THE PLOT: ‘Katharine Parr: The Sixth Wife’ is the final book in the ‘Six Tudor Queens’ series by Alison Weir. Starting with her father’s death at five years old, it follows Katharine’s move from London to an idyllic childhood at Rye House with her cousins. Given an education on par with her male relations, she is painted as an educated and dutiful child yet she struggles with her faith as she believes all men and women should have freedom to read and write. At sixteen, she marries her first husband, Edward Burgh, and later goes onto marry Lord Latimer before catching the eye of King Henry VIII…
RATING: This book cemented my four-star rating for the whole series. I loved learning about Katharine’s upbringing and how that led to her protestant beliefs, which she nurtured in spite of such religious division in her family and in the country. In particular, the most fascinating parts of the novel were about her relationship with Thomas Seymour and wardship of Elizabeth after Henry’s death. My image of Katharine Parr was as a sensible, level-headed woman and this book makes her feel realistic and relatable. Katharine Parr was the first female to have a book published in English with her name as the author, and this book is a great testament to her love of learning.
GOOD BITS: Katharine lived a long and varied life yet Weir translates this into a sharp, pacy plot. Given she’s on her 2nd marriage by chapter eight, Weir does a great job of moving the story along to fit everything in. I particularly enjoyed the later chapters about Katharine’s life after Henry, as I feared that we might not get as much detail as I wanted. I’m happy to report that it was covered fantastically and was probably the juiciest part of the story.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: Although I think Weir develops as a novelist and becomes less detail-oriented and stronger on plot with each book, this wasn’t my favourite in the series. I can’t put my finger on it but I think it’s because Katharine is quite a sensible figure for the first half so there’s not much drama. This is definitely a taste thing because I love reading about a reckless woman, which is probably why I enjoyed the latter chapters the most.
OVERALL: I loved this series and I’m sad that it’s over. I feel like Weir did a great job of bringing each queen to life and telling their story, independently of their relationship with Henry VIII. You’ll want to pick up this series if you’re a fan of Hilary Mantel or Philippa Gregory.
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