The Sixth Wife by Suzannah Webb

A month after King Henry VIII dies, his widow Katharine Parr marries her true love Thomas Seymour, brother of Jane.  Everyone is surprised by the union of the cool and intelligent Katharine to the feckless and impulsive Thomas, but none more so than her best friend Catherine, Duchess of Suffolk, who doesn’t trust Thomas’s intentions.  Catherine is worried by rumours that Thomas had tried to pursue Katharine’s step-daughter Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I).  But when she spends time with the couple, Catherine finds herself drawn to Thomas and they begin a passionate affair.  Will Katharine discover that she has been betrayed by the two people she loves and trusts the most?

This story flows easily and is the sort of book that it’s easy to lose yourself in.  It is written from Catherine’s point of view, and she is not an altogether likeable character, which is an interesting stance from which to narrate the story. The writing is very clean, which I liked and it was a quick and interesting read.

However, as a book about the Tudor period, it falls short.  This could have been a story about any two people, in any time period.  There are references to the way of life in those times, but I never felt immersed in the period, in the way that I do when reading say, Philippa Gregory’s books about the time.  Because it is written from Catherine’s viewpoint, the reader misses a lot of what is happening in Katharine’s life.

The language also feels very ‘modern’; almost as if it was taking place in the present day (it should be said that Suzannah Dunn raises this point at the end of the book, and acquits herself fairly well).  So apart from the fact that there are no modern conveniences, this book has a modern feeling about it that is at odds with it’s setting.

Having said that however, it does feature flimpses of the young Lady Elizabeth (an interesting and pivotal character) and the young Lady Jane Grey.

Overall, I would recommend this as an enjoyable book, but not one which sheds a lot of light on the Tudor period.  If you start it with that in  mind, it is a worthwhile read.

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