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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! Must read for lovers of historical fiction!
Having read C W Gortner's Last Queen, I knew I had to buy this book. It tells the story of Catherine De Medici, the queen consort of Henri II of France.
Gortner is an amazing author. He really can tell a story in a way that you feel a part of the book. I could not put this down and I read the whole thing, cover to cover in a day.
The author shows a different...
Published on 5 Feb 2012 by Vickim

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful!
I know that fiction means that it's not real but historial fiction should have some truth about it. Reducing Henry's elder brother to someone who was often ill and then having Catherine entering an affair with the leader of the Huguenots - for goodness sake! This book was so bad I actually threw it on the fire and watched it go up in smoke. Absolute rubbish.
Published 18 months ago by Aunty Sassy


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! Must read for lovers of historical fiction!, 5 Feb 2012
This review is from: The Confessions of Catherine De Medici (Paperback)
Having read C W Gortner's Last Queen, I knew I had to buy this book. It tells the story of Catherine De Medici, the queen consort of Henri II of France.
Gortner is an amazing author. He really can tell a story in a way that you feel a part of the book. I could not put this down and I read the whole thing, cover to cover in a day.
The author shows a different side to Catherine, not the usual scheming, devious woman that we know. He portrays her much more humanely. She is a real person, she has feelings, she gets upset, she becomes happy etc. I've only ever read books where Catherine is the usual bad queen. In this, she truly is a likeable person.
A must read for lovers of historical fiction. This book is up there with Sharon Penman, Margaret George and Anya Seton!
BUY IT! You'll love it :)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sensitive portrait of a controversial French queen, 28 Aug 2010
By 
Devaki Khanna (India) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Catherine de Medici has been depicted as a plotter and poisoner by authors of historical fiction. Here, however, we get the truth in her own voice. This is a strong woman whose life is full of tosses and turns--she is practically exiled from Florence, before her uncle weds her to Francis' son, Henri. Her husband, however, is enamored of a much older woman, who not only controls Catherine's marriage, but her relations with her children. And then there is her husband's friendship with the de Guises, with whom Catherine clashes as, one by one, her sons ascend the throne only to die childless. Her attempt to end the civil war between the Huguenots and the Catholics fails, because the Catholics, led by the de Guises, do not want peace and the Huguenots, led by Coligny and the Queen of Navarre, do not trust her. And then the fact that neither Margot nor Henry is willing to work at their marriage has as much to do with it...
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `And I ask myself, what epitaph will history inscribe for me?', 4 Feb 2011
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Confessions of Catherine De Medici (Paperback)
Catherine de' Medici (1519 - 1589) was born in Florence, Italy, to Lorenzo II de' Medici, Duke of Urbino, and Madeleine de La Tour d'Auvergne, Countess of Boulogne. Both parents died within weeks of her birth.

In 1533, aged 14, Catherine was married to Henri, the second son of François I, King of France. In 1547, Henri became King of France (as Henri II) and Catherine was Queen Consort from 1547 to 1559. On the death of Henri II, Catherine played a key role in the reigns of three of her sons as, in turn, each became King of France.

In this novel, Mr Gortner moves beyond the known historical facts to tell Catherine's story, in her own voice: from her difficult life in Florence; through the challenges of her marriage to Henri where she was largely overshadowed by Henri's long standing mistress Diane de Poitiers; and then her role in the reigns of her sons during an age of almost constant religious and civil war in France.

The Catherine de' Medici given life on these pages is tenacious and witty, is flexible and able to compromise, and is determined to save the Valois monarchy in France. She is a passionate woman, overshadowed, if not overawed, by Diane de Poitiers. After the death of Henri II, she tries to protect the Valois monarchy from the ambitions of the nobility and the conflict between the Catholics and the Huguenots leading to the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572.

I enjoyed this novel for its more positive portrayal of Catherine de' Medici and presentation of the challenges she faced. Catherine de' Medici is one of the most controversial, maligned and feared women ever to be queen, and most fiction portrays her in this light.

`The truth is, none of us are innocent. We all have sins to confess.'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book, that could have been longer, 27 Oct 2012
This review is from: The Confessions of Catherine De Medici (Paperback)
For over a generation, Catherine de Medici committed fair deed and foul to keep her family on the French throne. It was not an easy task, particularly thanks to the eight appallingly bloody religious wars between Catholics and Protestants that destablised the region. In 1572, sectarian tensions erupted with the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre, in which thousands of Protestants were brutally murdered across France. Queen Catherine, rightly or wrongly, has been blamed for it ever since - either for deliberately orchestrating the massacre or for her political incompetence in failing to prevent it. A foreigner, a woman and a politician, Catherine was widely loathed in France by the time of her death (her son could not even give her a state funeral in Paris, because of threats the body would be attacked and destroyed) - and as Marie de Medici, Anne of Austria and poor Marie-Antoinette were to discover in centuries to come, being compared to Catherine de Medici was about as bad a political insult as Frenchmen could give.

From the extraordinary story of Catherine de Medici's life and career, C.W. Gortner drew inspiration for his second novel. "The Confessions of Catherine de Medici" is told in the first person, with Catherine reflecting on life from her childhood in the 1520s being educated by her Aunt Clarice until the 1580s, which saw her favourite son's desperate attempts to save the monarchy from the ambitions of the Catholic Holy League.

To begin with, what's wrong with "Confessions"? Well, in the first place, it's too short. Or, at least,it certainly feels like Gortner wanted to write a much longer novel. It sometimes feels that the book is a bit rushed and although it gets all the major events of Catherine's journey, that kind of comprehensive coverage comes at the expense of descriptions of the palaces, fabrics, clothes, jewels and food that made-up the queen's every-day life. There are also a few errors on etiquette and forms of address, which may seem trivial but, like descriptions of the everyday, it adds to the experience for the reader in experiencing the very different world Catherine lived in. I also felt that chapters 1 to 17 were enjoyable reading, but after chapter 17 Confessions became unputdownable. (It's not a real word; I know.) Without giving too much away, it's in chapter 17 that Catherine finally manages to acquire some political power for herself and it's also in that chapter that one of the characters I personally found most irritating finally snuffs it. (The character was irritating through no fault of the author's, I should point out. I simply found myself wanting to cigarette burn him throughout most of the story.)

For history fans, Gortner also deserves kudos for his clever characterization of some of the other major players in Catherine de Medici's life. His portrayal of her husband's mistress, the legendarily beautiful Diane de Poitiers, was a favourite of mine. Diane de Poitier's physical loveliness and her elegant manners have blinded generations of historians to what a monumentally unpleasant individual she was. Greedy, selfish and cold, Diane emerges from Confessions as the paragon of self-obsession she undoubtedly must have been in reality. There's a moment when the two women meet for the final time in the novel, where I very nearly cheered.

Catherine's eldest daughter-in-law, Mary, Queen of Scots, is also interestingly portrayed. (Mary's mother was a French aristocrat and she was brought up in France.) Queen Mary is shown as a pretty girl who happens to know that she's pretty and she therefore acquires all the benefits and pitfalls to her personality that such life-long knowledge can bring. Mary is not, however, presented as necessarily unpleasant and her relationship with Catherine is nuanced and fair to both women. Catherine's youngest daughter, Margot, of "La Reine Margot" fame, is always a fascinating figure and Gortner does her justice. Thanks to her own memoirs and Alexandre Dumas's nineteenth-century novel about her, Margot has gone down in history as a romantic legend. However, she and her mother were not on speaking terms later in life and since this is a novel from Catherine's perspective, Gortner presents a very different, but equally interesting, portrait of Princess Margot.

Perhaps my favourite part, however, was Catherine's own favourite child - her third son, Henri, Duc d'Anjou. Despite the feverish denials of French nationalist and Catholic historians, there can be absolutely no doubt to the logical mind that Henri III was gay. Or rather, he was what we would now recognise as gay. Because of this, Henri is usually presented as an effete, sleeked, unnatural transvestite who frittered away his mother's political legacy and cavorted with his male lovers whilst France collapsed around him. Twain's comment that the pages of history are written with the ink of fluid prejudice is especially true in Henri's case. Today, we can, or we should, look at Henri III's life differently. Undoubtedly, he made many, many mistakes as sovereign, but historians have rightly pointed out his work ethic, his strong commitment to the institution of monarchy and his genuine respect for his mother's achievements. Gortner is on top of this change in perception and Henri III emerges from the pages of this novel as a much more complicated, perhaps even a more likable, figure than in any of the other plays, novels or films inspired by his family's improbably-dramatic lives.

"The Confessions of Catherine de Medici" is a very good historical novel. I enjoyed reading all of it, but after reaching the second half, I suddenly wished it had been a good deal longer. The eponymous heroine is tough, determined and, if occasionally unlikable, you have to admire her tenacity and resilience. One can feel Gortner's own admiration for his leading lady shining through and it's that determination to present Catherine as a figure worthy of respect, as well as interest, that makes "Confessions" such a clear labour of love for the author and a very enjoyable experience for the reader.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, 3 Jun 2010
By 
Misfit (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Catherine de Medici is sent from her native Italy to marry Henri, the second son of François I. More interested in hunting and his older mistress Diane de Poitiers Henri has little interest in his wife, which makes it difficult for her to do her duty to be fruitful and multiply. Eventually Henri's older brother dies leaving him heir to France's throne and becomes king upon his father's death. Diane continues to wield greater influence over Henri, leaving Catherine in the proverbial dust heap - although Diane does encourage Henri to spend enough time with his wife to conceive the needed heirs. Upon Henri's death during a joust (no spoilers, that's known history), Catherine is able to come into her own as regent and fights tooth and nail for her children and to keep the Valois dynasty alive.

That's pretty much the quick run down - yes there's a whole lot to it than that but I am not into book reports - read it for yourself. I found this a quick, entertaining read and I really enjoyed seeing the "other Catherine" as Gortner found her instead of the spell-casting, have-drink-will-poison/slip-a-knife in your back all around baddie as history has led us to believe. While she did seem a bit too good for her own good at the beginning, once Catherine was *in charge* and fighting for her brood she was definitely a force to be reckoned with and I had a hard time putting the book down.

I appreciated how well the author wrote the events leading up to the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre and the continuing conflicts between the Catholics and the Huguenots as well as the intrigues between the royal family, Guise and Henry of Navarre. This is a complicated period and he handled it quite well without dumbing it down for the reader - thank you. All in all a very engaging read shedding a different light on one of history's more maligned women. 4/5 stars.

For those interested in further reading I'd suggest Alexandre Dumas' La Reine Margot (with his delightfully OTT evil Catherine) which I enjoyed a lot despite a rocky start. I believe Dumas continues the Valois story with Chicot the Jester and The Forty-five Guardsmen, and for more of Diane de Poitiers Dumas wrote about a *supposed* daughter of Diane and Henri in The Two Dianas. Real history? No, but jolly good fun.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Fiction At It's Best, 20 Oct 2013
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A brilliant weaving of historical fact into a novel by CW Gortner. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading fact-based historical fiction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A superb book on Catherine de Medici, 4 Oct 2013
What a totally enjoyable book. I love reading about Catherine de Medici. I became fascinated with her story when I read Jean Plaidy many years ago. Since then I have bought and read many books by various authors that tell her story. Obviously they differ widely as each author try to put their own stamp on her tale.
Some have been more successful than others.

I loved Mr Gortner's book. I have a collection of books that I will read again and again, not many authors make it into my collection. Chris Gortner's book have. His books sit alongside Jane Austin, Georgette Heyer, Charlotte Bronte, HR Haggard (SHE), & Jeanne Kalogridis to name but a few.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational., 10 Sep 2013
This review is from: The Confessions of Catherine De Medici (Paperback)
There is a lot, and I mean a lot, of historical fiction told in first person by a young woman out there. Too much, I'd say, because when something becomes a trend, everyone who's ever written as much as a "Dear Diary!" feel themselves a potential (self)published author and goes off to write more "intimate accounts" of famous women in history, or rather thinly veiled self-portraits.

This is not the case with this book.

The sixteenth century: the era of queens. Catherine de Medici is an impressionable, mystical girl. She is orphaned and taken hostage by her enemies, and manipulated by her advisors; yet she is to become France's most powerful regent.
History will make her name synonymous with evil, but she is all too human. Humiliated at the hands of her husband and his mistress, and haunted by her gift of second sight, she must rise above her troubles and fight to save her dynasty and adopted country from the brutal Wars of Religion...

Here is an example of a serious, dare I say realistic, approach to historical fiction.
We are priviledged to observe, from the front seats, the whole of Catherine's life, from a stormy childhood in Italy to accomplished but bloody adulthood in France.
Catherine is a brilliant character, mostly in that we can never be too sure of what she really thinks, about anything. The clever writing, the trust in readers to figure things out for themselves, helps with that.
I liked her relationships with her many children, each one as different as the children are.
This book is also populated by many supporting characters, aptly named, because each one of the is a character - Coligny, Guise, Margo, both Henris, Francois I - they spring from the pages larger than life, each, as they are written, could have been a subject of their own book.
This is a wondeful example of what a first person female pov could be.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read, 15 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Confessions of Catherine De Medici (Paperback)
Would recommend this book to anyone interested in historical novels.A fascinating slant on a very important woman in French history.

A very easy read - straight into the characters
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5.0 out of 5 stars FROM HER OWN HAND, 26 July 2013
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This review is from: The Confessions of Catherine De Medici (Paperback)
This is written from Catherine's point of view and "in her own voice". It's quite a gripping read and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that.
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The Confessions of Catherine De Medici
The Confessions of Catherine De Medici by C W Gortner (Paperback - 6 Jan 2011)
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