Katherine: The Classic Love Story of Medieval England

Katherine (Rediscovered Classics) - Anya Seton, Philippa Gregory Here's the thing about historical fiction: we already know what happened.So the wiles of plot are nullified. There's no reason to wonder how everything will turn out when Wikipedia exists. Okay, then how about the writing? We may know what happens but the author can sprinkle the story with good prose and keen insights to keep us reading. Unfortunately, most historical fiction authors try to echo the language spoken in days of yore. A good tactic, certainly, but one that is rarely successful. The balance of modern language with antiquated cadences is finicky. Too often you read sentences like this: "Yes, Sir Hugh, I'm quite alone and helpless. Have you come to ravish me?"If the plot is useless and the writing questionable, is there any other reason to read historical fiction? Yes! For a storyteller's touch. A fiction writer can skim facts if it makes for a better story. A historian cannot. Yet in Katherine Anya Seton writes her fiction much like nonfiction. She is a slave to the facts, reporting in minute detail the manueverings of various Western European nobles and the birth of every new royal descendant. She should have focused solely on the romance between Katherine and John of Gaunt because it is truly an epic tale. It spans decades and plague outbreaks and political strife. It produces four bastard children--and I love bastard children! Their offspring cause the War of the Roses and basically every royal house in Western Europe has some relation to Katherine or John Lancaster. But for every bastard child, for every clandestine dalliance in a secluded castle, there are pages of overly detailed description and simplistic writing.What a shame. True stories are rarely packaged like fiction. The story of these two medieval lovers was made for our consumption, but Seton made it rotten.