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2.9 out of 5 stars
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2.9 out of 5 stars
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on 16 October 2007
Suzannah Dunn tries two very interesting approaches to her fictionalisation of the last years of Katherine Parr's life. Firstly, she tells the whole tale through the eyes of someone else; someone who, for the purposes of Dunn's take on the story, is remote from the real goings-on in the Queen's mind, bedroom or life. So it always seems as if we are looking at the story through misty glass, not really sure of what's happening. Secondly, the language is very modern - an attempt it seems to connect the 21st century reader with the real emotions of the characters (indicating these were real people, just like us), but one which I don't think really comes off. Yes, these were just human beings, with human emotions, but they weren't like us. They were from a very different time, place and culture. It didn't ring quite true to me. So ultimately, I thought this was an innovative and intriguing novel, but - I hate to say it - not a particularly interesting or moving one.
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VINE VOICEon 22 September 2007
I believe it is quite difficult to approach as a subject of one's novel the life of Katherine Parr, the sixth and last wife of King Henry VIII, as most of us know about her. But it is not impossible as so many great writers of historical novels prove.

Therefore I think it was a terrific idea to do this through the perspective of Catherine Willoughby, Baroness Willoughby of Eresby in her own rights, a woman who shares much of Tudor drama herself. She was the last wife of Charles Brandon, the famous Duke of Suffolk, closed friend and brother in law of Henry VIII and much older husband to Catherine. She was the daughter of Maria de Salinas, the closest and most loyal friend of Queen Catherine of Aragon, first Queen Consort of Henry VIII. She was a lady-in-waiting to Katherine Parr and a prominent Protestant, close enough but not too close to the drama of the time.

However, I found this book a disappointment as both a historical and fictional novel. He story never takes off, is erratic and just has no flow too it. The dialogues are very often strange, in tone too modern, without the subtleties of Royal Tudor court life and most of the entire book does not created the personalities in a a way that one gets an idea about them. Historic novels are a unique tool to approach a historic personality without being too much tied to the historic documents and give them life and flesh. Great historic novelist do that, Susannah Dunn unfortunately does not. She simply does not know how to write convincing and compelling historical fiction.

Her first book "The Queen of Subtleties3 was a disappointment and unfortunately she keeps in line with her first book.
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on 23 December 2007
In writing this book about Henry VIII's widow and her marriage to Thomas Seymour, Suzannah Dunn is out of her league. I had the P.S. edition of this book, where she explains that she deliberately avoided "Tudorspeak" because when she picks up a book, uses of the word "prithee" (and the like) immediately take her out of the story. Well, her approach to The Sixth Wife had exactly that effect on me. To hear one of the characters say that he "didn't have a clue" and to have characters speak as if they were living within the 21st Century immediately removed me from the setting at hand. Furthermore, I wanted to know about Katherine Parr, but the story isn't *really* about her. It's more about Catherine, Duchess of Suffolk. It's told from her point of view, and she's not a likable or even tolerable personality. Instead of being happy for her friend, she constantly wonders why she chose Thomas Seymour for a husband. Knowing this, her actions later in the book are even more inexplicable.

The Sixth Wife was "okay," but not a standout or a gripping read by any stretch of the imagination. There is one thing I did get out of it, however. In the endnotes, there is a list of suggested non-fiction books regarding the main characters. I'll be adding those to my ever-teetering pile of books to explore. I just hope those authors are better at their craft than Ms. Dunn.
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on 27 January 2008
I thought this book was really awful. The modern dialogue was at best unconvincing and lazy and at worst utterly cringeworthy - for example, when the narrator talked about Kate "meeting and greeting"people and one character told another "Don't bite my head off!". Maybe the author just didn't credit her readers with enough intelligence to empathise with characters who didn't speak in modern dialogue - in any case she completely failed to recreate the period in her writing - dreadful.
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on 8 October 2014
When this book was chosen by my historical novel book group, and introduced with an explanation of Suzannah Dunn's decision to write historical novels in 21st century language, I expected to dislike it intensely, and almost didn't get beyond the first couple of pages, which I found confusing, but persevered because I'd actually bought the book and it seemed a shame to admit defeat so soon. A few pages further in, and I couldn't put it down!

There were lots of things that I liked about this book - the easy, flowing style, the compelling narrative in the first person which brought it vividly to life, the way that the author unobtrusively wove in a lot of historical detail about daily life in Tudor times, and the way she related the reformation via the personal opinions of the characters in the book. There were also some stunningly good descriptions here and there which made me marvel at her power as a writer.

Although not exactly a history buff, I am reasonably well-informed about Katherine Parr, and have visited Sudeley Castle several times, so was picturing the part of the book set in Sudeley as I was reading. (I now want to go there again, to contemplate the book in that setting.) I had assumed all the way through that Thomas Seymour's affair with the narrator was based on fact, so I was rather taken aback to read in the author's note at the end that she made it up. WHAT??? I must admit that seems a real liberty and I wonder at the necessity of doing that - surely there was enough other intrigue going on in Tudor times to provide a real-life story to inspire her instead? But by that point, I'd enjoyed the novel so much that I was already determined to give it 5 stars, because it was a terrific read.

I feel sorry for the author that she has had such poor reviews here when what she's done is a challenging and innovative task - and to my mind much more exciting to read than some other authors who have taken the traditional route. I felt her approach made me feel much more in touch with historical figures and their society, and I'm really glad I read this book. I shall look out for more of her historical novels, and I'd be interested to read her fiction with a contemporary setting there.
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on 3 March 2008
This was a romantic idea which the author freely admits has no basis in fact.
The last book I read was Alison Weirs 'Innocent Traitor' and in addition I have read all the historical novels by Philippa Gregory - I'm afraid this author isn't anywhere near approaching their quality or style. I found the main character poorly painted and unsympathetic, the dialogue was simply dreadful.
I'm not sure that even the author thinks this is her metier but it is the last historical book of hers I'll buy
Don't give up the day job !
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VINE VOICEon 24 February 2007
I believe it is quite difficult to approach as a subject of one's novel the life of Katherine Parr, the sixth and last wife of King Henry VIII, as most of us know about her. But it is not impossible as so many great writers of historical novels prove.

Therefore I think it was a terrific idea to do this through the perspective of Catherine Willoughby, Baroness Willoughby of Eresby in her own rights, a woman who shares much of Tudor drama herself. She was the last wife of Charles Brandon, the famous Duke of Suffolk, closed friend and brother in law of Henry VIII and much older husband to Catherine. She was the daughter of Maria de Salinas, the closest and most loyal friend of Queen Catherine of Aragon, first Queen Consort of Henry VIII. She was a lady-in-waiting to Katherine Parr and a prominent Protestant, close enough but not too close to the drama of the time.

However, I found this book a disappointment as both a historical and fictional novel. He story never takes off, is erratic and just has no flow too it. The dialogues are very often strange, in tone too modern, without the subtleties of Royal Tudor court life and most of the entire book does not created the personalities in a a way that one gets an idea about them. Historic novels are a unique tool to approach a historic personality without being too much tied to the historic documents and give them life and flesh. Great historic novelist do that, Susannah Dunn unfortunately does not. She simply does not know how to write convincing and compelling historical fiction.

Her first book "The Queen of Subtleties" was a disappointment and unfortunately she keeps in line with her first book.
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on 18 October 2007
I tried to get into this book on numerous occassions but have now given up and chucked it in the recyling bin to end up its life as something more exciting. I am an avid reader of historical novels especially the Tudor period. Personally I did not like the modern twist Ms Dunn has taken with this book. If curious about this book then borrow it from the Library instead. Sadly disappointing...
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on 29 September 2007
I read this book on a very long flight. Had I been reading it at home, I'd likely have chucked it half way through. I had nothing else to read, though, so slogged onwards. It offers a few historical facts and a few improbable suppositions. Nowhere do the characters seem to come to life, as is so necessary in historical novels. I'm no advocate of 'prithee' and 'forsooth', but the use of modern English in it, particularly some very current slang, is incongruous and annoying. My whole impression was that the conversations and scenes had been inflated and stretched out to make a novel out of what was really no more than a short story. Not an interestinng one at that; not a book that would leave the reader entertained or enlightened or wanting to know more.
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Like her The Confession of Katherine Howard, Dunn takes a sideways look at Katherine Parr, her marriage to Thomas Seymour, and the sexual rumours about Elizabeth's girlhood.

Be warned, Dunn deliberately 'modernises' Tudor England so that people speak as contemporaries and everyone is known by a nickname: 'Kate' Parr, for example, or 'Cathy' Brandon. Many reviewers here clearly hated this, but Dunn herself has spoken about the way she wants to reveal the people behind the 'history' and so made this decision to allow them to speak as we do. Given that we have no record of conversations from this period other than literary imaginings, and the plethora of nicknames used at this time, I didn't have a problem with this but many might.

The well-known stories are told through Cathy Brandon (the widow of Charles, Duke of Suffolk) who is Kate's best friend, and becomes personally involved in Kate's own marriage, so that the stories of Kate herself and Elizabeth are told obliquely rather than full on, which I liked.

The book becomes a little confused towards the end where it seems there are too many sub-plots in play which muddy the narrative somewhat. But overall this is an interesting book which brings us very close to Tudor women.

Dunn, I think, is an interesting writer who turns familiar 'history' into proper novels with their own internal logic. They are imaginative re-creations rather than historical re-tellings and might stretch but don't contradict the historical record. For me, her characters are real people not just shells which contain their historical stories. This is certainly not a traditional historical novel so if that's what you're looking for then you might be disappointed - but I really enjoyed it.
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