Summary and book reviews of The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C. Gortner

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici

A Novel

by C. W. Gortner

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
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  • First Published:
    May 2010, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2011, 432 pages

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Book Summary

From the fairy-tale châteaux of the Loire Valley to the battlefields of the wars of religion to the mob-filled streets of Paris, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is the extraordinary untold journey of one of the most maligned and misunderstood women ever to be queen.

The truth is, none of us are innocent. We all have sins to confess.

So reveals Catherine de Medici in this brilliantly imagined novel about one of history’s most powerful and controversial women. To some she was the ruthless queen who led France into an era of savage violence. To others she was the passionate savior of the French monarchy. Acclaimed author C. W. Gortner brings Catherine to life in her own voice, allowing us to enter into the intimate world of a woman whose determination to protect her family’s throne and realm plunged her into a lethal struggle for power.

The last legitimate descendant of the illustrious Medici line, Catherine suffers the expulsion of her family from her native Florence and narrowly escapes death at the hands of an enraged mob. While still a teenager, she is betrothed to Henri, son of François I of France, and sent from Italy to an unfamiliar realm where she is overshadowed and humiliated by her husband’s lifelong mistress. Ever resilient, Catherine strives to create a role for herself through her patronage of the famous clairvoyant Nostradamus and her own innate gift as a seer. But in her fortieth year, Catherine is widowed, left alone with six young children as regent of a kingdom torn apart by religious discord and the ambitions of a treacherous nobility.

Relying on her tenacity, wit, and uncanny gift for compromise, Catherine seizes power, intent on securing the throne for her sons. She allies herself with the enigmatic Protestant leader Coligny, with whom she shares an intimate secret, and implacably carves a path toward peace, unaware that her own dark fate looms before her—a fate that, if she is to save France, will demand the sacrifice of her ideals, her reputation, and the passion of her embattled heart.

From the fairy-tale châteaux of the Loire Valley to the battlefields of the wars of religion to the mob-filled streets of Paris, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is the extraordinary untold journey of one of the most maligned and misunderstood women ever to be queen.

Chapter One

I was ten years old when I discovered I might be a witch.

I sat sewing with my aunt Clarice, as sunlight spread across the gallery floor. Outside the window I could hear the splashing of the courtyard fountain, the cries of the vendors in the Via Larga and staccato of horse hooves on the cobblestone streets, and I thought for the hundredth time that I couldn’t stay inside another minute.

“Caterina Romelo de’ Medici, can it be you’ve finished already?”

I looked up. My late father’s sister Clarice de’ Medici y Strozzi regarded me from her chair. I wiped my brow with my sleeve. “It’s so hot in here,” I said. “Can’t I go outside?”

She arched her eyebrow. Even before she said anything, I could have recited her words, so often had she drummed them into my head: “You are the Duchess of Urbino, daughter of Lorenzo de’ Medici and his wife, Madeleine de la Tour, who was of noble French blood. How many times must...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. C. W. Gortner presents a sympathetic picture of Catherine de Medici, a figure much maligned in history. His goal is to flesh her out as a complex and multifaceted human being—one who faced difficult choices and did the best she could under the circumstances. Does he succeed? Is Catherine a reliable narrator of her own life?
  2. Some historians believe that France would have fallen into revolution two hundred years earlier than it did had Catherine not been in power. In what ways was she instrumental in preserving the stability of her country? Do you consider her methods ruthless or pragmatic?
  3. Talk about Catherine's early life. What does it show about her personality? How does ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

If you like historical fiction, BookBrowse readers think you'll love The Confessions of Catherine de Medici. 13 out of 14 of them rated it 4 or 5 stars. Here's what they had to say:

C.W. Gortner reimagines the trials and tribulations of Catherine de Medici "in her own words," an interesting, successful technique that effectively presents the life and times of a complex historical figure whose life story is permeated with sadness, betrayals, exaggerations and intrigue (Marie A). Gortner does a phenomenal job of portraying a very complicated era in French history and making it interesting to the reader. Catherine does, eventually, become a lovable character, and I felt great empathy for each of her losses and failures... and there were many (Amy H). If you enjoy history, intrigue and a little mayhem, you will enjoy this book (Barbara R).   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review Members Only (339 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

[R]emarkably thoughtful in its insight into an unapologetically ruthless queen.

Library Journal

While the Catherine depicted here is in some ways similar to Jeanne Kalodigris's protagonist in The Devil's Queen, Gortner breathes more life into his queen. Historical fiction fans will appreciate the vivid details of Renaissance France.

Author Blurb Sandra Gulland, author of The Josephine B Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun
The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is a dramatic, epic novel of an all-too-human woman whose strength and passion propelled her into the center of grand events. Meticulously-researched, this engrossing novel offers a fresh portrait of a queen who has too often been portrayed as a villain. Bravo Mr. Gortner!

Author Blurb Sandra Gulland, author of The Josephine B Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun
The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is a dramatic, epic novel of an all-too-human woman whose strength and passion propelled her into the center of grand events. Meticulously-researched, this engrossing novel offers a fresh portrait of a queen who has too often been portrayed as a villain. Bravo Mr. Gortner!

Author Blurb Sharon Penman, author of The Devil's Brood
An intriguing and provocative book about one of history's most controversial queens and the turbulent world of 16th century France.

Author Blurb Stephanie Cowell, author of Claude and Camille and Mozart’s Sister
Thrilling and original ... a dramatic portrait of a brilliant queen and a realm divided by dissension.

Author Blurb Margaret George, author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII
The notorious Catherine de Medici emerges as a flesh-and-blood woman in this masterful recounting of her life.  C.W. Gortner has an uncanny ability to delve into the intense humanness of his characters.

Author Blurb Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti
Powerful and determined, Catherine de Medici strides across the treacherous glamour of 16th century France in this breathtaking novel .... With an exquisite eye for detail and deep sensitivity, Gortner evokes a woman of immense personality and resolve, who never gave up on her children or country. You will not be able to put this book down!

Reader Reviews

Vivian H.

One of History's Most Fascinating Women
I loved this book. It is well written, well researched historical fiction at its best. Catherine de Medici is one of history's most fascinating, misunderstood and maligned women, a contemporary of Mary of Scotland and Elizabeth of England. She has ...   Read More

Juli S. (Portland, OR)

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
Catherine is such an interesting character and despite what is known of her, there is also much speculation and guesswork regarding her motives and methods. I thoroughly enjoyed the way that the author presented Catherine as a young girl eager to ...   Read More

Janet M. (Aiken, SC)

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
C W Gortner has written a spellbinding novel about the French Court in the 1500’s. Catherine diMedici is the storyteller but every character is vividly portrayed and developed. The author states that “Catherine lived a complex life in a complex age.”...   Read More

Pamela F. (Grants Pass, OR)

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
Great read! Very easy to get into and a story you don't want to put down. I haven't read much about this period so it was truly interesting. Catherine was a strong woman and was more involved in the history of this country than you think a woman of ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Catherine de Medici

Catherine de Medici was born on April 13, 1519 in Florence, Italy. Her mother, Madeleine de La Tour d'Auvergne, died a few days later either of plague or of syphilis contracted from her husband, Lorenzo II de Medici, Duke of Urbino (a sovereign state in northern Italy), who died from the disease a few weeks later. Madeline and Lorenzo had been married just a year, and Catherine was their only child. Catherine's care fell to her aunt and maternal grandmother, who raised her in the Palazzo Medici.

The House of Medici was a political dynasty that came into prominence in the 14th century. Having acquired great wealth first in the textile trade and later as bankers, the Medici family became the unofficial rulers of the republic of Florence, and ...

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