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Publisher's Summary

New York Times best-selling author Alison Weir is renowned around the world for her chronicles of Britain's royal families. Here she turns her focus to the enigmatic former mistress of John of Gaunt, Katherine Swynford, who would go on to marry her lover and become Queen of England. Through Weir's captivating prose, listeners are treated to a rousing profile of a dynamic historical figure.
©2007 Alison Weir; (P)2007 Recorded Books LLC

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Average Customer Ratings

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  • Kathryn
  • Salem, MO, United States
  • 01-10-12

Loaded with facts.

Over all this is a good book. It is loaded with facts. It does bog down with a minutiae of dates and spellings at times, which does detract from the story. It is a book that is better read than listened to.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Alexis
  • OAKLAND, CA, United States
  • 02-02-09

Too much detail, not enough person

I thoroughly agree with this author's love for the book "Katherine" and I was hoping to find out a lot more about Katherine Swynford from this bio.

Sadly, I was unable to stick it out for the entire book, as I soon became bogged down in the mind numbing details such as the origin of her last name, which seems to go on for many pages, or endless review of her genealogy. A little of this is fascinating, a lot is very distancing, there was no sense of the actual person behind all of those facts.

I may go back again and try to make it all the way through, I do admire the writer for doing all of that research.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Amy
  • Harrisburg, PA, United States
  • 09-30-13

Misnamed

What would have made Katherine Swynford better?

I struggled to finish the book, which should have been entitled "John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford: Their times and the buildings they inhabited." If you were to delete all of the detailed descriptions of the architecture of the buildings associated with them, and the words "may have" could have," might possibly have," and similar words of speculation about Katherine, it would be a very short book. No matter how much someone may want to write a biography of a historical figure, if almost nothing is known about her, it is inappropriate to categorize a book about the people close to her, and buildings and events of the period in which she lived, as a biography of her. Very disappointing.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • J
  • 02-10-16

Filled the gaps on the beginnings of the Beauforts

I absolutely loved this novel. I always had assumed that the Cousins War was a manifestation of the two siblings of John of Gaunt and his youngest brother the Edmund of Langley Duke of York, descendants warring against each other. To find out that Anne Mortimer was linchpin between the two brothers that gave Cecily Neville the self righteousness that she wore is absolutely wonderful. To see that they all came from the same place with very little to distinguish them other than which side of the country.

I find it extremely amusing that Warwick would call himself the kingmaker, when in reality and historically it has been John of Gaunt and his beloved mistress Katherine that truly were the kingmakers.

Alison Weir is an exceptional talent and the production of this book was quite enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed the narrator's inflection when she was reading things as if she found a naughty passage of notes between lovers. Exceptionally fun but very well thought out and laid out.

The beginning started a little slow with giving the origin story of Katherines humble beginnings. However it picks up speed once that John of Gaunt reaches adolescence and married his first wife Blanche of Lancaster. Excellent work Ms. Alison Weir! I highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in understanding the feudal world in the Hundred Years War.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Lawrence
  • Scotts Valley, CA, United States
  • 07-07-09

boooring

I can read some pretty stultifying history-- I eat Gibbon for breakfast-- but this book takes the gold medal. Do I really need to know where John of Gaunt was between August and September of 1369; given that we have NO IDEA what he did there? Or what the (spurious) modern-day value of every single payment made to Chaucer's wife is? The book amounts to a raw distillation of every fact and detail that can be found in the archives on Katherine, her husband, in-laws and children. The fact is, Katherine left behind very little biographical data, but instead of telling us about the interesting events of her more well-documented contemporaries and descendants, we are subjected to every iota of extant information about this obscure personage. I'm sure the source material would make much more exciting reading!

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

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NOT a Novel

What would have made Katherine Swynford better?

Should have been written more as a novel rather than a text book.

Has Katherine Swynford turned you off from other books in this genre?

No

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment

Any additional comments?

While Allison Weir has an excellent and relatively historically accurate depiction of Katherine Swynford, I wish she would combine her talents with that of Anya Seton who spins an excellent tale with some (but not much) regard to historical accuracy.

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very good read

very much enjoyed this book. I find the subject matter very interesting and the narration was superb

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Breathy Narration of Insubstantial "Biography"

Disclosure: I have enjoyed and learned from Alison Weir's biographies and novels for almost two decades. My disappointment in this book therefore shocks me. Review: Katherine Swynford was John of Gaunt's mistress for many years. Some time after his wife died, they wed. Sorry, gentle readers, I have just revealed most of the facts about Katherine Swynford to be gleaned from this book. Weir admits in her introduction that little is known about Swynford, but asserts that she was a power player who did not conform to the norms of her time. I fought to stay awake through the gasping, arch narration in hopes that Weir would work her scholarly magic and bring Katherine to life. She did not. The basic premise of the book is flawed. Also, the narrator's British tea time accent clashes with her breathy voice and cloying timbre.Why award this book any stars? Weir tries hard, and demonstrates impeccable grammar. If that interests you, listen to this book by all means. I am requesting a refund.

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unexpected

i was expecting another historical fiction, but this book is more of a research paper with sources and speculation and assumptions. it is well done, well read, and enjoyable: though it is most definitely not like the other allison weir books ive read.

worth a listen if youre interested in facts, places, events and general history.

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  • Nora
  • Pocatello, ID, United States
  • 11-19-14

A Great Disappointment from a great writer.

Would you try another book from Alison Weir and/or Judith Boyd?

I have always enjoyed Alison Weir's books not this one. This book managed to make great material into a very boring.

Has Katherine Swynford turned you off from other books in this genre?

No, I enjoy this genre

Which scene was your favorite?

None I am afraid

Do you think Katherine Swynford needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

It needs a new book or a complete rewrite. I wanted to earn about Swynford not detailed lists of property holdings by her and John of Gaunt.

Any additional comments?

I an saddened by hours of property descriptions filling space instead of the fine writing and research I had come to expect from author Weir.

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  • Barbara
  • 07-20-11

A great book if you like historical detail

I am a little surprised by the negative reviews for this book. It is my 3rd Alison Weir and I liked it immensely. It was rich in detail but never boring. I was fascinated by the unfolding relationship between Katherine and John. It also filled many holes in my knowledge about John of Gaunt; my main impression being based on the Shakespeare speech in Richard II about this sceptered isle. I enjoyed it so much, I am going to spend my next credit on Isabella, she-wolf of France. I also liked the reader, who did not rush it - so I was able to absorb the details and get a fuller picture.

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