The Confessions of Catherine de Medici
Ballantine, May 24 2011, $25.00
In 1589, seventy year old Catherine de Medici looks back on her life as a king maker with sins to confess just like she insists everyone else. When she was ten years old she thought she was a witch as she has her first vision. When she was thirteen, the orphaned Catherine becomes engaged in an arranged marriage to Henri d'Orleans, brother of the ailing heir to the French crown. Although frightened about leaving her safe home in Florence, she journeys to France allegedly to meet her fiancé. Catherine quickly strikes a deal with Henri’s mistress Diane de Poitiers though she loathes the woman who occupies her spouse’s bed more than she does and applies the poison she brought with her discreetly.
Although loathed by her subjects as an outsider, Catherine becomes the power behind the throne when her husband becomes king. After Henri’s death, the widow insures three of her sons in succession sit on the throne. She continues to use her paranormal skills to abet her political acumen and her knowledge of poisons to keep her family on the throne.
Although the audience will have to leave their perceptions of the poison queen at the front cover, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici is an enjoyable work of biographical fiction. Catherine argues that she is no different than everyone else who casts stones at her. Instead she insists she is just a protective mother of her offspring and her country. Although it is difficult to feel empathy to such a ruthless individual especially with her use of poison and her part in the 1572 St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of the Huguenots, C.W. Gortner provides a unique perspective as he enables historical fiction readers to understand the viewpoint of Catherine de Medici.