I bought Katherine by Anya Seton a couple of years ago, way back when I first decided to read by way through the BBC Top 100. It has since remained unread on my bookshelf, along with many others I am yet to read. So it was a week or so ago that I decided to finally give it a go. At number 95 in the BBC Top 100 it’s one that I had never previously heard of – indeed even my most bookish of friends reacted with a blank stare when I told them what I was reading.
One of the few examples of historical fiction that made the BBC’s poll, Katherine was published in 1954 and tells the story of 14th-century love affair in England between the eponymous Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and third surviving son of Edward III.
Despite my very limited knowledge of 14th century England, I was immediately drawn into the medieval backdrop of the tale which Seton creates through her rich description and characterisation. She takes the reader through the turbulent times of the 14th century and the vast amount of research she must have carried out in order to write this book is evident throughout the novel.
The love-story between Katherine and John which began as an affair and ended in marriage is both wonderful and uplifting and the tale ends on a poignant note, offering what could have been a woeful story a fitting and heartfelt finish.