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on 1 January 2006
I'm a fan of Philippa Gregory's other novels about the Tudor court and I found this one was no disappointment to me. In fact I enjoyed it second only to 'The Other Boleyn Girl'. She has taken a most interesting and inspiring subject and breathed into it fresh life. Katherine of Aragon is once-again the formidable and brave woman, no longer overshadowed by Anne Boleyn. I enjoyed her relationship with Arthur, which was told very tenderly and you can see how Katherine grows and matures as she achieves her life's ambition, to be Queen of England.
I'm not disappointed by this novel at all and found it to be a little more involved and interesting, less inclined to melodrama, than The Queen's Fool, or The Virgin's Lover. Good Stuff!
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on 5 June 2006
As a fan of Philippa Gregory I was initially very disappointed with this book, and was tempted to stop reading. It definitely gets better after about a third, but some of the things which annoyed me remained. These included an excessively modern perspective (giving characters points of view and ideas they would never have held at the time) and switching between action and interior monologue, which did not really enhance the storytelling and could easily have been incorportated into the main body of the story. I at times found the writing more childish and simplistic than Philippa Greogry's earlier work, and this really detracted from my enjoyment. On the plus side, she has as usual done her research very well (though perhaps not AS well) and has crafted complex and interesting characters. The story does eventually becoming captivating and Gregory is able to portray Katherine of Aragon in a more sympathetic and complex light than the role of the silent victim she has been given by history.
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on 11 April 2006
I can not tell you howmuch I enjoyed this book. It was wonderful to get an insight into Katherine when she was a young desirable woman and not the wife that Henry divorced which is inevitably the focal point of so many books about the Tudor period. In this book Katherine is young, desirable and beautiful; we get an insight into her marriage to Arthur, about Henry's childish infatuation with her as well as learning about Katherine's character.The dignity with which she handled her time as a virtual hostage in England, her questioning of her mother's religious zeal as well as her relationship with her children as a mother vs. as a queen concerned about the well being of her country. Fantastic read,highly recommended.
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on 12 March 2007
Having read the other reviews about this book, I was a bit anxious whether I should buy it or not, as most people didn't give it a very good review. But I bit the bullet and went and bought myself copy, and you know what, I couldn't put it down. When at work I kept thinking about what will be happening next to our Infanta, and so as soon as my break time came along, off I trott to read my book! I also kept wondering, how I would have handled all the things that were thrown at her, and how brave and strong she was at such a young age. Okay I know it is a 'historic novel', and it was the first Philippa Gregory I have read, but got me involved, got me caring, got me feeling and got me thinking! It's not often that you get a good read like this.....but you decide........
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on 1 January 2006
This book compares well with The Other Boleyn Girl. I like the pace of the book and its insights into Katherine's formidable parentage and background. For me she emerges as a more rounded historical figure than I had thought. I liked the balanced approach to her Spanish and Moorish influences and the reasons, why she is able to stand up to Henry. Gregory's grasp of the historical nuances and the possible motivations for Katherine's actions in the book carried me along to the very end. I have read most of her work and I think this is her best yet - it has the Alhambra Palace and Moorish Spain, Arthur and his ambitions plus Henry V11's forceful presence. The young Henry V111 is shown to be the rather spoilt boy who will be a selfish king.
I enjoyed this book more than Earthly Joys or even Virgin's Lover and you always get a well researched book from this author -top marks.
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on 24 March 2016
This is the story of Catherine of Aragon, who from a young girl, has been groomed by her Spanish parents from the age of four to become the Queen of England.

The writing is style is slightly different to other books I have read from this author in that we hear the thoughts of Catherine which are written in italics. It doesn’t take very long to get used to this style of writing.

This is a great book to really get your teeth in and although it may seem daunting at 500 odd pages the pace and quality of writing meant I was reading it whenever any opportunity arose to read a few more pages.

It is a detailed and comprehensive look at the lives of people living in the Tudor era in England, how they were used and abused and even murdered by the people in power who could also lose their positions very easily as well.

There is love, tragedy, mental illness, plots and tactics, prejudices against people of different faiths, countries and skin colour all skilfully woven through (well researched) facts and fiction.

A brilliant read.
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on 7 November 2005
I'm a big fan of Philippa Gregory's novels, but it seems she's writing them too quickly. This one's subject -- Katherine of Aragon's girlhood and marriages to Prince Arthur and Henry VIII -- is potentially fascinating, as is the underestimated Katherine, or Catalina as she is known here. And without spoiling the novel's secret, it is bold of Gregory to make certain assumptions about Katherine's marriages. However, none of the characters is as well developed as in her better novels, such as Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth. The historical events are also presented superficially, with no real sense of the complexity of court intrigue at this time. Henry VII is sketched as a mere dirty old man lusting after his son's fiancee, and Henry as a spoiled adolescent. This novel also lacks the subtle supernatural touches that enliven Wise Woman, the Wideacre trilogy, and The Queen's Fool.
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Philippa Gregory has written some excellent historical novel in the past and this one is certainly up there with the best of them. She has the ability as an author to draw you into the story in such a way as to make you feel that you have gone back in time. The sights, the sounds, even the smells of 16th century England seem to be there before your eyes and under your nose.

Children were married young in those days and the three year old child Katherine of Aragon has been betrothed to the English King's son Prince Arthur. The Prince is the heir of Henry VII. Even at that tender age Katherine realises that it is her destiny to rule England, a far off land, of which she knows nothing...

Her arrival at the English court as a young girl does not start well and Arthur seems somewhat childish in her eyes. Slowly she begins to adapt to her life at English court and the strange customs of the land and slowly but surely a tender love develops between the two. Something that is far from normal in the arranged marriages of the time.

Philippa Gregory has got the formula for these books down to a fine art and they are very interesting well researched books that are extremely readable.
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on 25 March 2016
Do we read historical novels to learn about history as a substitute for more academic books on the subject? Philippa Gregory has undoubtedly chosen an interesting period of British history and telling the story from a woman’s point of view, rather than the king, makes it more interesting and unusual. There is a movement from third person narrative to first person, as we see what the Princess was thinking and feeling. There is also well placed historical detail, such as the litter to carry her to Ludlow, the fact that she would have been cold and not used to British weather. The magnificence of the Alhambra Palace, the devotion of her mother Queen Isabella and how she may have been mis-guided in her prejudices, in relation to the learning of the Moors.

However, are we just looking for information from our historical novels rather than good writing? As an author she has obviously done her research, but like her general fiction, I found her style repetitive. I understand Catalina wishing to reinforce her position as Princess of Wales and ultimately Queen. The repetition stresses her pride and determination, but it also makes the novel long winded and drag a little.

There is a period where she is kept in limbo after the death of Arthur before she marries Henry where nothing much happens. I understand she endures hardship in this period, but again there is this constant reassertion of her rights.

The novel covers the death of their first baby and the conquering of the Scots and then it ends. The sequel then appears to jump straight to the dissolution of the marriage and Anne Boleyn. Mary is mentioned as her daughter, but it does not refer to any other part, of what is a long marriage. How did Henry change, if at all? What part did his advisers play in the marriage? Henry was probably quite a devout man, what changed? How did his attitude to her change over the years? It would have been nice to have seen more of a progression through this novel and this would have helped with the pace.

I have so much in common with this author I really wanted to like the historical fiction, but I was disappointed. She is undoubtedly a great academic, but the fiction could be better.
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Following the recommendation of my wife and daughter, I read The Other Boleyn Girl a few years ago, and thought it a good story, in spite of not being a huge fan of historical fiction. I picked this up to take along on a recent trip to Granada - having vaguely remembered that Katherine of Aragon had something to do with the Alhambra - and was very glad I did. The novel opens with the famous scene in which Queen Isabella (Katherine's mother) exhorts her army (which is besieging Granada) to build a new camp after the old one has been destroyed by fire. The new camp - named Santa Fe - was built in stone, and was the location of the surrender of Boabadil (the last Moorish king of Granada) to Ferdinand and Isabella at the conclusion of the siege. You drive past it on the way from the airport to the city.

In the story, Katherine's memories of the Alhambra, her formidable mother and her wily father are like a seam of gold that runs through her internal monologues during her early life in England, and which helps her to maintain her dignity and sense of destiny in spite of feeling unloved, confused and frustrated. The book concentrates on this part of her life, and brings her marriage with Arthur to life (instead of it - as usual - being invoked as one of Henry VIII's excuses for divorcing her), alongside her intriguing relationship with Henry VII, and the maturing of her abilities as a monarch. There's also room for sobering reflections on the subservient role of women in education, religion, medicine and politics, and a thinly-veiled plea for understanding between faiths. The book ends just as the question of the divorce is being raised, but since this already a much-tilled field in fiction, I think it's right to stop there.
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