For a high school book report, I read Katherine by Anya Seton. Published in 1954, the novel transported me into a world I’ve loved ever since. We were big into “theme” back then in English class. Katherine was not simply a romance or an adventure; it described the personal growth of the main character.
Near the end of the book, Katherine is at the depths of despair. She meets Julian of Norwich (ca. 8 November 1342 – ca. 1416), an English anchoress who is regarded as one of the most important Christian mystics.
Later, she reveals to a priest what she has learned: “It was this you said, and Lady Julian has told me too. ‘Our dearworthy Lord said not, Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be afflicted, but He said, Thou shalt not be overcome!’ Father Clement, of all the teachings, this seems to me the most beautiful.”
As a teenager, those words touched me—with faith, we shall not be overcome!
Because of Katherine, I fell in love with the time period and all things medieval. I took medieval history in college and researched the time period for my own novels.
I recently discovered a medieval novelist named Anne O’Brien. And guess what? She’s going to write a novel about the love affair of Katherine Swynford and John of Lancaster due to be released in 2014. I can’t wait!!
When asked why she’s going to tackle the topic, Ms. O’Brien replied “So what made me decide to place my head on the block and write about these most famous of 14th century lovers? Certainly not a desire to do a better job than Ms. Seton. I would not presume. But perhaps to write something different.”
Read the whole explanation on Anne O’Brien’s blog.
If you’d like to read a non-fiction account of Katherine, try the Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster by Alison Weir.
From Amazon, this is a description of Anya Seton’s Katherine:
This classic romance novel tells the true story of the love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenet’s—Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II—who ruled despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king’s son, falls passionately in love with the already married Katherine. Their well-documented affair and love persist through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption. This epic novel of conflict, cruelty, and untamable love has become a classic since its first publication in 1954.