The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

by C. W. Gortner

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Overview

The truth is, not one of us is innocent. We all have sins to confess. So reveals Catherine de Medici, the last legitimate descendant of her family’s illustrious line. Expelled from her native Florence, Catherine is betrothed to Henri, son of François I of France. In an unfamiliar realm, Catherine strives to create a role for herself through her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer. But in her fortieth year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children in a kingdom torn apart by the ambitions of a treacherous nobility. Relying on her tenacity, wit, and uncanny gift for compromise, Catherine seizes power, intent on securing the throne for her sons, unaware that if she is to save France, she may have to sacrifice her ideals, her reputation, and the secret of her embattled heart.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345501875
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/24/2011
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 138,522
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.94(h) x 0.89(d)

About the Author

C. W. Gortner holds an MFA in writing, with an emphasis on historical studies, from the New College of California. He is the internationally acclaimed and bestselling author of Mademoiselle Chanel, The Queen’s Vow, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, The Last Queen, The Vatican Princess, and Marlene, among other books. He divides his time between Northern California and Antigua, Guatemala. To learn more about his work and to schedule a book group chat with him, please visit his website.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


I was ten years old when i discovered i might be a witch.

I sat sewing with my aunt Clarice, as sunlight spread across the gallery floor. Outside the window I could hear the splashing of the courtyard fountain, the cries of the vendors in the Via Larga and staccato of horse hooves on the cobblestone streets, and I thought for the hundredth time that I couldn’t stay inside another minute.

“Caterina Romelo de’ Medici, can it be you’ve finished already?”

I looked up. My late father’s sister Clarice de’ Medici y Strozzi regarded me from her chair. I wiped my brow with my sleeve. “It’s so hot in here,” I said. “Can’t I go outside?”

She arched her eyebrow. Even before she said anything, I could have recited her words, so often had she drummed them into my head: “You are the Duchess of Urbino, daughter of Lorenzo de’ Medici and his wife, Madeleine de la Tour, who was of noble French blood. How many times must I tell you, you must restrain your impulses in order to prepare for your future?”

I didn’t care about the future. I cared that it was summer and here I was cooped up in the family palazzo forced to study and sew all day, as if I might melt in the sun.

I clapped my embroidery hoop aside. “I’m bored. I want to go home.”

“Florence is your home; it is your birth city,” she replied. “I took you from Rome because you were sick with fever. You’re fortunate you can sit here and argue with me at all.”

“I’m not sick anymore,” I retorted. I hated it when she used my poor health as an excuse. “At least in Rome, Papa Clement let me have my own servants and a pony to ride.”

She regarded me without a hint of the ire that the mention of my papal uncle always roused in her. “That may be but you are here now, in my care, and you will abide by my rules. It’s midafternoon. I’ll not hear of you going outside in this heat.”

“I’ll wear a cap and stay in the shade. Please, Zia Clarice. You can come with me.”

I saw her trying to repress her unwilling smile as she stood. “If your work is satisfactory, we can take a stroll on the loggia before supper.” She came to me, a thin woman in a simple gray gown, her oval face distinguished by her large liquid-black eyes—the Medici eyes, which I had inherited, along with our family’s curly auburn hair and long-fingered hands.

She swiped up my embroidery. Her lips pursed when she heard me giggle. “I suppose you think it’s funny to make the Holy Mother’s face green? Honestly, Caterina; such sacrilege.” She thrust the hoop at me. “Fix it at once. Embroidery is an art, one you must master as well as your other studies. I’ll not have it said that Caterina de’ Medici sews like a peasant.”

I thought it best not to laugh and began picking out the offensive color, while my aunt returned to her seat. She stared off into the distance. I wondered what new trials she planned for me. I did love her but she was forever dwelling on how our family prestige had fallen since the death of my great-grandfather, Lorenzo Il Magnifico; of how Florence had been a center of learning renowned for our Medici patronage, and now we were but illustrious guests in the city we had helped build. It was my responsibility, she said, to restore our family’s glory, as I was the last legitimate descendant of Il Magnifico’s bloodline.

I wondered how she expected me to accomplish such an important task. I’d been orphaned shortly after my birth; I had no sisters or brothers and depended on my papal uncle’s goodwill. When I once mentioned this, my aunt snapped: “Clement VII was born a bastard. He bribed his way to the Holy See, to our great shame. He’s not a true Medici. He has no honor.”

Given his prestige, if he couldn’t restore our family name I didn’t know how she expected me to. Yet she seemed convinced of my destiny, and every month had me dress in my uncomfortable ducal finery and pose for a new portrait, which was then copied into miniatures and dispatched to all the foreign princes who wanted to marry me. I was still too young for wedlock, but she left me no doubt she’d already selected the cathedral, the number of ladies who would attend me—

All of a sudden, my stomach clenched. I dropped my hands to my belly, feeling an unexpected pain. My surroundings distorted, as if the palazzo had plunged underwater. Nausea turned my mouth sour. I came to my feet blindly, hearing my chair crash over. A terrifying darkness overcame me. I felt my mouth open in a soundless scream as the darkness widened like a vast ink stain, swallowing everything around me. I was no longer in the gallery arguing with my aunt; instead, I stood in a desolate place, powerless against a force that seemed to well up from deep inside me . . .

I stand unseen, alone among strangers. They are weeping. I see tears slip down their faces, though I can’t hear their laments. Before me is a curtained bed, draped in black. I know at once something horrible lies upon it, something I should not see. I try to stay back but my feet move me toward it with the slow certainty of a nightmare, compelling me to reach out a spotted, bloated hand I do not recognize as my own, part the curtains, and reveal

“Dio Mio, no!” My cry wrenched from me. I felt my aunt holding me, the frantic caress of her hand on my brow. I had a terrible stomachache and lay sprawled on the floor, my embroidery and tangled yarns strewn beside me.

“Caterina, my child,” my aunt said. “Please, not the fever again . . .”

As the strange sensation of having left my own body began to fade, I forced myself to sit up. “I don’t think it’s the fever,” I said. “I saw something: a man, lying dead on a bed. He was so real, Zia . . . it scared me.”

She stared at me. Then she whispered, “Una visione,” as if it was something she’d long feared. She gave me a fragile smile, reaching out to help me to my feet. “Come, that’s enough for today. Let us go take that walk, si? Tomorrow we’ll visit the Maestro. He’ll know what to do.”

Interviews

A Talk with C.W. Gortner, author of THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI

Who was Catherine de Medici?
Anyone with an interest in famous women of history will have heard of Catherine de Medici: she's that evil queen who allegedly poisoned her enemies and orchestrated a massacre. Or so the legend says. Of Italian birth, Catherine was the last scion of her legitimate Medici blood; she dominated France in the latter half of the 16th century, a contemporary of Elizabeth I and mother-in-law to Mary, Queen of Scots. Left a widow with small children and confronted by one of the most savage conflicts of the time, she fought to save France and her bloodline from destruction.

Why did you decide to write about her?
Initially, I was attracted to Catherine because of her legend. I figured that when someone has garnered such a reputation there has to be more to the story. I wanted to know who Catherine de Medici truly was, to search beyond the lurid accusations and hyperbole for the person she may have been. As I researched her, I found that my instincts were correct-as with most dark legends, there was far more to her than popular history tells us. I thought about how interesting it would be if Catherine herself could tell the story of her life. If she had the chance to explain herself, what would she say? All stories have two sides; and Catherine's is no exception.

How long did it take you to write, and what special research was involved?
It took about two years to write THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI. The research itself began several years before that; I actually first began researching Catherine de Medici whilestill in college, as she was part of my Master's thesis. For the novel itself, I took several trips to France, including one in which I visited the beautiful Loire Valley châteaux where Catherine resided and followed in her footsteps on the long progress she undertook to visit her eldest daughter on the border with Spain (though of course I did my trip by rail and car!). A friend of mine in Paris guided me on marvelous evening walks through the City, showing me specific sites associated with Catherine, including a lone tower that she evidently built as an observatory. I also read her letters, many accounts of her and her court, and the memoirs written by several of her contemporaries, including the fanciful memoirs of her daughter, Marguerite, known to history as Queen Margot.

What did Catherine's letters reveal?
Catherine's surviving letters constitute one of those rare treasure troves for the novelist. Letters offer an invaluable glimpse into the person's thoughts and personality and I found some of Catherine's letters to be particularly poignant. Her unimpeachable love for her children, her despair over the chaos wrought by war, her pragmatism and discomfort with overt fanaticism, as well as her compassion for animals-unusual for her time-all point to a woman who was very different from the archetypal Medici queen with her arsenal of poisons. Her letters helped me to envision the flesh-and-blood woman behind the legend and understand the challenges she faced both as a person and a queen.


What is one of the greatest misconceptions about Catherine de Medici?
Without doubt, it has to be the accusation that she nurtured a "passion for power." Catherine was not raised to be a queen, true, and she did in fact rule as regent for her sons until they came of age; but it is unfair to accuse her of a ruthless drive to retain her power at any cost. Catherine faced a unique set of circumstances that would have challenged even the most skilled of rulers: she had under-age children to protect and a kingdom being torn apart, literally, by the nobility. The clashes between Protestants and Catholics during the Reformation became especially intense in France; it was Catherine's great misfortune to be caught up in them. Her alleged passion for power was in truth an attempt to retain control over the destiny of her adopted realm and safeguard the throne-both of which may have suffered far more had she not been there. I find it quite sad that to this day Catherine remains tainted by actions that in essence she did not take of her own volition. She made several serious errors in judgment, without a doubt, but she was motivated most often by the urgent need to salvage a crisis, rather than some cold-blooded urge to eliminate those who stood in her way.

How do you strike a balance between depicting the reality of the times with modern day sensibilities?
The balance is always a fine one to tread. It can become even more tenuous when you are confronting issues of religion, race, sexuality, and gender. That said, I always consider the needs of my reader to be engaged by my story. While historical accuracy remains a primary obligation-in that the writer should not deliberately alter or distort known facts or have characters behave in an overtly modernized way-I do sanitize certain aspects of the reality of life in the 16th century. We tend to romanticize the past; we forget the lack of adequate hygiene, running water, antibiotics, etc. While I strive to retain the flavor of the past in my work and avoid the tendency to convert a brutal, quixotic era into a "costume drama", it is necessary to remember that we can only take so much of the less savory aspects of 16th-century life on novelized form. At the end of the day, I write fiction. My books are novels; their principal function is to entertain.

Do you think issues Catherine faced in her era still resonate today?
Many of the freedoms we take for granted today were unknown to people in the 16th century. Religious divisiveness in particular was a brutal part of daily life during Catherine's time; Catholics and Protestants were willing to martyr themselves for their cause, destroying countless others in the process. This is something that many of us, much like Catherine, may find difficult to comprehend. Yet that type of extreme righteousness remains very much a part of our modern landscape, as evidenced by acts of terrorism and genocide in several parts of the world. While we are in many ways a more enlightened society, we still carry vestiges of the past with us, and leaders throughout the world grapple with some of the same issues that Catherine did, in terms of placating anger and restoring harmony among people whose lives have been affected by war.

What is one of the secrets that Catherine "confesses" in this novel?
For one, the truth about her relationship with the Protestant leader, Coligny. I find it intriguing that so few of Catherine's biographers have looked more closely at this most enigmatic of friendships. Coligny was at court when Catherine first arrived from Italy as a teenage bride; he was the nephew of the Constable of France, a very important man, and therefore she and Coligny must have met long before they assumed their political roles. They were close to each other in age; they shared a history, as Coligny later served her husband, King Henri II; they probably witnessed to a certain extent each other's trials and triumphs, before circumstances arose for them to join forces. Coligny and Catherine could not have been more different, both in upbringing and outlook, yet they shared for a time a united response to the conflict threatening France and a mutual desire to seek accord. In this novel, Catherine tells us what brought them together, and what led to that definitive, tragic moment between them.

What do you hope readers take away from your work?
I seek to reveal secret histories, and in some small way restore humanity to people whose legends have overshadowed them. I also hope readers will come away from my work with the experience that they've been on an emotional journey. I want them to feel the way these people lived, their hardships and joys, and differences and similarities with us. Though a Renaissance queen faced issues we don't, love, hatred, power, intolerance, passion, and the quest for personal liberty remain universal themes.

What is your latest project?
I am currently working on a historical novel about Isabella of Castile, tracing her life from her uncertain youth to her triumphant accession as queen of Castile and the first twelve years of her controversial reign. I covered the latter years of Isabella's life in my previous novel The Last Queen, which is about her daughter, Juana; while researching that book, I realized I had a solid grounding in the facts of Isabella's life but had not truly considered who she was as a person. She's been lauded as a saint by some and a fanatic by others; she set in motion the horrors of the Inquisition yet she also financed Columbus's vision of a new world and united Spain after centuries of internal strife. Isabella is truly the first queen of the Renaissance; yet few people know the incredible true story of her tumultuous rise to the throne, her love affair with her husband, or of the events that led to the most climatic of years: 1492. Isabella was fallible, and, like so many controversial figures in history, misunderstood. I hope to bring to life her incredible vision and strength, as well as illuminate her intentions.

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The Confessions of Catherine de Medici 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 59 reviews.
Heavensent1 More than 1 year ago
The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is an historical fictional account of one of France's most notorious Queens. Catherine is a very loyal child, she understands her role in the political aspirations of her Medici family name. Even at a young age, she realizes that her destiny is one of greatness. Having the gift of 'sight', she becomes a very superstitious person, who sees signs and portents and dabbles in magical arts. Her uncle, Pope Clement, has betrothed her to the King of France's second son, Henri d'Orleans. She has no love for this man, but her duty requires her to stand strong in faith and with much determination, she makes the best of her situation. Ingraining herself into France's culture, she emerges as a champion of the countries soil. Amidst strife, and massacres like the one of St. Bartholomew, she must find her way. After several years of unsuccessfully producing an heir, Catherine becomes afraid for her future, however, King Francois I, has a special place in his heart for her, in another time, they may have been man and wife. He assures Catherine that she will produce him many fine grandchildren and Catherine is determined to fix her place in the royal family. Prince Henri believes he has married beneath himself and for many years, successfully ignores his marriage duties. His long time mistress, Diane de Poirtiers, keeps him away from court, and no matter what Catherine does to entice her husband, she fails. Ordered by his father to perform his marital duties, he dispassionately rapes her. However, no heir was produced and the two struggle to remain faithful to their duties. When Diane realizes her only hope to remain mistress is to encourage Henri of impregnating Catherine, the two begin to successfully produce the heirs that France so desperately yearn for. Catherine turns to magics to help her produce an heir and keep her husband coming to her bed, tired of court discussing her barreness. Whether they were successful or not, after eight years of non-production, Catherine goes on to birth six children. They are her life's passion and in her mother's undying love, she fails to see the jealousy and hidden innuendos amongst her own children. Diane continues to add strife to Catherine's life by having a hand in the raising of her children, sometimes adding fuel to the fire, discouraging Catherine's children from fully loving their mother. Catherine de Medici is a woman of many mysteries and C. W. Gortner has given her a different portrayal, of the woman beneath the rumours. Beginning from when she is a child, we read her thoughts and positions as she grows into womanhood and as she ages with time we learn of another possibility behind what made Catherine motivate herself to do the things she did. I truly enjoyed the book, the flow was excellent, the characters believable in their mannerisms and dialogues. I thought the passages descriptive and easily found myself envisioning the surroundings being described. I enjoyed C. W. Gortner's portrayal of Catherine, so much in history has her painted as an evil witch who poisoned those at her fancy, who controlled and manipulated everyone to her will, even when her judgements were lacking. Seeing her being portrayed as neither victim nor heroine but as a woman who has accepted what life has offered her and making the best of what is being presented to her. I was equally impressed with the graphic nature of some scenes, the author d
Humbee More than 1 year ago
"Confessions of Catherine de Medici" is a novel that art historians and historical fiction lovers will simply devour once they get their hands on it. I know, because I am of that ilk! This book is as close to reading someone else's diary as one could get were it not for the extraordinary descriptive details that highlight the story. Written by the hand of a wizard, the novel is riddled with unbelievably gorgeous descriptions of architecture, artworks, tapestries, gardens and garments. That alone could make me an avid fan, but to top that off, Mr. Gortner is a writer of such an all inclusive style that I hung on his every word. To him, history is not dull, and he conveys that in every sentence of this powerful, absorbing book. Catherine de Medici has long been a figure I've been interested in knowing more about. I was an Art History major in college, including concentrations in Fine Arts and Museum Studies. The Medicis absolutely captured my fantasies because of their collections of art, their wealth, their bent toward evil doings and their intrigues. They were handsome, gorgeous and insane, while they built a Florence that became the jewel of Italy. Fascinating stuff! So, Catherine de Medici, the last of the Medici and only surviving grandchild of Lorenzo the Magnificent had to be exceptional and endowed with dazzling gifts of mind and spirit. Mr. Gortner makes all of his characters come alive. His easy manner of introducing and evolving the emotional make up of the primary characters makes them feel like they have walked into your life, literally. I fell in love with the young Catherine and her devastating childhoood, suffered with her young bridal years, agonized over her love life, and fought with her for her children and country. What a heroine she was, and how vulnerable Gortner made her, as well as making her a lioness befitting her royal heritage. Mr. Gortner's research and writing of his historical novel seems meant to reach a wide audience, although directed mostly to women. His concerns address the historical significance of Catherine de Medici as a major woman of the 16th c. It also seems to me that he writes in order to highlight the strengths that a spirit can rise to and overcome under duress in life. Women are most often the ones who carry burdens of balancing difficult tasks, caring for home, children, poverty and wartime backlash...Mr. Gortner's book offers Catherine de Medici as a historic figure who represents real life heroics women have achieved throughout time. When all the dots have been placed and the commas laid in properly, "Confessions of Catherine de Medici" is simply a wonderful story to read. It will remind you of those books about Anne Bolyen and her sister we've all loved in the recent past, only Mr. Gortner writes much better. 5 stars for an author who will take you back to 16th century France. Deborah/TheBookishDame
JConMartin More than 1 year ago
Just read my first by C. W. Gortner and it won't be the last. Catherine de Medici comes off as a real woman on the page. She is what a writing teacher of mine used to call a marble-cake character. You see the good and you see the bad, but you see the hows and whys of her thinking and actions. The secondary characters are also given depth and are beautifully drawn. The author's afterword is especially enlightening regarding the historical Catherine, but do remember, it's to be read afterward! Highly recommended! James Conroyd Martin Author of Push Not the River & Against a Crimson Sky
Montreve More than 1 year ago
I will start out by saying that I wasn't overly thrilled with Gortner as a writer. I know there are some who add that name to a list of great authors, but I wasn't overly enthused. It was .... Simple reading. I was never fully engulfed in what was happening, never fully 'there' with the characters. But that could just be me ... I do wish their had been more politic intrigue in the book. You know, the really nasty, tangled, web of intrigue that seems to haunt history. I did enjoy reading about Catherine de Medici, though. I first became interested in her story when I saw a History Channel special about her and her family. The 'voice' of the character Catherine in the book does seem to match nicely with what I have discovered myself. A strong woman, fiercely loyal. I also enjoyed the path the book took through her life. Carrying the reader through her slightly spoiled childhood and then hurling both character and reader into a foriegn land with de Medici getting her first taste of true court intrigue and fear. Then, of course, into her later life where she ... Takes the reigns for herself. I'd recommend this book for book clubs, just because there are several points in Medici's life that are clearly covered and thus easy discussion points. Also, there are plenty of points where one could ask, "And how would you have acted in this situation? What would you have done?" While I thought this book was alright, I probably won't be rushing back to the store to round up anything else by this author.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1589, seventy year old Catherine de Medici looks back on her life as a king maker with sins to confess just like she insists everyone else. When she was ten years old she thought she was a witch as she has her first vision. When she was thirteen, the orphaned Catherine becomes engaged in an arranged marriage to Henri d'Orleans, brother of the ailing heir to the French crown. Although frightened about leaving her safe home in Florence, she journeys to France allegedly to meet her fiancé. Catherine quickly strikes a deal with Henri's mistress Diane de Poitiers though she loathes the woman who occupies her spouse's bed more than she does and applies the poison she brought with her discreetly. Although loathed by her subjects as an outsider, Catherine becomes the power behind the throne when her husband becomes king. After Henri's death, the widow insures three of her sons in succession sit on the throne. She continues to use her paranormal skills to abet her political acumen and her knowledge of poisons to keep her family on the throne. Although the audience will have to leave their perceptions of the poison queen at the front cover, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is an enjoyable work of biographical fiction. Catherine argues that she is no different than everyone else who casts stones at her. Instead she insists she is just a protective mother of her offspring and her country. Although it is difficult to feel empathy to such a ruthless individual especially with her use of poison and her part in the 1572 St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of the Huguenots, C.W. Gortner provides a unique perspective as he enables historical fiction readers to understand the viewpoint of Catherine de Medici. Harriet Klausner
penname96 More than 1 year ago
Let me start with CW Gortner is one of my favorite authors and "The Last Queen" is one of my favorite books, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on "Confessions." Yes, my expectations were high. For starters, with this being Catherine's story, I expected Diane de Poitiers to be made out as a bad person, understandably, but their was so my much rich history there between Henri, Diane and Catherine, I felt he didn't do that relationship justice. After reading Diane Haeger's "The Courtesan" (another favorite book) I was let down. That part of Catherine's life, molded a lot of her personality. The Massacre of St. Bartholomew had me engrossed. I love historical fiction, but I expect the authors to leave the facts and weave the parts we do not know. I feel, from my studies, he changed history here throughout alot of the book. Due to spolier alerts I won't mention what parts.
AngieJG More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed learning about Catherine Medici, and I am inspired to read some factual books about her. I was not thrilled with this novel. There seem to be something missing. I never felt a connection to Catherine. I felt I never really got to know the other characters as well. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love historical fiction books this one left me flat. Catherine was written to be so full of herself. She was written as if it was current times. Too much religious and political bias. The historical value was too disjointed. It truly was a fiction.
WilesWales More than 1 year ago
Gortner does incredible research on the most minute facts before he even begins to put this historical novel on paper. He takes the facts and from the first sentence sends one into both the life and facts intertwined in such a way as to make one think they are reading a book that one will not be able to sleep at night. He also makes the the thoughts of this highly misunderstood woman to the table with facts without ever realizing this is history at all! Catherine de Medici can now be understood as the person she was. Be careful though, you won't be able to put this one down. What a winner!!!!
kraaivrouw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was interesting, but not as good as I expected. It's possible my expectations were too high, but I really wanted a lot more from this book.There were plenty of very powerful people in the 16th century who were afraid of Catherine de Medici and it's probably safe to say that there's a reason for that. As a widow with young children she preserved the throne for her sons, shepherded her daughters into advantageous marriages, and did the best she could to navigate the very dangerous waters of Catholic vs. Huguenot France. She's been described as ruthless and I'm positive she was pragmatic - the stakes of the game she was playing were too high for her to be anything else. The author is quite obviously intent upon making Catherine de Medici a more sympathetic character by rounding out her story and telling it from her perspective. He does a good job of capturing her spirit and strength as a young woman, but as she comes into power as Queen Regent her character begins to falter. In attempting to soften her the author instead turns her into a sort of bumbling hysteric, calling on mystics and stumbling her way into various massacres. I found this portrayal highly unlikely. Why can't I be allowed to admire her for her strength, her intelligence, her patronage of the arts, her ability to survive? Why does she have to flutter about wringing her hands for me to empathize with her? I found this aspect of the book very frustrating despite the fact that the story itself is a decent read.
littlebookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Catherine de Medici is just a girl with a little too much life experience when she leaves her home of Italy to be married to the French king's son, Henri. Wondering and hoping for the best from her marriage, Catherine is dismayed to discover that her new husband has a mistress intent on keeping his attention away from her. With her status at stake, Catherine must make sacrifices to take control of her life, but they are sacrifices which only strengthen her for the extraordinary role she must take in the lives of her children and her adopted country, France.Even though I really enjoyed C.W. Gortner's last work, The Last Queen, I was worried how I was going to react to this one. I've mentioned my recent disaffection with historical fiction quite a lot, but since I so recently loved The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger, I thought it might be time to give it a try. And I was right - I loved this book. I thought about it when I wasn't reading it and I fully enjoyed immersion in it throughout its 400 pages. Gortner has penned another winner and I'm glad I didn't wait one minute longer to read it.Making Catherine de Medici, one of history's favorite villains, a sympathetic character is an impressive feat, but Gortner does just that. Charting her growth from naive girl to married princess to crowned queen to mother and regent allows him to give her life perspective which is rarely achieved in other works that target the same time period but focus on different characters. As a result, we can see how and why she acts the way she does, and with these believable motives in place, her character shifts and she becomes a character we can relate to instead of a conniving queen, even if she might appear that way to others.I also really enjoyed the settings; I could picture sixteenth century France and its many troubles easily. A number of important historic events happen during Catherine's reign as queen, most notably the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and the struggle between the Huguenots and the Catholics was, for me, well portrayed, and captured a lot of the frustrations and violence which seethed through France and its neighboring countries at the time. So much was happening that the book never slows down or feels boring; whether it's Catherine's personal life in turmoil or the country itself, something is always going on to keep the reader entertained and captivated.The Confessions of Catherine de Medici was surprisingly just as excellent as I'd hoped, and I think it's an excellent choice for other lovers of historical fiction - even if, like me, you are a bit unhappy with the genre as a whole. C.W. Gortner is an amazing writer and you'll find me lining up for his next book ASAP.
celticlady53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a story of one of the greatest women in the medieval world.She was married at the age of 14 to Henry also 14, second son of King Francis I and Queen Claude of France. Her marriage was not neccessarily a happy one due to the fact that Henry had a mistress, one Diane de Poitiers, who wielded much influence over Henry. Catherine was Queen consort of France as the wife of King Henry II of France from 1547 to 1559. After many years she produced 3 sons who reigned, after Henry died in a jousting accident, King Francis II reigned until his death in 1560. After that Catherine was regent to 10 year old King Charles IX.Catherines goal was to keep the Valois monarchy intact no matter what or whom stood in her way.There were also daughters whom Catherine made sure had advantageous marriages.This novel spans the life of Catherine from 1527 to her death at the age of 69 in 1589.Catherine had many enemies some of which were the Guise family. Catherine supposedly dabbled in the occult and consulted with Nostridamus on a few occasions, asking him to tell her about the future.I had never read anything much about France and it's rulers and I found this book to be so well researched and told in "Catherine de'Medici's words" that it was so easy to read and hard to put down. I think Mr.Gortner put a very humane spin to a time where there was so much upheaval pertaining to religions and the persecutions that followed and all the power struggles that were taking place in this time period.I think the author did a remarkable job telling a story about a historical figure and female no less with compassion and made her very real to the reader...I enjoyed this novel very much and look forward to more from this talented author.
knittingmomof3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From My Blog...Many books have offered an account of Catherine de Medici's life, yet none to my knowledge go to the extent of C.W. Gortner in his book, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, where the author goes to great lengths to humanize the legend from her early years in Florence, Italy to her death in Blois, France.Catherine De Medici's first thirteen years were tumultuous ones, a ward to her Uncle the Pope, yet living in Florence with her stern, yet loving Aunt after being orphaned shortly after her birth. Catherine was allegedly given the gift of sight when she was 10 years of age and it was foretold that Florence would fall one day and that Catherine De Medici would fulfill her destiny. Catherine and her Aunt were shortly afterwards exiled from Florence by the Signoria and Catherine was sent to live several miserable years in the Convent of San Lucia until she was finally sent to Rome to live with her Papa Clement, the Pope. If she thought life would be stable, she was in for a rude awakening when she learned she was to be wed to Henri d'Orleans, King Francois' second son, since his first son was sickly and not likely to take the throne.Her marriage was typical for the day, purely practical and political, Italy needed an alliance with France. Yet her life in court was far from a fairytale and far closer to a nightmare over the many years. Gortner takes the reader through Catherine's life in Italy to the end of her life in France spanning the years 1527-1589. Through tremendous research an creativity, Gortner provides the reader with another side of Catherine de Medici, of a young woman who was sent to a foreign land, forced to marry a man who not only disliked her, but also was, from the beginning, unfaithful. Of course these are not uncommon occurrences to be sure, yet each event along Catherine de Medici's life, good or bad, created the strong woman and capable leader she became.Exquisitely descriptive, rich in imagery and steep in historical fact, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici make for an intriguing as well as enlightening novel that will engage the reader from the very beginning. I highly recommend The Confessions of Catherine de Medici to those who have read other accounts of her life as well as those new to her life, of her fight for what was hers and above all, of her journey to becoming one of the most revered, feared and often misunderstood Queens in history.
Chatterbox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a solid work of historical fiction, one that (thankfully, IMO) leaves behind all the fascination about Catherine-the-necromancer and Catherine-the-poisoner to focus on Catherine de Medici, the politician and woman. To me, that's the most interesting part of the life of this intriguing individual. Born to Florence's ruling family but kept from her native city as a result of civil strife, Catherine is married off to the second son of the French king -- only to discover that her husband is infatuated with his much-older mistress and has little interest in a dumpy foreign girl from a merchant family background. That much is familiar territory to anyone who has read a biography or another novel about Catherine; what intrigued me was Gortner's compassionate/revisionist view of her as a queen. After her husband's death at a relatively young age, Catherine must try to steer the country through turbulent times on behalf of her young sons; it is she who essentially reigned/ruled in 16th C. France at the time of the St. Bartholemew's Day Massacre of Paris's Protestant population. Rather than turning her into a caricature or the personification of evil, Gortner portrays her as an intelligent and independent woman who tries to steer an even course between the Guises and the Catholic League, and the most rabid Protestants. I'm not entirely convinced by the love affair that Gortner imagines for Catherine, but it's an intriguing twist on the historical facts, and a bond between these two individuals in question of this kind (if not an actual affair) wouldn't have been out of character. He also does a great job of capturing the young Henri of Navarre, daughter of Catherine's self-declared enemy and yet an ally of sorts in Catherine's efforts to replace intolerance with pragmatism. A welcome addition to the bookshelves of historical fiction fans; probably of little interest to anyone who isn't already drawn to the genre, however. I'm looking forward to Gortner's next novel, which will tackle the equally black-and-white character of Isabella of Castile.
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I¿ve been looking forward to reading The Confessions of Catherine de Medici ever since reading CW Gortner¿s other book, The Last Queen, last spring. I think it¿s difficult for an author to have a strong second novel follow up on the first, but Gortner rally pulls it off with his novel about Catherine de Medici¿a queen who in and of herself was a complicated woman. She¿s an intriguing woman however¿a member of one of the foremost families in Europe, she was alternately a duchess, dauphine, queen, queen mother, and regent. And yet, she was maligned as a witch, accused of masterminding the Bartholomew¿s Day massacre among other things.Writing from the point of view of someone as famous as Catherine is, is tricky. On one hand, there¿s a wealth of information out there on her; on the other, the trick lies in bringing Catherine to life as opposed to merely reciting a string of facts about her. CW Gortner has done a fabulous job of merging fact with fiction. I could use cliché after cliché to describe this novel, but in summary, I enjoyed it very, very much. I also appreciated the fact that the author toned down the witchcraft bits¿in this novel, Catherine is interested in the occult, but not so much that she turns into some crone herself. I do wish, however, that the book had been longer, because it covers roughly sixty years of Catherine¿s life¿an ambitious undertaking! The beginning of the novel, up until the time that Catherine¿s second son becomes king, moves rather quickly, which is understandable, considering that her life as queen mother and regent was far more interesting than her earlier history¿at least in my opinion.
justablondemoment on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book on the life of Catherine de Medici. I got caught up in this book and it was hard to put it down. There were a few places that I dragged through so it didn't quite make a 5 star for me, but it was a very close call on what star to choose. It was obvious this author did all the historical research needed. I felt at times I was 'in' the story. I have yet to define my feelings on how I feel about the main character. Was she controlling, power hungry or just protecting her children? Very thought provoking book.
ladymacbeth1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was absolutely loving this book. I was about 1/3 the way through it, when I lost it while I was traveling. But I enjoyed the first third so much that I pre-ordered it through Amazon.After I read it cover-to-cover, I'll edit this review to base it on the entire story. What impressed me most about what I read was how well the author helps the reader understand Catherine's early life. Certainly, it helped shape her later actions as an adult.I'm looking forward to finishing the novel when it is released in May.
FicusFan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I got this book from LT Early Reviewers. It is historical fiction, about Catherine de Medici of Italy, and how she ended up in France, and what her life was like there.I am interested in the Medici, but hadn't read anything about Catherine, directly. She ends up in other books often with an unsavory reputation. Since I know little about her, I can't say if Gortner portrays her well or truthfully. The story is interesting and well written. He tries to exculpate her for several murderous plots and wars. His premise is plausible, saying she is a powerless outsider, who can't fight the established lords and their plans. It just makes her too clean most of the time though, the kind of thing you would say to explain away the mess of murder and deceit, especially if you were involved.One of the ironies of the book, and possibly her life, is that Catherine is planted right in the middle of the religious wars in Europe: Catholics and Protestants. While both religions were often about the people in power gaining more, they both claim to have moral underpinnings. Morality was a desperately lacking quality in Catherine's family. Religion everywhere and they were a completely amoral group. Plotting, murder, poisoning, treason, war all just another day in the life for various of her children. Catherine is often too busy to be a mother, or is edged out by her husband's powerful mistress (another excuse?).Catherine bemoans the impermanence of her line, without ever seeing the lack at their core. Their inability to care for others, to empathize, to try to do good or the right thing. And all this Machiavellian plotting gets them nowhere in the end.It was a very absorbing book, and I enjoyed it very much.
ChaoticEclipse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved The Last Queen when I read it and I¿m glad I wasn¿t disappointed with this either!Catherine de Medici is leaving Italy to marry Henry, second son of French King François I. But Henri is on love with his older mistress Diane de Poitiers and doesn¿t seem to care about Catherine at all. She feels lonely but she does befriend the king. Things gets better after years of waiting she delivers a boy. But it¿s only after Henri¿s death she becomes to her power.She fights hard to secure the crown for her son(s) and keeping the dynasty alive. We see her growing from naive girl to powerful woman with capacity for compassion and understanding. And who also knows how to make people fear.I loved how Gortner describes St. Bartholomew¿s Day Massacre and how Catherine is involved with it. And how the things got to that point.I love how Gortner is able to humanize Catherine and to show there were reasons to what she did. She made mistakes but she tried to do her best. And it wasn¿t easy juggling between Catholics and the Huguenots.The only quibble I had was that I¿d liked to have something on the author¿s note about Catherine and Coligny. But that was the only thing.I just loved this book and can¿t wait to read more from him!
BookAddictDiary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gortner returns to the historical fiction genre with his newest offering: The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, a portrait of the infamous French queen and her political struggles for power. As a big fan of Gortner's The Last Queen, I snatched up this follow-up and was eager to see how Gortner would treat one of the most cutthroat queens in European history.Interestingly enough, Gortner doesn't portray Catherine as being as cutthroat or sinister as many other historical fiction novels or even biographies out there. Instead, Confessions offers a human portrait of Catherine's life where she is constantly struggling against the political web woven around her. Readers watch as the young Medici, sent to France to marry King Francois's second son Henri by her uncle the Pope, grows from a meek child into a powerful Queen Regent using every resource at her disposal, even her own children, to secure the future of the French throne. Fighting against political foes the Guises, religious wars between the French Huguenots and the Catholics, the kingdom's neighbor Henry of Navarre, and even her husband's own mistress Diane de Poitres, Catherine pushes through the court intrigues and games to become a powerful woman in her own right -even though her position would never quite be secure.I was a little surprised that Gortner downplayed Catherine's interest in the occult so much. As he comments at the end of the book, Catherine's occult interests are well-documented and, aside from being interesting, would make a particularly juicy plot point, but Gortner decided to steer away from it. Rather, he focused on Catherine's relationship with her children and the political soap opera-nature of her life.Gortner's writing, as in The Last Queen, is easy, comfortable and believable as Catherine de Medici's voice. He captures amazing details of the period perfectly and manages to balance description with plot without feeling awkward.The only trouble I had with this book is that it was a little slow at times, particularly before Henri died and Catherine became regent. Perhaps this was enhanced by the fact that the first half of the story also felt very repetitive in that Catherine was always talking about being pregnant and having (yet another) child. Thankfully, the action really picks up in the second half of the book when Catherine has more power.A great and unique portrayal of Catherine de Medici, Confessions is a well written, wonderful piece of historical fiction that's perfect for fans of the genre.
amusingmother on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't know much about Catherine of De Medici. Okay, I knew nothing about her but she lived in Italy then France at the same time Henry VIII was busy beheading, divorcing and outliving his six wivesSo I did the extensive research of looking her up. I used Wikipedia.Snore.The European history buff in me prevailed and I decided this one had a pretty cover so perhaps the story would be acceptable. Oh. My. Gosh. I was incredibly surprised by the storytelling. I could not put the book down. Although the story follows much of Wikipedia's account of Catherine, the author tells a story of the time period and of Catherine, a woman both loved and hated during her life and death.Catholicism was still the rage in the sixteenth century, although John Calvin, Martin Luther, and others had cast a shadow on the prevailing church's worship practices. Catherine was very small when her Italian city was thrown into a civil war. She suffered terribly during her imprisonment but was eventually rescued by her Uncle Clement, the pope. Shortly thereafter, however, she was sent to France to marry Henry, the son of Francois, the current king of France. It was a political move, as all royal unions tend to be. Unbeknownst to Catherine, she entered a royal court full of adultery (the most glaring being her husband's), petty gossip, and negotiation for power.The dauphin, the next in line, dies, leaving Henry the next king. Eventually, the old king dies and bequeaths the crown to Henry and Catherine becomes queen. By this time, she has finally given birth to a son and follows up with 8 more children. The king dies leaving Catherine the odious task of becoming a has-been. She watches the social climbers and new powers take over son's sovereignty and then he dies without leaving an heir. The next son is only 11 years old. She appoints herself as regent and rules until his death, again leaving no heir. The next son steps up, using Catherine as his playbook.Meanwhile, Protestant and Catholic wage wars against one another. It is brutal. Catherine tries to remain non-partisan while maintaining her Roman Catholic roots but eventually makes decisions that may have contributed to the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Huge. Really huge and not at all pretty.The author writes a story that leaves Catherine as a heroine rather than a persecutor. While he does not beatify her, her reasons are explained the reader is drawn into her world and her sorrow. Why did she laugh as Navarre was forced to renounce his Protestant faith and join the Catholic church? It's in the book. Did she really order the deaths of all Protestants in France on that fateful night? What could have driven a woman to take such desperate measures? Or did she?The book is well written and has clear and concise descriptions. Catherine endears herself to the reader who feels empathy for the protagonist. By the end of the book, and of Catherine's life, the reader understands more clearly how being royalty in this time period left few choices in marriage and others often pulled the puppet strings. How much manipulation plays a part is brutally brought to light.The writing and story are excellent. I kept having to turn the page to find out what happens next. It is definitely not boring by any stretch. I also did not find myself getting lost with too many characters. Although complex, the relationship to Catherine and her children is generally quite clear. Gortner's research is meticulously done.
ReviewsbyMolly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It seems that each novel of this particular type (Queens, Kings, Tudors...) that I read, I fall a little more in love with History. Never really one for loving History or English classes in school, I am now a HUGE fan! C. W. Gortner is a new to me author and one that will be a favorite for a long time to come. His writing style is amazing, bringing History to life before the reader.This Historical hovel of the Queen of France, Catherine De Medici, is absolutely above and beyond phenomenal. The secrets, the royalties, the heartache, the truth......all of it became me as I sat reading this novel, turning page after page, waiting for the confession. Gortner blended fact and fiction together so outstandingly that I had a truly hard time differentiating between the two. Being pulled completely into the story is a fabulous, unforgettable experience.Gortner's research of the evil, scandalous Queen of France, brought new meaning to me about the 16th century. His descriptive detail about the actions and the life of Catherine made it seem as if he, Gortner himself, was actually there, beside this truly misunderstood and much hated woman. For an author to write that great, that his reader feels as if he was telling of his own actual witnessing, is beyond words.It's novels like this that have the most meaning. To give it anything less than 5 stars, would be degrading. I am looking forward to going back and getting his first novel, The Last Queen, as well as keeping up with all his future works. If you are a fan of History, then this book is perfect for you. If you love books about Queens, this is the one you want to read. And, if you've never a book like this before, then please start here with Gortner's beautiful work!
jmchshannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Widow of the South is a novel that sneaks up on the reader. The juxtaposition of narrators is unsettling. Just when the reader feels comfortable with the direction of the novel, the shift in narration forces the reader to pay closer attention and reevaluate the knowledge already gleaned from the other perspectives. However, before one realizes it, the story meshes in a way that melts the heart while causing one to rethink previously told stories about the South during the Civil War. In other words, the forced attention and extra work are well worth the efforts for the pagentry and beauty behind Mr. Hicks' words.Make no mistake, The Widow of the South is not all beauty. Mr. Hicks presents an unflinching account of battle and its aftermath, from the battlefield to the hospital and life as an amputee. The stories are told with stark honesty, not romanticizing the battle or post-battle life in any way. The straightforward delivery, while rather gruesome in its descriptions, adds realism, and yet poignancy, to horrible situations. The Widow of the South demolishes every romantic ideal about the Civil War and creates a new picture for the reader - one that truly reflects that "war is hell."Just as the story unfolds one scene, one narrator at a time, Carrie McGavock grows and develops page after page until she represents a true steel magnolia, for which the South is so famous. Beset by grief and depression, the Carrie in the beginning of the novel is not the same Carrie McGavock at the end of the novel. As we see how the soldiers fare after the battle, we also see Carrie use her grief to help care for the soldiers directly under her care and later for all soldiers of the battle. She rediscovers what love means, what duty means, but more importantly, who she is and her unwavering values. The self-discovery and journey Carrie travels through the novel to become the ultimate Widow of the South is made precious by the backdrop of the political and social climate she faces. Zachariah Cashwell is worth mentioning as an excellent foil for Carrie, as he is the one to force her to reevaluate her life to date and what she means to do with her future. He does not coddle her or treat her with the social propriety that is her due. Rather, in Carrie, he eventually recognizes the fact that she is as injured as he is, albeit her injuries are more subtle and well-hidden. Together, they are able to heal each other's physical and spiritual wounds, finding a love so sweet and special that it endures across the decades. Yet, this is not a love story between a man and a woman. The Widow of the South is ultimately a love story between those that are lost and those that are left behind. It is a reminder that one should never forget another's sacrifice. As previously mentioned, this is by no means an easy story. The all-too-realistic descriptions of battle and surgery can leave a reader squeamish. Also, Carrie's narration reflects her mental state. When she is depressed and completely upset, her narration reflects her unrest. As Carrie grows in determination and gathers the cloak of responsibility closer to her, her narration takes on a much more focused aspect. Still, it is not easy wading through her muddled perspective.I did struggle with the novel in the beginning, especially with the multiple narrators and not having the visual cues to remind me who was speaking. As I mentioned, Carrie was particularly difficult to decipher as to her meaning, and it took me a bit longer than I would have expected to be able to determine that she was clinically depressed. Eventually, I came to enjoy the different narrators. Each person lent its own uniqueness to each character, and I particularly enjoyed the care each narrator took to authenticate his or her character's voice. I'm not certain I would have cared about each character as much had I read the book versus listened to it on audio. In this particular instance, the audio version hi
theepicrat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Confessions Of Catherine De Medici did not "wow" me as much as The Last Queen. I am not entirely sure why. C.W. Gortner unfolds Catherine's story with the same finesse as Juana La Loca. However, I just was not as impressed with Catherine - it may be a mixture of not connecting with Catherine as much as Juana; the fact that there were a lot of names thrown about (and sometimes duplicate names); and a lot of political ups-and-downs every other page or so. The latter is probably the majority of my discontent - Catherine lived in a very complicated political world that never seemed to let her relax and enjoy herself. Not that Juana didn't have a complex life, but I did not feel as overwhelmed in details and people then.As far as historical fiction goes, I will still keep my eyes peeled for C.W. Gortner and his scintillating interpretations of famous queens with unflattering reputations. I absolutely love his writing style - the descriptions and personal thoughts continue to be the highlight of his novels.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the descriptions of all of Catherine's children.