Monday, April 2, 2012


Publisher: Harper Collins
Date published: April 5, 2011
Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Gina
Obtained by publisher

Catheryn (Cat) Tinley, like most young women of well to do homes of her time, is sent to foster. There at the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk’s home she meets Katherine Howard for the first time. Cat instantly knows there is something special about Katherine. Something that makes her a leader, as the one all the young women will turn to. As a group the girls—Cat, Kate, Mary, Jo and others learn how to be proper ladies. They sew, help around the house, go to prayers and prepare for their futures. When it is decided it is time for them to learn music, Henry Manox comes to teach them. Before long Kate lays claim to Henry, not in any overt or obvious way, but with a look. When the pair fall out Henry leaves but Kate is far from heart broken. In time she finds her way to Francis Dereham and then, as queen to Thomas Culpepper. With little or no effort Kate commands each of her friends.

At the same time the girls are growing into womanhood King Henry the VIII has embarked on four of his marriages. The girls speculate on why each of the queens is set aside. They also begin to learn about sexual relations between a husband and wife and those that occur outside the bonds of marriage. What they do not know for a fact they fill in with their own imaginations. It is Kate who provides the most insight, but in reality or her own conclusions. When Kate is called to court it takes her no time to capture Henry’s eyes and soon after become his fifth wife. But Kate’s past catches up with her and in bargaining for her own life, she cares not if she brings her lifelong friend down with her or not.

THE CONFESSION OF KATHERINE HOWARD is the third of Suzannah Dunn’s books I’ve read. The first, THE SIXTH WIFE, captured my attention and imagination with Ms. Dunn’s vivid descriptions and passionate insights into Henry Tudor’s last wife, Katherine Parr. She not only transported me to the Tudor court but led me into the minds of those that played out the last days of Henry’s life, most notably his last queen, Katherine Parr. The second of Ms. Dunn’s books I read was THE QUEEN’S SORROW and I was so disappointed. It had nothing of the emotion and drama I anticipated. In this current book, THE CONFESSION OF KATHERINE HOWARD, I was happy to see much of Ms. Dunn’s unique voice an insights into the characters. While the story is fiction, she brings to life the ways and times of Tudor England. Although she liberally uses modern terms, rather than jarring the reader out of the story, it makes it more relevant—teenage girls haven’t changed all that much in almost 500 years.

I was on the fence about Katherine for part of the story and then more and more I saw her as a bully. She appeared sure of herself, but as the story progressed I saw more and more of the school yard bully in her. The girls either did things her way, without question, or they were ignored. When it comes down to telling the truth or having her way, Katherine lies. I did not find her an appealing character. I felt no sympathy for her when her crown is taken away from her. I felt for Cat—forced into being the follower and having little say in her life outcome. Very much the way a gang of girls plays out today.

I appreciated the detail Ms. Dunn put into describing not just the clothing, but how each article was fashioned and worn. The starkness of Kate’s bedroom on the day she is removed as queen was highly symbolic of how Kate’s reign ended. Well done.

As I said, THE CONFESSION OF KATHEIRNE HOWARD is fiction, but it is a good fiction of the life and times of the women of King Henry’s court.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

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