In my haste to start a new job, help my husband get ready for school and assist in the planning of my best friend’s wedding, I neglected to resume reading the work of one of the greatest historical fiction writers of this generation.
Known primarily by non-historical fiction readers for her widely popular The Other Boleyn Girl, Gregory has written eight additional novels including The Constant Princess, which I just finished last night. This novel chronicles the life of a character I haven’t really thought about previously – Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife – and shines light on her life.
Tudor England is the period Gregory focusses on in most of her novels. The illustrious reign of King Henry VIII is infamously filled with love, sex, drama, violence and vengeance. Throughout his 38 years as ruler, women were constantly vying for his affections – and, of course, the title of Queen. It was a time when one woman could be unceremoniously dumped onto the street with a whispered word from another, which makes any story from this period fascinating reading.
The Constant Princess provides a fictionalized account of Katherine’s life, beginning when she was five years old and continuing until the beginning of the end of her marriage to Henry. The novel is filled with rich details and descriptive paragraphs, making it all too easy to believe that the Katherine portrayed in the novel was really what the Queen of England was like.
Throughout her career, Gregory has received quite a bit of criticism. Historians especially have chastised her for not sticking to history as much as she claims to. When I read accounts of people complaining that “it couldn’t have really happened like that,” I just laugh. We’re talking about people who lived in the 15th century. We have no IDEA how it “really” happened.
I think that Gregory writes fantastic historical fiction. She does her research to ensure people, places, major events and incidents are correct and factual. Then, she takes everything she has read about a person and creates a character.
Katherine of Aragon’s character in The Constant Princess is believable and interesting. It makes me want to learn more. Next, I plan to read The Boleyn Inheritance, and I’m sure it will be just as fantastic – if not better.