Monthly Archives: February 2012

Katharine of Aragon (trilogy) by Jean Plaidy

Titles:  Katharine, The Virgin Widow; The Shadow of the Pomegranate; The King’s Secret Matter
 
Author:  Jean Plaidy
Length: 643 pages (all three books in one volume)
Highly Enjoyable!

As I have mentioned many times (most recently, perhaps, right before my vacation?), I am enthusiastic about Tudors history – both fictional and real, actual history.  To further feed this obsession, I scoured GoodReads for any and all books that I could find.  Not too far into my search, not surprisingly, I came across Jean Plaidy’s name and the seemingly never-ending list of titles.

The books that I wanted to start with are the three about Katharine of Aragon – Spanish Princess, English Queen, and the first lady unlucky enough to NOT provide Henry the VIII with a strapping young son.  While I know that the Showtime series isn’t the most historically accurate account out there, I was drawn to their portrayal of her and immediately felt some warmth towards her personality and story.  While I have yet to read an actual biography about her, the fictional accounts of her that I’ve encountered so far (The Other Boleyn Girl and these books by Jean Plaidy) paint her in a similar way to the show, leading me to believe that she truly was a kind-hearted, spiritual woman who commanded respect and honor.

Reading Plaidy’s novels felt like I was reading closer to an actual historical account of the happenings in the Tudor court than when reading The Other Boleyn Girl.  Because of this, while still enjoyable, it took a little longer to get through them.  There is a fair amount of dialogue and action, however, and the keeps the books an entertaining read.  And while the story is undoubtedly focused on Katharine of Aragon, she doesn’t hold back from sharing a glimpse into what King Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, and the rest of the major players are up to, thinking, or plotting.

The version that I purchased (published by Three Rivers Press, featuring an awesome reading guide/questions) is the only version to contain the entire trilogy covering Queen Katharine’s story from her arrival in England from Spain in 1501 (to marry the young and sickly Prince Arthur) until her own heart breaking death on January 7th, 1536.  Let’s take a closer look at the three individual books in this volume….

Katharine, The Virgin Widow

IN THE ROYAL MARRIAGE MARKET 
THE INFANTA OF SPAIN WAS A TRUE PRIZE.

In the eyes of the world, Katharine of Aragon was a precious object to be disposed of for the glory of Spain. Her parents, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, send her to England to become the bride of Arthur, Prince of Wales.
But soon her frail husband was dead, and a fateful question loomed: Was the marriage consummated, as Katharine’s priest avowed, or was the young widow still a virgin? On that delicate point hinged Katharine’s–and England’s–future. Meanwhile, waiting in the wings was her willful, handsome brother-in-law, bold Prince Henry, who alone had the power to restore Katharine’s lost position.

Jean Plaidy’s narrative genius sparkles in this story of a remarkable royal marriage that inspired some of history’s bloodiest deeds . . . 

I struggled slightly to get into the first book, but, really, only because I needed to adjust to the third person narrative (I’m a sucker for first person…).  The story begins with an introduction to the children of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York during a horrific scene in which the king’s best dogs fight lions to the death.  This scene, in all its gruesome detail, sets the reader up for the plight of anyone else’s wish (or bravery) placed against that of a king’s.  When the dogs win, they still lose because they dared stand up against the king of all animals.  It’s important for all to know, and heed, their place in the social order.

At the beginning of the stories, the children are awaiting (quite eagerly) the arrival of the Infanta from Spain – a young girl born from the honorable Queen Isabella and her consort, Ferdinand.  Briefly, upon arrival (and after settling in), Katharine grows accustomed to the young prince she is set to marry.  He’s kind, shy, faithful, and does not appear to have a cruel bone in his body.  Everything changes when he dies during an outbreak of the sweating disease, however.  This is when Katharine enters into the first troublesome period of her life.  Forced into living without any allowance, she stays in a house with her ladies in waiting and servants, unable to pay them and unable to leave to return to Spain.  Her future is full of uncertainty and relies upon the whims of a fickle and greedy King.

The novel ends with her marriage to King Henry VIII – as he apparently loves to go against the advice and demands of anyone else – for why should he listen to them? HE is the King of England.  In the final scenes of Katharine, the Virgin Widow it appears as though her fortune has changed and happier days lie ahead.  Little does she know…

 The Shadow of the Pomegranate

The marriage of Katharine of Aragon and King Henry VIII was a match made in heaven. But hardly were they wed when powerful people in Henry’s court started spinning webs of intrigue around the innocent royal pair.

King Henry VIII is still a young man.  He loves games, dressing up, and proving to his people that he loves them.  Some of actions seem brazen while all of actions seem highly juvenile.  Above all else, though, he yearns to have a son and is confidant that he and Queen Katharine will produce many.  Only time will tell, though, as their first child born is, in fact, a son, but dies only after a very short time of being alive.

As we all know now, they never have a son.  Instead they have a healthy, intelligent, and highly talented daughter Mary.  If only she were born a boy… is a thought that is repeated throughout this book.  Katharine, alone, seems to be able to find the tenderness in his eyes and is willing to see him with a greater filter of warmth than most others might be willing to.  Perhaps even greater to her love for him, however, she adores her daughter and is devoted to protecting her interests.

The second book also brings the rise of Cardinal Wolsey, who acts as a major influence in directing the course of the king’s life – all with the intent of progressing his own interests..  The second book also brings an increase in the tumult that is King Henry VIII’s moods.  His rage flares up and, once aggravated, seems to know no bounds.  The longer he goes without a son, or, as he sees it, a legitimate heir to the throne, the angrier and less reasonable he becomes.

By the end of the The Shadow of the Pomegranate (which, by the way, is Katharine’s symbol, which is representative of fertility – cruel irony) with the King’s infidelity becoming public knowledge and an accepted fact of how things are going to be.  Bessie Blount, his favored mistress in the court, produces him with a son, whom he names Henry Fitzroy.  The affair and child are both flaunted in front of Katharine, but she maintains composure and finds solace in the fact that she is the Queen of England, beloved of the people.

 The King’s Secret Matter

The personalities and intrigues of the English royal court are brought to vivid life in this tale of Katharine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII. The twelve-year marriage of Henry and Katharine has declined from an idyllic union into an uneasy stalemate. The king’s love for his aging queen has grown cold, and he is angry with her failure to give him the heir to the throne he desperately wants. When the seductive Anne Boleyn arrives at court, the king is captivated by her dark beauty and bold spirit, and becomes obsessed with his desire to possess her. With his chief advisor, Cardinal Wolsey, the king devises a secret plot to declare the marriage with Katharine null and void. But Katharine refuses to surrender to his wishes and fights desperately to retain her title and safeguard her daughter, Mary. The ensuing power struggle is one of the turning points in English history, and these pages capture it in spellbinding detail.

We can all guess what happens in the third book,  The King’s Secret Matter, can’t we?  The state of Katharine’s life is in rapid decline.  The king barely visits her.  Her nephew, the emperor, constantly breaks promises with King Henry VIII, thus, creating a distaste for all thing Spanish in his eyes – his wife being one of those “things”.  There are countless women in court who jump at the chance to sleep with the King and he is more than happy to make their wildest dreams come true.

And, as in any royal story, people are unceasingly plotting, planning, and seeking ways to further their own interests, at no matter what cost to others.  Unfortunately, for Queen Katharine, there aren’t many in the court able to fight for her interests since her interests are contrary to the King’s.  And, in this book, he does not shy away from sending “traitors” to the chopping block.  By the final page, we have bid adieu to the majority of the original players and are faced with a new set taking center stage.  And at the very center of that stage is Anne Boleyn (or, as it appears the people of England call her, Nan Bullen).

Katharine, once a woman to know all of the comforts and honors of a Queen, dies in a dank, lonesome building, far away from her daughter, Mary.  Throughout all of her protestations against the King’s cry that their marriage was never valid, she cared most about preserving her daughter’s  honor, dignity, and name.

These books increased my admiration and love for Katharine of Aragon.  They also made me feel even more excited to learn more about this period of English history.  Additionally, I will also read more of Jean Plaidy’s novels.  Her writing is clean and leaves you feeling like you actually, possibly, learned something.

Are you interested in the Tudors?  Which authors do you prefer?

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Favorites, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Series, Tudors, Women Writers

Monday Quote: Just Do It

Don’t think.  Thinking is the enemy of creativity.  It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy.  You can’t try to do things.  You simply must do things.

Ray Bradbury

1 Comment

Filed under Quotes

Poetry about peace

Origami Cranes at Manzanar

 

Hello, I’m back for real now.  This past week was hectic getting back into the groove of reality, but now that my head is back on straight, I can resume with my updates.  To kickstart things, I’m going to begin with posting poems (as I like to do on the weekends).

I chose today’s poem because it is about peace.  If you pay any attention to the news, you can’t ignore all of the horrific and violent events presently happening in the world.  We’re killing each other.  We’re killing animals.  We’re killing the earth.  Instead of becoming overwhelmed with despair, however, we have to concentrate on initiating change and working towards peace for the future.  Now, a poem may not fix all of our problems, but poetry lend a voice to hope.

Making Peace
Denise Levertov – Copyright 1987, Breathing the Water

A voice from the dark called out,
“The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.”

But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.

A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.

A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses. . . .

A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light—facets
of the forming crystal.


If you have any favorite poems about peace, please feel free to share in the comments.

Leave a comment

Filed under Denise Levertov, Poetry, Women Writers

Books as Souvenirs

As you may or may not know/remember, I recently went on vacation.  One of the many exciting things to do on vacation is acquire some stuff that you probably don’t need, but that you swear will always remind you of your trip.  Well, I would like to say, that people ALWAYS need books and what better way to remember and commemorate your time somewhere than with a geographically appropriate book?

Luckily, there were many options for me to sift through in the Death Valley and Eastern Sierra gift shops that we wound up in.  I didn’t wind up with anything too scientific (there were plenty on the night sky or rocks of Death Valley), but I wound up with two of the best titles for me…

Title:  Soiled Doves
Author:  Anne Seagraves
Published by WESANNE PUBLICATIONS

Soiled Doves – Prostitution in the Early West is about… well… prostitution and the women who were prostitutes in the early West.  I haven’t read anything past the introduction yet, but the first page sucked me in with its very brief, very surface-only glimpse at the history of prostitution.  The first time that I saw this book, we were in a very family oriented gift shop and I was just kind of shocked, amazed, and delighted by its existence.  I didn’t jump the gun and fork over the $12.95 that night, however.  No, no… I had to let the idea of it stew.  For days.  In the desert heat.

On our final day there, however, I knew that I had to have it.  En route to Las Vegas, we stopped back into the gift shop and I picked it up.  Fortunately for me, they hadn’t sold out of it yet.  With that said, this will probably be one of my next reads, so keep a lookout for my review and thoughts on here in the next few weeks.

SOILED DOVES tells of the grey world of prostitution and the women who participated in the oldest profession.  Colorful, if not socially acceptable, these ladies of easy virtue were a definite part of the early West – wearing ruffled petticoats with fancy bows, they were glamorous and plain, good and bad and many were as wild as the land they came to tame.

Women like “Molly b’Dam,” Mattie Silks, and “Chicago Joe” blended into the fabric of the American Frontier with an easy familiarity.  Others, such as “Sorrel Mike,” escaped through suicide, Lottie Johl chose marriage and the Chinese slave girls lived a life without hope.

Title: Kiyo’s Story
Author: Kiyo Sato
Published by Soho Press, Inc.

The other book that I picked up was purchased at the gift shop located in the Manzanar National Historic Site, which is a historic site of a Japanese Interment Camp from the WWII era.  We found out towards the end of our trip that this Site was nearby (about an hour drive from where we were staying) and I knew, immediately, that I had to get there.  Over the past year, I’ve read a few titles about the Japanese Internment Camps (something that I wasn’t 100% aware of previously) and it was incredibly important for me to get there.

The stories and information available at Manzanar is moving, maddening, inspiring, and eye-opening.  Their gift shop contains many titles for further reading (including plenty for children and teenagers), but I really wanted a memoir.  Kiyo’s Story popped out of me, first and foremost, because I liked the design of the book.  Upon closer inspection, I realized that this is really the best book for me to read.  Again, I’ll be reading this one sometime over the next few weeks, so keep a lookout for my review.

Kiyo’s father arrived in California determined to plant his roots in the land of opportunity after leaving Japan.  He, his wife, and their nine American-born children labored in the fields together, building a successful farm.  But at the outbreak of the World War II, Kiyo’s family was ordered to Poston Internment Camp.

Throughout their trials, the family pulled together to survive.  Kiyo managed to work her way through college; her brothers served in the army.  After the war they returned to a ruined farm and a despoiled house.  They began again.

 

Have you ever picked up a book as a souvenir?

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Women Writers

Monday Quote: Truth

Let us accept truth, even when it surprises us and alters our views.

George Sand

Leave a comment

Filed under Quotes, Women Writers

iPad apps for book lovers on ITworld.com

And we’re BACK!  I’m playing catch up, but will hopefully work on some articles later today (?) or this weekend.  For now, though, I wanted to share a link to my newest article up on ITworld.com.  I’ve written two others about iPad/iPod accessories, but this latest one is near and dear to my heart since the topic is related to apps for reading/literature enthusiasts.

iPad apps for book lovershttp://www.itworld.com/software/249884/ipad-apps-book-lovers
I hope that you enjoy!  AND if you’re interested in technology at all, ITWorld.com is a great site to keep up to date with what’s going on in that universe.

Leave a comment

Filed under Apps, Books, eReader, iPad

What do you read on vacation?

Tomorrow morning my husband and I hop on a VERY early (5:45 AM!) flight out to the west coast.  We’re not going to hit up any beaches, though, as our preference lies with exploring the desert…

The beauty of Death Valley

But, regardless of the wonderful sights and adventures that we’ll be enjoying, one of the most important parts of any and all vacations is, quite simply, what to read!  Like with most trips, I planned this one out.  I set myself up to be right in the middle of Jean Plaidy’s Katharine of Aragon trilogy.  I want my Tudors fix and I don’t want to run out of pages before I return home to the full expanse of my ever-growing bookshelves.

Over the weekend I finished the first (and shortest) of the three – Katharine the Virgin Widow and am starting in on The Shadow of the Pomegranate.  So far, I’m totally loving this series.  I will admit, that it took a little extra effort to get myself into the rhythm of Plaidy’s writing, but I feel like I’m genuinely learning some history, feeling entertained, and nurturing a growing appreciation of Queen Katharine.

To leap into these stories almost immediately after The Other Bolelyn Girl was a little bit of a minor shock (especially since I thoroughly enjoyed Gregory’s writing style and the voice that she created for Mary Bolelyn), but I’m beyond happy that I worked my way through the “slower” parts of Katharine the Virgin Widow and am moving further along in the book.  Things start to get really interesting after the marriage finally takes place.

Luckily for me, and for all fans of Plaidy’s writing, she’s an enormously prolific writer, so I still have a plethora of options to move onto next!  In the meantime, however, I’ll enjoy having the characters from this era of the Tudor court accompany me on our trip out to Death Valley.

What book(s) do you bring with you on vacation?  Do you plan them ahead of time or do you just take along with you whatever you’re currently working on?  I’d love to hear!

2 Comments

Filed under Books, Favorites, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Jean Plaidy, Women Writers

Monday Quote: William Golding on Life

The journey of life is like a man riding a bicycle.  We know he got on the bicycle and started to move.  We know that, at some point, he will stop and get off.  We know that if he stops moving and does not get off, he will fall off.

William Golding

Leave a comment

Filed under Quotes

What’s happening in the world of books…

Due to the craziness that this previous week consisted of, I did not get to post my weekly roundup of some awesome links to other stories on books and publishing.  So, I am bringing this to you on a Sunday – Superbowl Sunday, no less.  Books are way cooler than football, in my opinion….

 

If you would like me to include a link to any reviews or news from your blog, please contact me at nootherappetite@gmail.com  & I will happily include in an upcoming post.

1 Comment

Filed under Books

Author Spotlight: Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates (June 16, 1938) is nothing short of amazing.  Highly prolific (she has published OVER 50 books since 1969), she has been the recipient of many awards and honors, including:

  • National Book Award winner for Them in 1970
  • PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction
  • Winner of the 2005 Prix Femina Etranger for The Falls
  • Finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Blonde
  • She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities @ Princeton University
  • Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (since 1973)
  • 2003 recipient of the Common Wealth Award for Distinguished Service in Literature
  • Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement
  • 2006 recipient of the Chicago Tribune Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2009 recipient of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2011 Honorary Doctorate of Arts awarded by the University of Pennsylvania
  • 2012 recipient of the Stone Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement from Oregon State University
 
Her writing is often disturbing, displaying some of the horror in our modern society as well as the trials and tribulations that everyday people struggle with.  Her writing is always beautiful and unique.  Oates successfully captures the voice of her characters, seamlessly slipping into their mannerisms, dialects, and psyches.
 
In addition to her novels, Oates has also published under two pseudonyms (Rosalind Smith and Lauren Kelly), essays, poetry, drama, fiction for young adults, as well as children’s books.  I feel as though nothing that I can manage to write here will do justice to her skill and career.  As someone who admires her deeply, all that I can hope for is that by highlighting her here, perhaps someone else will try out one of her novels.
 
Check out her page on the HarperCollins website for more information on upcoming releases.  Or the JCO official page via the University of San Francisco, also an excellent reference for a full bibliography.  This website also has a blog – Crossing the Border.
 
Joyce Carol Oates reads The Knife:
 

 

1 Comment

Filed under American Author, Author Spotlight, Favorites, Joyce Carol Oates, Women Writers