by Jeanne Kalogridis
"Born into one of Florence’s most powerful families, Catherine was soon left a fabulously rich heiress by the early deaths of her parents. Violent conflict rent the city state and she found herself imprisoned and threatened by her family’s enemies before finally being released and married off to the handsome Prince Henry of France.
Overshadowed by her husband’s mistress, the gorgeous, conniving Diane de Poitiers, and unable to bear children, Catherine resorted to the dark arts of sorcery to win Henry’s love and enhance her fertility—for which she would pay a price. Against the lavish and decadent backdrop of the French court, and Catherine’s blood-soaked visions of the future, Kalogridis reveals the great love and desire Catherine bore for her husband, Henry, and her stark determination to keep her sons on the throne." (from Macmillan's site)
I thought Jeanne Kalogridis was going to let me down. 150 or so pages into The Devil's Queen: A Novel of Catherine de Medici, I was becoming bored. Things weren't moving along at the pace I've come to expect from her. I wasn't captivated by any creepy weirdness. Then: Wham! I couldn't put it down. This was the Kalogridis I have come to know and love! Somehow she manages to make the infamous Catherine de Medici a sympathetic character while in the middle of participating in a human sacrifice! Unreal. And pretty gruesome.
Yeah, The Devil's Queen has a couple graphic scenes that the more squeamish among us may want to bypass (execution by quartering, anyone?), but once you get invested in this book it really is awesome and well worth peeking between your fingers once the icky parts are over. This book has me champing at the bit to learn more about Catherine and her rotten children. (Well, not all of them are rotten, but if I tell you which ones, I'll wreck the story for you!) It will be interesting to see how I react to her in other books considering how she was portrayed here. The very first book I ever read about Henry VIII was The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George. With all of Henry's rationalizing about all the hideous things he did, I found myself actually feeling a little sorry for him. The guy was a psychological mess! Because of this, it took me along time to get that sympathy out of my head every time a read another story about him and his wives. In fact, I still find myself making excuses for him every now and then! I wonder if I'll do the same thing with Catherine de Medici now.
I have Jean Plaidy's Medici trilogy on my desk. Do we think I can stick to my personal pledge to finish the Countdown Challenge before I read it? Bets are being taken now . . .
PS If you go to the publisher's site, there is a link to a Reading Group Guide PDF, and check this out . . . (You'll have to click on it to see the ebook in full)
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NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)
Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!