Sunday, July 17, 2011
'The Confessions of Catherine de Medici' by C.W. Gortner
A wonderful blending of historical fact and intriguing fiction, C.W. Gortner's 'The Confessions of Catherine de Medici' takes the reader beyond what history has told us of the queen who supposedly poisoned her enemies and used her children as stepping stones on her rise to power. The author provides a thought-provoking read for those who know the popular historical account of Catherine, allowing the reader to see her as a woman who is a product of the times in which she lived, doing what she must to secure her family's survival and the order of her country.
Cast from her beloved homeland by the Signoria of Florence, Catherine de Medici is escorted to Rome on orders of her papal uncle only to see her wed to the second son of the French king, Francois I. As Catherine accepts her new role as a pawn in her uncle's game against Charles V, she finds her new husband Henri d' Orleans handsome but arrogant - and controlled by another woman. There are few she can trust to see to her best interests and, realizing this, she takes matters into her own hands.
Fighting her husband's mistress and the gossip of the royal court, Catherine is forced to do whatever she can to secure a place for herself and her children from those who seek a rise to power. In so doing, her reputation is ruined and her family is left shattered during the war between the Catholics and the heretic Protestants. Dabbling in the occult and striking bargains with those whom she knows are not her allies, the young Duchesse d' Orleans embraces the prophecy of her youth - "You will fulfill your destiny. It may not be a destiny you want....but fulfill it you will." These words help to keep the fire of her determination lit as she does what she thinks is best for her children and her country. Her struggle to find the balance between woman, queen, and mother leads to the slaughter of hundreds in the name of religion, as well as fostering hatred and loathing in her children for the fate Catherine set in motion for them by her actions.
The details of 16th century France are rich and encompassing, making 'The Confessions of Catherine de Medici' a book that immediately plunges you into Catherine's world and allows you to see and feel all that the queen might have experienced for herself. Regardless of the historical account of her life and regency, one cannot deny that there are often three sides to every story - yours, mine, and the truth. While we may never know the truth of Catherine de Medici, we can certainly gain a more humanistic view of her through C.W. Gortner's captivating story.