Top critical review
Good but without much character development...
Reviewed in the United States on June 24, 2012
"Katherine" is considered a classic novel, published in 1954 when my parents were not yet born and my grandparents were around my current age. I picked up this novel because I have seen it grace several of the "Best 100 Books" or "Books to Read Before You Die" type lists. While it's stereotyping, I also seem to have better luck with books written long ago, as the authors always seem to have a prose and style more to my liking than what we see in books today (especially in historical fiction).
Also, I absolutely love Anya Seton's name. It's such a perfect name for an author, don't you think? But I digress...
Seton has masterful writing skills when it comes to painting a world long gone, so that was definitely not the problem. My main problem with the book was the characters; their personalities, their development (or lack thereof), etc.
Katherine de Roet, the protagonist, falls victim to the old "unbelievably perfect" main character archetype. She never has so much as a naughty or selfish thought. Despite being exquisitely beautiful she is not vain or silly for men (except with John of course) and loves John only for himself, not because of what his title could mean for her. It's not that she isn't likeable, but she isn't particularly relatable.
The other protagonist, John of Gaunt, is a little less angelic but quite bland as well. Although obviously a real historical figure, he seems to be pulled out here as "Heroic Knight in Shining Armor #1."
Then there's the love story. John loves his wife. Katherine loves John AND his wife. John's wife dies. John grieves. Katherine grieves. John looks at Katherine and realizes she's pretty. John falls instantly in love with Katherine. They bop like bunnies. This was my biggest problem, as there was no development to the love between them; one day John just decides she's pretty and he's smitten. Boom.
Other characters are introduced, and disappear so fast you wonder why the author bothered to mention them.
It's a beautiful story really, but the characters won't suck you in.