Queen's Gambit: Book summary and reviews of Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle

Queen's Gambit

A Novel

By Elizabeth Fremantle

Queen's Gambit
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2013,
    432 pages.

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Book Summary

This brilliant historical fiction debut takes you into the heart of the Tudor court and the life and loves of the clever, charismatic Katherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth and last wife.

Widowed for the second time aged thirty-one, Katherine Parr finds she has fallen deeply for the dashing courtier Thomas Seymour and hopes at last to marry for love. However, obliged to return to court, she attracts the attentions of another: the ailing, egotistical and dangerously powerful monarch Henry VIII, who dispatches his love rival, Seymour, to the continent. No one is in a position to refuse a royal proposal so, haunted by the fates of his previous wives—two executions; two enforced annulments; one death in childbirth—Katherine is obliged to wed Henry Tudor and become his sixth queen.

Committed to religious reform, Katherine must draw upon all her instincts to navigate the treachery of the court, drawing a tight circle of women around her including her stepdaughter Meg, traumatized by events from their past that are shrouded in secrecy, and their loyal servant Dot, who knows and sees more than she understands. But with the Catholic faction on the rise once more, reformers being burned for heresy, and those close to the king vying for position in the new regime, Katherine's survival seems unlikely. Yet as she treads the razor's edge of court intrigue, she never quite gives up on love.

A must-read for fans of Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, Queen's Gambit brings to life the remarkable story of Katherine Parr as she battles with those intent on destroying her, but also with her own heart.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about Queen's Gambit. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

Do you agree with Dot’s decision to keep Meg’s secret? Why does Dot finally tell Katherine the truth about what Meg endured at Snape?
I agree with Dot's decision to keep Meg's secret because that was during Meg's life, only Meg's painful secret to share. Dot told Katherine to help ease some of Katherine's pain at why her Meg had struggled for so long in this life when Katherine ... - sylviaj

Do you agree with Katherine that "There are events in life from which we learn our most profound lessons and sometimes those events are the ones of which we are most ashamed." What lessons has she learned?
That is the act that came to mind, the possible poisoning of the king. She wanted to but thought better of it and changed her mind. Another act is seeing Thomas Seymour with Elizabeth and the growing relationship there. I think she realized that ... - terri

Dot's story
I felt that Dot's story strengthened the narrative. It was a behind-the-scenes peek at the Tudor court and Dot also served as something of a Greek chorus for the Queen. In many ways she saw people more truly how they were than the Queen did. Plus her... - barbarae

Elizabeth's portrayal
Elizabeth's portrayal seemed historically accurate and helped suggest the great queen she would become - juliae

Good Historical fiction
Yes. This book was very good in taking me back to the era of Henry VIII. Katherine's feeling, thoughts, and actions around her were well conveyed. I enjoyed it very much. - terri

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Fremantle carves out no new literary territory, but like Katherine, she navigates Tudor terrain with aplomb." - Publishers Weekly

"[An] outstanding debut novel...The author manages to do something that few authors of historical fiction can: delve into the hopes, dreams, and desires of one of Henry's wives" - Library Journal

"Infused with the type of meticulous attention to historical detailing that discerning fans of Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory have come to expect in the Tudor canon." - Booklist

"This is a superbly written novel... Fremantle is surely a major new voice in historical fiction and this book is the answer to the question about what Hilary Mantel fans should read while waiting for the final part of her trilogy." - The Bookseller

"All those wives, their fates and Henry's transformation from handsome young monarch to debauched obese tyrant continue to fascinate…Now Elizabeth Fremantle has returned to Henry's court with her debut novel Queen's Gambit." - Express

"The Tudor court comes to life in this gripping story of Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII, where passion, secrecy and betrayal power the suspense." - Woman & Home

"Elizabeth Fremantle's rich narrative breathes vibrant life into Henry VIII's most intriguing, intelligent and least known wife, Katherine Parr." - Anne Easter Smith author of A Rose for the Crown and Royal Mistress

"Queen's Gambit is an earthy, vivid portrait of Tudor England seen through the eyes of Henry VIII's last wife Katherine Parr and her loyal maid servant. Elizabeth Fremantle has added a richly written and engrossing novel to the endlessly fascinating story of the Tudors." - Stephanie Cowell author of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet

"Queen's Gambit is a lovely, sensual, subtle read, telling the story of Katherine Parr with both rich imagination and scrupulous attention to factual detail. After reading this historical novel, you truly comprehend what it would mean to be the sixth wife of a dangerous man wielding absolute power. Katherine is no selfless nurse here, nor religious fanatic, but a complex and compelling person who both men and women were drawn to. This is a very impressive novel." - Nancy Bilyeau author of The Crown

"Beautifully written and finely observed, this suspenseful tale of Henry the Eighth's last wife expertly conveys all the dangerous intensity and passion of the Tudor court." - Rachel Hore, author of A Place of Secrets

"With a painter's eye for detail, Fremantle brings the dazzling, dangerous Tudor court to life and sheds an intriguing new light on Katherine Parr, one of history's great survivors. An enthralling tale of power and passion, loyalty and betrayal." - Elizabeth Wilhide, author of Ashenden

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by S Hofsommer
Henry's last Queen
Elizabeth Feemantle's title is indeed apt. To be be one of Henry VIII's queens and survive takes is similar to playing high stakes poker when your opponent has all of the trump cards.

Katherine Paar is well-educated, religious, and unlucky in love. As the novel opens, her much older second husband is dying. Her brother and sister are at Henry,s court and upon her husband's death she has no choice but to join them. Having just rid himself of his fifth queen, Henry is looking for a replacement and settles on Katherine even though she is at the end of her child bearing days.

Told in limited 3rd person, we follow the luckless Katherine as Henry's 6th wife. The stakes are high. She has many enemies and as Henry grows more sickly, he seems to regret his split with the Roman Catholic Church while Katherine not only has accepted the new faith, she espouses its teaching.

Fremantle does a good job of giving necessary background and helping readers understand the dangers Katherine faces. In order to do so, she fleshes out the characters of Dr. Robert Huike, the King's physician and Dorothy (Dot ) Fownton, a maid. Fremantle invents thoughts, conversations and feelings based on her considerable research to flesh out her characters and help readers better understand the dangers of life for those high born who lived at the whims of their ruler. She also includes a useful timeline and brief sketch of the important historical figures of the time who appear in the novel.

For those familiar with the history of the period as well as those whose knowledge comes primarily through films of the period, this book is well worth their time.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Kate
Another Queen
The last queen of Henry VIII, Katherine Parr, is such a relative unknown that we can read of her daily life, of her musings, her fears, her friendships, without that jarring note of thinking the author may be wrong about that. Elizabeth Fremantle has created a full, three dimensional figure and taken us with her on her terrifying ride as wife of Henry VIII. I knew that she would survive, but the author brought so much suspense to the telling that I began to fear that this time it would not end well for Katherine. The narration is believable and takes the reader into Katherine Parr's world in such a way that we actually feel we have visited there. I agree that until we have more Hilary Mantel to read, this author will more than deliver. I look forward to hearing more from her in the future.

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Author Information

Elizabeth Fremantle Author Biography

Photo: Paola Pieroni

Elizabeth Fremantle has contributed to Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair and The Sunday Times among other publications. She lives in London, England.

Author Interview
Link to Elizabeth Fremantle's Website

Other books by Elizabeth Fremantle at BookBrowse
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