Friday, May 8, 2015
The Life of Catherine de Valois
The Queen's Lover
by Vanora Bennett
$6.49 Kindle version
After reading Vanora Bennett's Figures in Silk, I was looking forward to reading another novel by the same author. I noticed right away that her style of writing had changed slightly. The book told the story of Catherine de Valois (mother of Henry VI), from the time she was a young girl to the coronation of her son, in multiple points-of-view...sometimes it was Catherine's thoughts; sometimes Christine's, Owain, Henry V, and a few others. The POVs changed frequently within the same chapters, but it was easy to keep track of. The novel itself was divided into separate books, which allowed the narration to suddenly jump in time, location and tone. I don't think it made any difference to the storyline, but it did add depth to the various characters.
I found the description of Catherine's childhood to be extremely disturbing. I can't imagine royal children starving, or being so severely neglected. Christine was such a big part of Catherine's life, and a great influence on Owain, yet the mention of her death was not what I was expecting for a character of that importance. There were other odd moments in the book; for instance, Dame Butler was emphasized as a beloved servant, but then she makes a snotty remark about young Harry acting like a baby. The abuse that Warwick was able to get away with was also very upsetting. I don't understand why someone would be allowed to beat a future King like that. I can't believe after Catherine's own miserable childhood, she could let anything bad happen to her own son. It's no wonder King Henry VI was known to go mad as an adult.
I loved Part Seven with Jehanne of Arc. It helped me figure out where I was on the timeline...it was very difficult to remember what the date was at any point in the novel. However, by that point in the book, I was under the impression that Catherine was more concerned with her love affair with Owain than the well-being of her son, Harry. If I was suppose to think she was a strong female, I never did. I can't summon up respect for someone that selfish, and Catherine always seemed incapable of helping herself -- even towards the end of the novel. The Cardinal was actually more of a favorite.
Overall, the story was entertaining, but the Historical Postscript left out the detail of Catherine's death. After reading a novel based on her life, it would have been nice to know how she died. I think I prefered the writing style of Figures in Silk, but I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in historical fiction from this time period.