Title: The Taming of the Queen
Author: Philippa Gregory
Publication Date: August 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Kateryn Parr, a thirty-year-old widow in a secret affair with a new lover, has no choice when a man old enough to be her father who has buried four wives – King Henry VIII – commands her to marry him. Kateryn has no doubt about the danger she faces: the previous queen lasted sixteen months, the one before barely half a year. But Henry adores his new bride and Kateryn’s trust in him grows as she unites the royal family, creates a radical study circle at the heart of the court, and rules the kingdom as regent. But is this enough to keep her safe? A leader of religious reform and a published author, Kateryn stands out as an independent woman with a mind of her own. But she cannot save the Protestants, under threat for their faith, and Henry’s dangerous gaze turns on her.The traditional churchmen and rivals for power accuse her of heresy – the punishment is death by fire and the king’s name is on the warrant…
I want to start off by saying a big thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with a copy of Gregory’s latest Tudor novel. This has been my first encounter with this renowned historical fiction writer. EVER. If you can believe it! 😛 I can definitely see the draw with Gregory’s stories and writing. She’s set this particular series in the lifetime of one of the most interesting, but certainly the most infamous and dangerous kings of England, Henry VIII. Kateryn Parr is his final wife, the only wife to outlive her husband. Her story, as told by Gregory, is perilous. Although history tells us Parr survived, there are many times when her story convinces us that surely history got it wrong. Gregory brings to light the harrowing tale of this incredibly courageous woman.
I gave this novel 3.5 stars out of 5 on Goodreads. Knowing the history of Katheryn Parr, the final wife of Henry VIII, I already knew the ending, and reading about her life caused little surprise. It’s always nice to pick up an easy read of a story that’s familiar, so I really enjoyed having a lighter book to come home to in the evenings. Gregory has a very approachable writing style. It’s easy to see why she’s made such a name for herself in the historical fiction world with her easy turns of phrase and her vivid descriptions. She is an excellent world-builder, bringing alive the Tudor court in the reader’s imagination.
My struggle with this particular story comes from the plot points in Parr’s life. I don’t find her to be an overly interesting woman. While it is spectacular that she lived as long as she did in Henry’s court, and Gregory paints a picture of an intelligent and cunning woman, the Tudor court for a woman was a bit of a bore. It’s hard to read 400+ pages of sermons, wifely duties, and Kateryn’s repeated attempts to placate her ailing and senile husband. While there is the intrigue of a potential love affair, it falls a bit flat and failed to keep me interested.
Overall though, I really enjoyed my first chance to read Philippa Gregory. I don’t often return to historical fiction, and this novel was a breath of fresh air. I was starting to feel a little stale in my novels, and Gregory brought the interest back by focussing my attention on something new. Many friends of mine have recommended other Gregory novels to me (specifically The White Queen), and I am much more interested in picking up a copy of these now. Thanks Philippa!