this book is now more readily available. It is my FAVORITE READ OF ALL TIME. It is a love story of epic proportions unlike anything I've ever read or experienced. This is truly a real-life fairytale.
Set in the mid 14th C. Katherine de Roet is a convent-raised young woman who, with her sister, comes under the care of Queen Philippa (wife of Edward III), and despite being without dowry marries the rather difficult Sir Hugh Swynford. Eventually she becomes the mistress of Philippa and Edward III's son John of Gaunt, and after bearing him four children, becoming his wife. The children's births are eventually legitimized and John and Katherine eventually are the forebears of both the Tudor and Stuart dynasties.
But this story is of the relationship between Katherine and John and the many twists and turns it takes before these lovers can be together. When Katherine turns 15 the Queen summons her from the convent to Windsor and she soon gathers much attention for her beauty. When Sir Hugh Swynford attempts to ravish her, the King's third son, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster comes to her rescue. Hugh gets out of the situation by saying he wishes to marry the fair young maiden. Sir Hugh is a rather disagreeable and homely man, but it is seen as a step up for young Katherine, without dowry, to marry him. She does but very reluctantly. Meanwhile she is befriended by the Duke's wife, Blanche, and returns her friendship for which young Katherine is eventually richly rewarded.
Katherine and Hugh go to live at his mismanaged estate, Kettlethorpe, near Lincoln which is not too far from the Duke and Duchess of Lancaster's favorite home of Bolingbroke Castle. Katherine is not exactly happy but accepts her life.
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