THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI
C.W.Gortner, Ballantine Books, 2010, $25.00, hb, 416pp, 978-0-345-50186-8
Catherine Medici came to the French court as a reluctant princess: young and naive, and yet somehow she knew her destiny was to guide France to glory. She was the last legitimate descendant of Lorenzo de Medici, she carried her pride well. It is written she had a gift, the second sight and with this and her consults with the infamous Nostradamus, Catherine was guided to act. After her husbands death, her mediocrity faded and she gained increasing power. She emerged an astute formidable and shrewdly confident regent, who maintained a tenacious hold on governing France during her time. Religious tolerance was her mantra and the survival of France was paramount.
To know Catherine, the reader must understand her culture, social life, and children. Romance eluded her with the exception of her often overlooked friendship with Coligny, the Protestant leader who she would later hunt down. The chasm between the followers of Calvin, the Huguenot heretics and the Catholic’s who were the dominant power is historically important to her life’s story. Gortner interweaves this pivotal complex issue into the story bringing with it clear understanding.
Gortner’s story provides a compelling and fascinating view of Catherine’s life and world, her world being France. The reader will empathize with Catherine, will ache for her and sometimes recoil in disgust when her actions become too extreme. The details and the chronology of historical events told as Catherine’s confessions in first person narrative are personal and emotionally realistic. When Hercule, her crippled son is drawing his last breath, the scene is woefully tragic, so beautifully penned, that the passage will beseech tears. You will devour this read desperate to satiate your curiosity. The writing is as illuminating and powerful as the character of this infamous legend known as Catherine de Medici. Highly recommended without a doubt!
As published in Historical Novels Review: May 2010-Editor's Choice
Disclosure: This book was sent to me by HNR for book review.