The Confession of Katherine Howard - Book of the Month
by Suzannah Dunn
A new novel from Suzannah Dunn is always eagerly anticipated by her many loyal readers and this one, about Henry VIII’s fifth wife, won’t disappoint them.
Katherine Howard was beheaded on the grounds of treason after less than two years of marriage to Henry VIII and she is often portrayed as a naïve girl, tragically out of her depth and a victim of the political machinations of the court. But this Katherine is a sly, sexually-knowing, young woman bent on her own gratification and prepared to sacrifice her friends and lovers to save her own head.
The story is told from the point of view of one of the members of her household, CatherynTilney. Although there is scarce evidence for it, Dunn makes Cat (as she is called) a close friend of Katherine and shows her fatally implicated in her downfall. This works brilliantly: not only do we see the queen from the unusual perspective of this enthralled ingénue but the narrative has the freshness and charm of a young girl’s voice and view of the world. The girls first meet when they are wards of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk and the account of Katherine’s final days as queen is interspersed with flashbacks to that time of adolescent exploration and sexual awakening. Their romantic exploits become the basis for the accusations against Katherine, give the lie to her subsequent ‘confession’ and set the scene for the tragic betrayals that seal their fates.
Suzannah Dunn’s great talent is brought to bear in the realisation, as if it were yesterday, of the world of the Tudor court. She avoids the conventions and clichés of received historical knowledge and, with great skill, imagines the feelings and conversations of her characters, thereby creating living, breathing people.
Read our interview with Suzannah Dunn.