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The Confession of Katherine Howard

The Confession of Katherine Howard

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The Confession of Katherine Howard

3.5/5 (28 évaluations)
288 pages
4 heures
Apr 5, 2011


From Suzannah Dunn, the critically acclaimed author of The Queen of Subtleties, The Sixth Wife and The Queen’s Sorrow, comes the tragic, gripping, and intensely moving story of Katherine Howard—the fifth wife of England’s King Henry VIII—and the best friend she nearly took down with her. The Confession of Katherine Howard is masterful historical fiction, ideal for fans of Phillipa Gregory and Allison Weir, bringing to rich, lustrous life the sights and sounds of the royal Tudor court while telling a story of passion, intrigue, betrayal, and destiny that will live in the reader’s memory long after the final page is turned.
Apr 5, 2011

À propos de l'auteur

Suzannah Dunn is the author of eight previous books of fiction: Darker Days Than Usual, Blood Sugar, Past Caring, Quite Contrary, Venus Flaring, Tenterhooks, Commencing Our Descent and most recently Queen of Subtleties. She lives in Shropshire.

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The Confession of Katherine Howard - Suzannah Dunn


November 2nd, 1541

The second of November was the last time when everything was all right, and of all days it was All Souls, the day of the dead. The day when, back in the old world, the bells rang for hours into the darkness to reach the souls in purgatory, to tell them we’d never forsake them, never stop pleading with God to take them in. Those bells clamoured on our behalf, too, though, I’d always felt: calling to the dead–so much more numerous than us–to spare a backwards glance. They couldn’t resist it, creeping back to steal a look at us: we, the hapless living, ignorant of what was to come. They pressed in on us, after dark, coming in on the night air despite the closed doors, hovering among the rafters despite the flaring wicks, and drawing deep on our exhaled breaths. Much was made of their mischief, back in the old days, but all I’d ever detected in the air on that one night of the year was despair.

As All Souls came to a close, that year, we were in the queen’s private chamber. Soon to be free again of the doleful reproaches of the dead for a whole year, we’d already been reclaiming the world for the living. Life was never so much for the young as on the day that was soon to dawn and we in the queen’s retinue were so much younger than everyone else at the palace, which the king and his company had acknowledged, leaving us to our dancing.

By around eleven o’clock we were reeling. Only a handful of us remained with the queen, having retreated at her invitation to her gorgeous private chamber, where we reclined on cushions around her vast, gold-canopied chair. Our pale faces were flushed with fireglow but the room could’ve been lit by our pearls and gems alone, the hundreds of them worked into the fabrics of our gowns and sleeves, collars and cuffs. England: firelight and fireblush; wine-dark, winking gemstones and a frost of pearls. Wool as soft as silk, in leaf-green and moss; satins glossy like a midsummer midnight or opalescent like winter sunrise.

To see us there, no one would ever have guessed that we were barely free of a decade of destruction: the stripping of churches and dismantling of monasteries, the chaining of monks to walls to die, the smash of a sword-blade into a queen’s bared neck. None of it had actually happened to us, though; it’d passed us by as we’d sat embroidering alongside our housekeeper. Our parish church had been whitewashed, the local priory sold to a rich man, and we’d celebrated fewer saints’ days, but that, for us, had been the extent of it. The tumultuous decade had passed, the reforming queen was long gone and the reformations had ceased if not reversed, and there we were, grown up and at the palace as if nothing had ever happened: English girls, demure and bejewelled; Catholic girls, no less, half-asleep around an English Catholic queen.

My friend Kate: the queen. Little Kate Howard, my girlhood friend, who’d been nobody much: she’d become England’s queen. Just over a year on the throne, but from how she sat there under that shimmering canopy, she might’ve been born to it. Just nineteen years old, but doing a perfect job. At last, the king was happy again and life at the palace was, once again, fun: that’s what everyone was saying. It was as if we’d gone back twenty years, people were saying, to the days of the first Catherine, the king’s first queen, before all the trouble began. Before all the wives. And whoever would’ve believed that was possible? Kate looked to have a lifetime of queenship ahead of her: easing the king through his latter years before living on as dowager queen and–God willing–mother of his successor. Kate was the happy ending, of which–even better–we were, so far, only at the beginning.

Tiny Kate, in poppy-coloured silk, in the gold-glow of the canopy. With her eyes closed and head back, the Norfolk-family chin gave her–in spite of her repose–a teasing, testing look. Her silk-clad legs, outstretched, were crossed at the ankle and the sole of the uppermost shoe was visible: softest Spanish leather which was scuffed beyond repair by just one evening of dancing. Her fingers were laced in her lap, the rings numerous and their jewels so big that her little hands disappeared beneath them.

I was resting back on Francis; he was turning a skein of my hair in his fingers, his breath warm on the top of my head. Across the room, Alice and Maggie, my other girlhood friends, were gazing into the smouldering sea-coal in the brazier. All of us were lost to the exquisite playing of one of Kate’s favoured musicians, a doe-eyed boy of sixteen or seventeen, his head low over his lute.

It felt, to me, like the beginning, that night: finally, the real beginning of our future. I’d never had any reason to doubt it but–if truth be told–I’d always been sceptical of our sudden, unexpected success. That was the evening, though, when I finally let myself believe it, when I allowed it to work its magic on me. What I was thinking as I looked around that room was, This is who we are: the perfect queen and her faithful retinue. Now, I wish I could go back, patter over the lavish carpets to tap us on the shoulders, whisper in our ears and get us out of there alive. Little did we know it, but, that night, we were already ghosts in our own lives.

Just after the strike of eleven, Thomas Culpeper swaggered through the door, cloaked in raw night air but otherwise as polished as ever. He’d been around earlier but had gone off to see someone or do something and here he was again, with a sharp, meagre bow towards Kate. She slid down in her chair to reach him with her toes, to poke his shin, her playful kick an admonishment–Don’t–because so perfunctory a bow was a provocation. He sat down at the foot of her chair, a halo of candlelight slipping on his chestnut hair as he looked up to whisper to her, ‘You been sent for?’

The slightest shift of her head, the merest suggestion of a shake; and if the king hadn’t sent for her by this time in the evening, he wouldn’t do so. Strange, perhaps, that the king didn’t want her on this night of all nights, when he’d spent the evening at a special service of his own devising to give thanks to God for his wonderful wife, for his late-flowering happiness. After four months on the road, showing her off around the country, he’d chosen for his homecoming this celebratory Mass from which modesty had demanded that she stay away. Yet he hadn’t sent for her, afterwards.

Perhaps he wanted to think of her for that one night as God-given, as something like a miracle, which would’ve been tested by a tussle in the bed. And a tussle was surely what it would’ve been. Extraordinary though he was, whenever Kate was summoned to his bed I could only think of him as huge and old. To me, back then, he was already huge and old, even though actually he was only in his forties and not yet in particularly bad shape, only thickening as muscle softened to fat. He was more than twice my age, though, and had been ruler for longer than I’d been alive. To me, back then, older people seemed to have accumulated disappointment, to be weighed down by their disapproval for the rest of us–not unlike how I imagined the dead to be–and this was indeed the look of the king: the tight mouth; the eyes narrowed with distrust. The exception for him was Kate: he shone whenever he looked at her; his features lifted and he looked alive, he looked relieved.

They made the oddest pair in every respect but most obviously in their physical mismatch: Kate tiny, and the king twice her size. She was only shoulder-high to most of the ladies at court but her husband was a head and shoulders taller than most of the men and half as wide again. He was twice as wide as Francis, who might’ve been considered girlish by those who didn’t know him as I did. Francis’s bones rose high in his silky boy-skin and I’d cupped each and every one. My hands had explored the configuration of him, edging along the shield of skull behind his ears, stroking down his breastbone, circling the knots of his wrists, spanning his hips, as if unwrapping a gift.

I couldn’t help but wonder how Kate felt whenever she was summoned from her own bedroom to the one adjoining the king’s apartment, the one they shared on those occasions when he asked for her and to which he came with a pair of attendants who’d wait outside for him. It seemed, to me, a hefty price to pay for all the deference, the egg-sized diamonds, the acres of cloth of gold that she wore and in which she draped her rooms–those river-view rooms occupied by the most talented young musicians and most knowledgeable chaplains and physicians. Then again, most of her ladies and maids would end up settling for situations that weren’t so dissimilar, but for far less recompense. Not me, though: I was going to marry Francis, I’d make sure that happened and, now that he was the queen’s private secretary, I was confident my parents could be persuaded.

There’d been no way, I knew, for Kate to refuse the king. He’d hadn’t ordered her to marry him and he’d been careful to court her–for appearance’s sake, for the sake of his pride–but all the same she could never have said no: he and her family would’ve seen to that. Whenever she went off to that shared bedroom, I didn’t quite know what I was witnessing: coercion or compromise. She’d have known that it was what everyone was thinking but she let nothing slip, never even acknowledged the curiosity, which was quite something for a girl of knowing looks, the mistress of the cryptic confidence. She acted blithe when leaving for that shared bedroom and again when she returned, making clear that as far as she was concerned–and, thus, as far as everyone else should be concerned–it was nothing. I supposed she had to think of it that way for her to be able to endure it.

She lifted her head to catch my eye, and spoke quietly but emphatically: ‘Room going free.’ Thomas Culpeper’s: she was offering me–and Francis–his bed for the night, as she did whenever she could. Thomas Culpeper would stay with her, and Francis and I would be able to spend a whole night alone together in his bed. Behind me, Francis tensed, making as if to decline. I knew why, I knew what he was thinking: Not Thomas Culpeper’s, anyone but Thomas Culpeper’s. But, as ever, I was quicker: ‘Good, thank you.’ Anyway, the offer had been made to me, not to Francis. Dutifully, I smiled my gratitude in Thomas Culpeper’s direction but avoided meeting his eye, which wasn’t hard because a glance at the likes of me was beneath him.

I, too, would’ve preferred that it wasn’t Thomas Culpeper’s bed, but it was his or none. And although I’d over-indulged at supper and was tired from the dancing, and although I’d have loved to close my eyes and slide into oblivion, I wasn’t going to turn down an all-too-rare night with Francis. Opportunities for even the swiftest encounter had been few and far between during the four long months on the road, but even in the palaces we too often had to suffer the embarrassment of begging time alone from room-mates or risk being discovered in the Office of Revels’ storage rooms among papier-mâché unicorns. A couple of times, we’d even taken our chances in a window recess at the far end of the Queen’s Gallery, flinching from distant footfalls. Very occasionally, when Kate and all her ladies were being elaborately entertained, she’d dare to slip me her bedroom key so that Francis and I could miss the show for some fun of our own. We’d sneak away to brave the line of yeomen on guard at the door to her apartment–the pair of us ostensibly on separate duties to prepare for the queen’s eventual return–and hurry through room after room, ignoring any chamberers, until we reached the door of the most private room of all, and there we’d slip inside unseen. The first time, the bed itself almost did for us, that immense bed piled with furs and hung with gold cloth: we’d hardly dared clamber up on to it. And then there’d been the distraction of the star-gilded ceiling.

That night, All Souls, I rose and took Francis by the hand to draw him to his feet, keen not to waste time, anxious in case the offer was for any reason withdrawn. I led him out past the guards, down the stairs and into the gloom. We were in step by the time we were skirting the inner courtyard, heading for the courtiers’ rooms on the boundary of Fountain Court. We could’ve found Thomas Culpeper’s rooms with our eyes closed, we probably knew the way better than he did: he was so rarely there. As a favoured Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, he was often required to sleep alongside the king’s bed. If he wasn’t, then–unbeknown to the king–there was a good chance he’d be in the queen’s.

Francis went on ahead while I took cover in an adjacent stairwell. He was up the first two or three stairs with a single stride, then disappeared from view; but the rooms were on the first floor and I heard his knock, the answering cry and the opening of the door. Thomas Culpeper’s attending man sounded disgruntled at having to shift so late. ‘You’re in here tonight?’ No reply that I could hear from Francis; I pictured his apologetic shrug and lopsided smile, which in turn had me smiling. Then a clattering of footfalls on the steps: more than one pair; the attendant had had company. Two men bounced down into the stairwell but the laggard drew his companion back into shadow and they kissed. It was a momentary embrace, but savoured. A long moment, in which I couldn’t quite make myself look away because I so envied them their passion, coming ahead of my own. Then they were crossing Fountain Court, heading for Base Court, as if it hadn’t happened, and I was half-wondering if I’d imagined it.

I hurried up the stone steps. The door was closed, safeguarding the warmth. Inside, the fire was down to embers but the heat had built up solid. I took off my cloak, unaware until then of how I’d been tensed against the riverside chill. The inner door was open so that the bedroom could benefit from the fire. Thomas Culpeper was so privileged as to be allocated a pair of rooms, but still there was little space to accommodate two grown men. The rooms were in dire need of an airing, and I had to fight the urge to clear up the tankards and clothes that were strewn around. That wasn’t what I was here for, I reminded myself.

I was here for Francis. My heart was thumping; it seemed to be saying, Just us, just us. He stood tall in front of the fireplace, yet also slightly hunched as if to make himself inconspicuous. As if that were possible. Which made me laugh, and then he was laughing, too, in response, although he couldn’t have known why. He was already uncloaked; the top half of him a linen-clad glow. Brighter still was his hair. I had the sense again of knowing him to the very bones, his body given over to me in all its beguiling, disarming complexity so that I never knew where to start. I could take his face in my hands, feel how its smoothness was deceptive, detecting its invisible graininess: that daily undoing of him. Or I could cap his shoulders, relish their nudge into my palms. Ease my fingers through his tangled hair and rest the tips in the groove at the back of his neck. Lay a hand against his breastbone, the satisfying flatness of it.

I took a step towards him, picking up and breathing in his particular scent: piquant, like rainfall but not quite. We kissed. I’d only ever kissed one boy before Francis, but I knew–I just knew–that no one kissed as Francis did. No one made love as he did, either: that, too, I knew. I’d heard plenty of talk which gave the impression that what others did together in bed was boisterous and fun. But for Francis and me, the act that brought us closest did so by pitching us against each other. Whenever I took him inside me, he’d move very slowly, edging his way towards my pleasure, resisting any rush, refusing to be swayed: his eyes on mine, almost defiant. I’d be hanging on his every move, matching him inch for inch in that slow dance, ekeing every sliver of sensation from his flex into me, a kind of despair assuaged but reinstated with each heartbeat. And it worked: his timing was faultless, which I knew–from talk–was far from the case for most men.

No one, I knew, had ever had what we had. Oh yes, he’d been the lover of a girl before me, but she was a carefree, curvy girl and their times in bed would’ve been bouncy and giggly. I was narrow-hipped and sharply articulated, and my heart, unlike hers, was diamond.

November 3rd

I don’t know what time the men came for him, the next day; I didn’t even know, until a whole day later, that anything untoward had happened. Odd to think how discreet an investigation it was, at first, in view of how rapid and brutal it became.

We’d parted at dawn, Thomas Culpeper arriving back and throwing open the bedroom door. Having dressed hurriedly, we’d left the rooms–still unacknowledged by Culpeper, who, in the absence of his attendant, made himself busy with the fireplace–and gone our separate ways from the foot of the stairs.

Back in my room, Alice and our irritatingly madonna-faced maid, Thomasine, were still asleep, so I slipped beneath the bedclothes for an extra hour. Kate wasn’t an early riser, particularly after a night spent with Thomas Culpeper.

Later, when I arrived at Kate’s apartment, I couldn’t spot Francis. He didn’t turn up for Mass, either, and, when there was no sign of him by late morning, I assumed he’d been sent on an errand.

The king hadn’t been evident in chapel, either, and I’d glimpsed Kate register his absence. No surprise in itself, his absence: on days that weren’t feast days, he preferred to worship in private in his closet adjoining the chapel. Which meant work, mostly, if rumour was correct: catching up on papers whilst only half-listening to Mass. Usually, though, Kate would’ve been informed of his absence–of the fact of it, if not the reason, unless the reason was ill-health. She wasn’t expected to trouble her pretty little head with matters of state, and she made quite clear that she had no interest in doing so. All she ever wanted to know of the king was his whereabouts, even if only vaguely. Actually, what she wanted to know was when to anticipate his return.

Whenever he came to her rooms to see her, he’d eschew the royal chair that was there for him, lowering himself instead on to a bench–his huge thighs braced–so that she could settle herself beside him. She’d rest her head against his fur-rich shoulder and he’d ask her, ‘What have you been doing, today?’ the miracle being that he sounded genuinely interested, if not in the substance of what she had to say, then in her telling of it. He hung on her every word. She might have very little to say, but she could make something of nothing with her eye for detail and her word-perfect recall (‘So then he said–’). She made it funny for him, with that dry delivery of hers. He even giggled–he did have a giggle, that great big man. Or with her, he did. So, there he’d be: a king with decades of rule, interested in the daily doings of a girl who professed no interest in anything much but clothes. Often he’d have a new acquisition to show her, perhaps a wind or string instrument or some ingenious item of percussion that he’d explain and demonstrate, and she’d just laugh at the nakedness of his enthusiasm, but he didn’t seem to mind and in no time he’d be laughing, too.

Watching him with her, it was unimaginable to me that the jocular, twinkly man had, within the past five years, exiled one wife to a lonely death and signed an execution order for her successor.

That day, dinner was cleared away by twelve, and still no word from the king. I could see that Kate was dithering, unsure whether she should remain available, even less able than usual to make something of the daylight hours left to us. It looked a fine day, too: ripe for having something made of it outside the confines of her rooms, such as a game of bowls on the green down by the river or perhaps even a trip on the water. We couldn’t be sure that this wouldn’t be the last sunshine of the year.

I had no time for Kate’s procrastination on such an afternoon. I was biding my time before my escape, planning a walk through Kate’s private garden and then back along the moat and through her orchards. I wasn’t needed, and could slip from under the expectation that I’d be around. I was good at that. The proper ladies-in-waiting did enough waiting around for the rest of us. I doubted that I’d ever get the hang of it. I was a maid-in-waiting in name only.

Of my fellow maids-in-waiting, Maggie, was poring over her little Book of Hours, as she so often was–I had no idea how she found so much in it–and Alice was ostensibly sewing but more often staring into space, an activity for which she had an extraordinary capacity. On the far side of the room, Lady Margaret–head of we maids and ladies–was in discussion with Sir Edward, head of Kate’s household: in full flow, she was talking and nodding, frowning and smiling all at once as only she could do. She was the king’s niece and the family resemblance was strong except in size: she was a slip of a girl. She looked scrappy in whatever finery she wore, a fault not just of her skinniness and pallor but also her anxious manner and its physical counterpart, the sore hands and abrasions beneath her collar and band of her hood. Hers was an onerous position for someone so young, no doubt foisted upon her as rehabilitation after her disgrace of a few years ago, the romantic entanglement for which, after her lover’s death in the Tower, she’d apologised and been pardoned.

At the fireside, the Parr sisters were reading. My mother had taught me to read but then, when I’d grown up alongside Kate in the Duchess of Norfolk’s house, there’d been

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  • (3/5)
    I know with this being fiction there were liberties taken on what actually happened. But I found the book very well written and easy to follow. It always intrigues me what happened that long ago and how people were treated. It's amazing that she was so young when she died and also how many wives the king had. It's also interesting that if he got bored with his wife he just had her killed. This is a fast read and very descriptive so you can really visualize the characters. I really enjoyed this book. I recommend it if you want to read something about the 1500s. It actually interested me so much I read further about Katherine Howard and the other people involved. It made me a little more interested in that part of history.
  • (3/5)
    An interesting take on Kathrine Howard from the perspective of her friend. I did not like how it switched from past to present. Which is a great literary device that would have worked well but it just fell flat. The book itself was rather good otherwise.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed this book but at the same time was frustrated by the use of modern language which jarred dreadfully throughout. It's clearly incredibly well researched, the descriptive use of language was brilliant but the dialogue really let it down in my opinion.
    If Suzannah Dunn had taken as much care with her character's voices as she did with all the other historical nuances then this would have been a five star book but alas it wasn't to be. And I don't mean I wanted to read them hey nonny nonning, just less modern jargon would have been enough.
  • (3/5)
    The fifth wife of Henry VIII was a mere 19 year old girl. Empty headed, she was very unlike the four wives that preceded her. A child of many siblings with a mother who died early and a father who did not pretend to care, she was shipped to live in the Duchess of Norfolk's household.It was there, with no care of anything but immediate gratification, she exhibited very loose morals. Taking an assistant of the Duke, Francis Dereham, as a lover, brazenly she slept with him in a room with many other girls to witness her deeds.She was a Howard, a minor one, but still a part of an up and coming family. Despite the fact that her cousin Anne Boleyn was beheaded, she wantonly behaved with no thought of what could happen to women who paid no heed to the future.When she was called away from the house of the Duchess and to the inner circle of the King's court, she had little to offer, save for a small figure and a flirtatious demeanor. When she caught the eye of Henry, he called her his rose without a thorn.Older, wrinkled, corpulent, he longed for excitement and youth. Uneducated, simple and lacking any knowledge of necessary courtly behavior, while wearing the finest gowns and jewels, Katherine took one of the King's favorites, Thomas Culpepper, for a lover.With no thought of consequences, repeatedly she bedded him thinking no one would tell her secrets.Alas, when knowledge was gained of her youthful affair with Francis Dereham, Henry's pride was greatly wounded. Adding insult to injury, when the assignations with Culpepper were discovered, there was no option for Henry but to discard her.The head of this silly little play thing was chopped from her body. And, both Dereham and Culpepper came to a violent end. Told from the perspective of one of Kathryn's ladies in waiting, the story line skips around quite a bit from past to present and back again. I don't like this type of confusing writing. But, while I cannot highly recommend the book, if you can suspend the need for historical accuracy, then you might want to spend a few hours turning the pages.
  • (4/5)
    found this novel very similar to a Philippa Gregory book in the historical fiction genre. Here, the story centers on the coming of age of Katherine Howard and fellow protégés of Agnes Howard, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. The story flips back and forth from the present day of November 2nd, 1541 and the, roughly, 5 or 6 years prior to. The roommates, specifically, Katherine and her close friend "Cat" learn about life and love under the protective and shielded care of the Duchess yet find plenty of time to be naughty with the available men on the estate. Fun and games should have probably come to a conclusion when King Henry VIII makes Katherine his fifth wife but she feels she's earned the right to continue to have her other amusements, afterall, her new husband is huge and slobbering. Of course, Henry's been down this road before and knows there are ways to silence such a wife.A fairly good book and I would recommend it to others if you want a quick and entertaining read. Those well versed in history may find some inconsistencies however this is fiction and liberty's may have been taken.
  • (3/5)
    When 12 year old Katherine comes living with the Duchess of Norfolk, she meets Cat Tilney and they become friends despite having very little in common. From early on Katherine is more interested in boys and clothes tan anything else and Cat is more reserved. One of the boys living there is Francis Dereham who soon falls for Katherine but when she leaves to court, Francis is left behind with Cat and they slowly start to become more closer than before.

    First of all I don’t know any other author who’s book title and synopsis is as confusing and misleading as Dunn’s. Every book I’ve read so far sounds like it’s telling the story of someone else than it really is. You could think this book is told from Katherine’s point of view but it’s told from Cat’s pov the whole time.

    I think I liked this best from the books I’ve read from this author. It was rather quick read and while the little too modern writing with “could’ve”, should’ve and the like. I’m also not sure if they would have said that "What goes up must come down".

    Katherine is usually described like she has no brains whatsoever so it was refreshing to read this version of her, even if she wasn’t very likeable person. It gave the feeling she was too self-centered and didn’t love anyone else besides herself.

    All in all it was enjoyable and rather quick read. But you will most likely learn more about Cat Tilney than Katherine Howard.
  • (3/5)
    This version of Katherine Howard’s story is told by one of her close friends, Catherine Tilney. The first person narration makes the title of the book rather misleading since that actually makes it not the confession of Katherine Howard and Henry’s fifth wife actually ends up more of a background character. The result is a somewhat chatty, middle-school narration which somehow seems a little too modern and “gossip girl-ish”.
  • (5/5)
    I love this book & couldn't put it down. Previously I hadn't been interested enough in Katherine Howard to want to read a book about her and kept putting off reading this book. However, I can say that I was wrong. This is a well told story that is interesting all the way through. It really made me want to read more from this author and I think that is the sign of a great book. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in historical novels and even someone who likes the more tame romance novels.
  • (4/5)
    This is another novel about Katherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII. I do have to say that this was not one of the best books I have read about Katherine Howard. A very young girl put into a situation at the greed of other, and way too young to be put against a king who has not problems getting what he wants at the expense of others, usually his wives losing their heads.
  • (2/5)
    This short novel is a retelling of the story of Katherine Howard, the girl who wound up becoming King Henry VIII's fifth wife. The novel is written from the perspective of Cat Tilney, a relative who grew up in the same household as Katherine and eventually became her friend and confidant. I found this unique viewpoint to be a refreshing change from the other novels I've read about Katherine Howard, which were all narrated by Katherine herself. I also found the author's take on Katherine to be refreshing. Katherine Howard is usually painted as a naive and dull-witted young girl who foolishly lets her heart get the best of her. Suzannah Dunn's Katherine, on the other hand, is a worldly and cunning young lady who is often easily able to manipulate those around her. She is very much in control of her life. I found the speech the characters used to be far-fetched. They often sounded more like modern-day teen girls than young ladies in the Tudor era. I think that the title of this novel could be a bit misleading. It makes it sound like the book will be a first-hand account of Katherine's life in her own words when it is in actuality narrated by one of her companions.Overall, I would give "The Confession of Katherine Howard" two stars. It was interesting enough to hold my attention, but I didn't find it enjoyable enough to go on my "to re-read" shelf.
  • (3/5)
    This brief story recounts portions of Katherine Howard's girlhood, as well as her days as queen and her disastrous fate. It is told from the viewpoint of Cat, a naive girl who grew up with Katherine and now serves as her lady in waiting.The book starts out ominously: "I was thinking... this is who we are: the perfect queen and her faithful retinue. Now, I wish I could go back, patter over the lavish carpets to tap us on the shoulders, whisper in our ears and get us out alive." (page 4)I found this to be a good example of Dunn's writing. Almost well written, but not quite. The potential is there, but an amateur quality remains. In actuality, the above sentence is relatively flattering, being more eloquent than most others in the book, but it still doesn't exactly fit. First of all, Cat never views Katherine as "the perfect queen," and with good reason. And who in the world "patters" over carpets?? I suppose next will be carpeted tap-dancing.Worse than people's shoes tapping on carpets is the modern style of Dunn's writing. There is a whole lot of sex talk between the girls, and while I don't doubt that girls of any time period are capable of being curious, their wishful conversations sounded just a bit too unrealistic. Something that greatly annoyed me was that the main character Cat is so drastically overlooked. She remained definitively faceless and without personality for the entire story. Coming into the book, I didn't read the back cover, and I had been assuming that Katherine Howard would be the narrator. When it became clear that the story was being told by someone else, I kept thinking that on the next page, this person would introduce herself and reveal her identity. But she didn't until about page 50! Her name is never, ever mentioned until quite far in, and we have to guess for ourselves that she is the queen's lady in waiting or maid or something of that nature.I got a strong impression that the author expected readers to just know that our main character was "Cat Tilney, ladies maid" from the description on the back cover. And absolutely no book should rely on that, in my opinion.In the same way of forgetting to mention her own main character's name, Suzannah Dunn fails to mention or feature a lot of other things, too. Before Cat and Katherine come to court, they appear to enjoy gossiping about the latest royal news with their friends. As girls, they hear about the queen being taken away and replaced by a new one, who is later beheaded.Of course, I know who they are talking about - Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. Later, they converse about Anne of Cleves as well. But it struck me as very strange that they would never once mention any names. Anne Boleyn's name is not featured once in the entirety of the novel, and neither are any other of Katherine's many predecessors.Katherine's affair with Thomas Culpepper is mentioned often, but we never actually "see" him. He is mentioned, but never featured in any scenes, turning him into just a name of some guy.The words "London" and "England" seem to be avoided. Absolutely NO sense of setting is given whatsoever, which is always a major negative point for me, especially with historical fiction, and especially with historical fiction that deals with royalty. Kings and queens are ingrained so deeply in their countries and their cultures, a writer ought to find it impossible NOT to mention them. Even when Katherine later tells Cat about Francis Dereham's imprisonment, she says "tower," rather than outright mention the "Tower of London." I can't fathom why the author seemed to go out of her way to avoid specific names and titles, but it certainly didn't do any favors for the story.Before this one, the only other book that I had read that prominently focused on Katherine Howard was Philippa Gregory's "The Boleyn Inheritance." Though I know that Gregory is not exactly known for her accuracy, I have to say that that book is leagues better than this one. I also felt that Gregory's Katherine was much more believable and probable: a beautiful, flirtatious, silly girl who is ignorant and not all that intelligent.Here, Dunn's Katherine is described as not being all that pretty or charming. She seems a grim, flinty girl who is wise beyond her years, mysterious, and ever so solemn - a stark opposite of Gregory's version.But it doesn't seem to fit the history - Henry VIII had just left the plain, solemn Anne of Cleves looking for something more entertaining, and chose Katherine. Why would he choose another ugly girl with a grey personality? And why would a wise, cunningly intelligent girl make herself SO easy to trap by continuing an affair with the king's favorite? Perhaps this could be excused if Katherine was written as being desperately in love with Thomas, but she wasn't. Katherine struck me as an un-feeling, passionless girl.So, the entire persona of Katherine didn't ever seem right to me, always a bit off.After the culmination of events with Katherine being investigated, the book ends rather suddenly. It would be easy for a reader not educated on the events to miss the fact that Katherine was actually executed. The historical note at the end focuses far more on the executions of Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper, for some reason.Since I have now said so many negative things about the book, I am trying to think of a positive one.I suppose that I did like how I finished reflecting to myself how unlikely a contestant Katherine was for the throne. Unlike her cousin Anne Boleyn, she was never groomed and pushed to catch the court's eye, and grew up as practically a commoner. As she talks about news, faraway at court, she obviously doesn't see herself ever becoming one of those people she hears about.The book wasn't actually quite so terrible as my review probably makes it sound. It was easy to read, and moved at a quick enough pace (though it did get bogged down whenever there was a flashback to girlhood days). It was definitely below average, but I didn't hate it."The Confession of Katherine Howard" was a book that I simply didn't have strong feelings for either way - though if I did, they would be more likely to lean toward negativity. Don't expect any of the characters to have strong identities, or the events any gravity, either. Like the vapid main character, this was a dry book vacant of personality.
  • (4/5)
    This book presented a somewhat new view of Katherine Howard’s tale, or at least a view new to me. The entire story is told from the viewpoint of the best friend of Katherine, Cat Tilney, and it’s a somewhat sympathetic, but maybe more plausible, description of the entire debacle. Granted, the friendship between Katherine and Cat is likely very fabricated, and perhaps I liked it so much because the view presented is more in line with how I’ve always looked at Kitty myself.The typical tale of Katherine is that she was a relatively simple minded girl who let her heart get the better of her in multiple situations. She’s always portrayed as very flighty, never putting much thought into anything, and only concerned with her looks and what that’ll get her. And there’s definitely some of that in this book, but Cat also represents Kitty as very calculating with her liaisons, and as knowing exactly what she’s doing the entire time.Katherine goes through much of her girlhood picking out some new boy to receive affection from, those relationships getting more involved as she gets older, but she’s certainly never the innocent. Cat watches in wonder and horror much of the time, not really understanding what Katherine is thinking. Especially after Kitty becomes queen and embarks on an affair with Thomas Culpeper.Cat really echoes a lot of what I’ve always thought – when you know what happened to Anne Boleyn, why on earth would you even take the risk? Katherine Howard had a great position for herself: in all likelihood she was going to outlive Henry VIII. She could have been remembered as the adored little queen who entertained the king in his twilight years.Granted, the Howard family had accumulated even more enemies in this time as they had during Anne’s reign, but isn’t that all the more reason for caution? While I’ve always felt that Anne was truly taken down by her enemies rather than her own indiscretions, I’ve likewise believed that Kitty simply made a bunch of thoughtless mistakes with no mind for the history of her husband. She really should have been doing everything to keep herself above suspicion, and the ladies around her who were older should have done more to watch out for her youthful, naive mind.I quite enjoyed this book, so much that I ordered a couple of other books by this author and hope to read them soon. I loved this alternative look at Katherine’s life, and I can’t wait to see if Suzannah Dunn takes the same sort of look at other Queens of England.
  • (3/5)
    I received this book through the Early Reviewers program. I found this book to be brief, but enjoyable. The book recalls Katherine Howard's meteor-like ascent from unimportant niece to the Duke of Norfolk to fifth wife of Henry the VIII through the voice of Cat Tilney, a distant relation and close friend of Katherine.The author takes what is actually known about Katherine Howard and melds them with inventive dialogue and tableau to create a map of her eventual destruction. While it's always believable, the plot and pacing is not compelling--towards the very end you feel like you're rushing towards a foregone conclusion. The dialogue is also anachronistic--I often felt that the conversations between Cat and Katherine (or Kate, as she is referred to in the book) could have been copied from teenage girls of today--but perhaps that makes the story more accessible to readers who aren't normally fans of this type of fiction.I really hoped that Dunn would take the characters of Katherine, Francis Dereham, and Thomas Culpepper in a different direction, but what is delivered is a fun, quick read that's not particularly memorable but it is entertaining. I would hesitate to recommend this to fellow Anglophiles--this book serves as more of an entry to the realm of Tudor-based fiction and I didn't find it satisfying enough for someone who has read a lot of the genre already.
  • (4/5)
    As a big fan of British History fiction, I was really excited to win this book. And it did not disappoint! I've not read anything by Dunn yet, but I have one of her other books in my queue and am now very excited to read it. I found this book to be well researched, giving the reader a better understanding of the order and turns of events surrounding Henry VIII's 5th wife. Very little in the book is actually about Henry or the Tudors. It is more about Katherine and her life, her personality, her friends, her choices. If you are interested in the era, this book is insightful.I also really enjoyed the tone of the book, which lent itself to the understanding of Katherine and her ways. The story is told by her best friend, who struggles with Katherine's moral compass vs accepting her for who she just is. This "queen" is so easily shrugged off as a teen floozy; I was glad to read a book that explored her character, or true lack thereof, a little more deeply. A quick read. I will certainly recommend the book to my fellow Anglophiles! :-)
  • (3/5)
    I'm really on the fence about this one. There is much to admire about it, but also much to dislike. First of all, what I didn't like--another first person narrative, although I do understand why it's used--to keep Katherine at a distance and to judge her strictly by her actions, without letting the character's inner motivations justify her deeds. I also dislike the modern dialogue. It's not that difficult to make dialogue read and sound authentic to the time period (see Margaret Irwin's Elizabeth I trilogy for brilliant Tudor dialogue!). But for characters from the 1500s to say things like, "I'm just saying," or "Hello, you," is really jarring. What I do appreciate about this book is that Dunn researched it well, and had all the historical personages in the correct places at the correct times. And her characterization of Katherine Howard, Henry VIII's young 5th wife, as a manipulative flirt, is probably right on the money
  • (4/5)
    This book was sent as an Early Reviewer copy. It was a good quick read and an interesting look in to the life of Katherine Howard.
  • (4/5)
    Amazing. Simply amazing. I loved this book. It was a fast read for me, as I became so completely one with the story, that I found it impossible to put down. Suzannah Dunn has the ability to take a fiction novel and pen it a way that is real to the reader. It becomes a fascinating reality to the person holding the book. The characters aren't characters; they are real. The plot isn't a plot; it's actuality. That is, as I said, simply amazing. Katherine's story is vibrant and full of so many emotions. From happiness, to hurt, to anger and love. As a young orphan, Katherine's story is full of ups and downs. She meets her best friend, and finds a love with Francis that she thought would be true, yet she can no longer hold that love true, but has to leave it behind. She becomes Henry VIII's 5th wife, and takes on that new life of being a queen. But, then rumors fly and things happen to cause her concern about her safety and her standing. What will happen if the truth about Francis, her young lover? Will he be executed so she can live? Will the truth be set free through Katherine's friend, Cat? And what of Katherine's life....is it over before it truly begins? This is a story of love, hope, and betrayal. A powerful novel of an era long forgotten. It's filled with mystery, as the rumors fly, it's suspenseful grip on the reader is tight. The research that Suzannah Dunn did in order to create this historical, fascinating and wonderful novel is beyond fantastic. The emotions she set forth in this book, and the actions of not only Katherine Howard, but also in Francis, Henry VIII and Cat, is all consuming. I highly recommend this novel to everyone who loves the era gone by. It's a 4 star novel that will leave you wanting more, and to find out the fact from the fiction, as this novel is written in a way that you will never know the fiction aspects are just that: fiction. If you are new to this kind of novel, then please, don't hesitate to click the link below and buy a copy. Suzannah Dunn's skills are masterful and you will be transported back in time to live out your reading days as a member of Henry VIII's court. Dunn definitely has a new fan in me!
  • (3/5)
    Suzannah Dunn has opened a new world into Katherine Howards interesting life. I found the book to be a pleasure to read and certainly knowing how her life ends, the story line kept me wanting to read more. My only particulars about the piece is that i do wish it was more from Katherine's viewpoint that Cat's. I enjoyed Cat as a character, but i would have found it more interesting from Katherine. I also wanted to more of a love story between Cat and Francis, or more of an inside look. I guess its the romantic in me that wanted more, because I think readers would have more of an emotional attachment to both of them, especially with Francis in the end. OVERALL, I enjoyed this piece and believed it to be very well written. I was impressed with the prose, which I honestly have never sat and thought of but I wanted to take the review seriously as I read! Dunn did a great job at transitioning the time frames, when at first I didn't think I would like it. But she did a great job!
  • (1/5)
    I'm a big fan of historical fiction set in the Tudor era, but, sadly, this LTER book was a bit of a stinker. I wondered at first if it was a YA novel, mainly because the dialogue was so modern. (Characters said things like "they were messing around" and "Did he make a move on you?" and greeted each other with "Hello, you." Katherine's crowd also has precious little nicknames for themselves and mean ones for everyone else: Oddbod, Izzy, Skid, etc.) I thought that perhaps the author intended to appeal to younger readers by depicting Katherine and her companions as a teenage clique. But with the focus on sex, sex, and more sex--well, maybe it wasn't quite aimed at teens. We all know that Katherine has the reputation of being both a minx and slut, but I got really, really tired of all the sex talk. I have no problem with a few sex scenes that are essential to the story--but there is a limit, after which it just gets boring. We have to hear in detail how Izzy teaches her little sister Katherine how to use half a lemon as a diaphragm and the various things that you can do with men (since they always want it) that will make them happy without getting you pregnant. Not exactly the info I'd want to pass on to a teenage daughter. Besides sex, there's not much to the story. The narrator is Cat Tilney, one of Katherine's companions in the Duchess of Norfolk's house and later a lady-in-waiting. She's dull in both personality and wits. Coming from a family farm and even admitting that she has seen animals doing it, her naiveté about sexuality is both unbelievable and tiresome. She seems both fascinated with and jealous of Katherine--yet she takes one of Katherin'e cast-off lovers for her own and is stupid enough to assist the queen in her affair with Thomas Culpepper. She didn't get her head chopped off like Katherine--possibly because, according to Dunn's version, she didn't have one.I wish I could say something nice about this book, but it fails in terms of characterization, plot, dialogue, and writing in general.I'm giving this novel 1/2 star (because if I don't give it any, my negative opinion just won't count).
  • (5/5)
    From fantastic fiction.Eighteen-year-old Catherine Howard thought she could have it all: a King and a lover! Lady-in-waiting to Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's new German wife, it wasn't long before a teenage Catherine caught the King's eye. Pretty, lively and young, he swiftly made her his queen. Catherine found herself showered with riches and at the centre of a lavish court life. Dizzy with the power she suddenly possessed, she failed to realize the political realities of her life. Just over a year into her marriage, during a special service at which Henry was giving thanks to God for his wonderful wife, Archbishop Cranmer passed the King a letter, listing allegations against Catherine before she became queen. Henry asked the archbishop to investigate; he was never to see his young wife again. Told twenty years on from the perspective of Catherine's close friend, Cat Tilney, the novel tells the life of this damaged, dangerous and short-lived queen. Suzannah Dunn presents us with a feisty, determined Catherine, who refused to allow men to walk over her -- even if they did happen to be the King of England.I will read about the Tudors in any form and by anybody as it is my favourite period in history. This book is about the early days and the days leading up to the death of Katherine Howard from the point of view of her friend Cat Tilney. There are no surprises with the book as we all know the outcome, but being told from the observations of somebody else the story is the same but with a different opinion of what happened. So this book may not be juicy and sexy like some books but is an ok read. My own thoughts on Katherine Howard is that when she became queen she saw possessions unlike cousin Anne Boleyn who saw power.
  • (2/5)
    Run of the mill historical fiction. Not my thing really but readable enough