I obtained a copy of this book as a gift and I freely review it to share my opinion with other readers.
I’ve been reading several books about the Tudors, Anne Boleyn in particular, recently, and I’ve always been intrigued by Queen Katherine (perhaps because I’m Spanish, but also because of what she went through and her family connections) and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read this book.
This novel chronicles the early years of Katherine of Aragon, daughter of Queen Elizabeth I of Castile and Queen Ferdinand of Aragon (who became known as The Catholic King and Queen), from age five up to the point where she sets off towards England, to become the wife of Arthur, then heir to the throne of England. The story is told from the point of view of Beatriz Galindo, who was called La Latina because she was reputed for her knowledge of Latin, and the Queen chose her as the instructor for her daughters (Katherine in particular) and as a personal friend. The historical figure of Beatriz Galindo is as interesting as those of the members of the royal family, and the author manages to bring them all to life, turning them into human beings, with their loves, their hatreds and pettiness, their opinions (that we might on not agree with), and their losses that are many and very personal ones.
It is a fascinating historical period in Spain, with the joining of the two crowns, the battles to conquer territory from the moors, and later the first expeditions of Christopher Columbus to America. By using Beatriz, a learned woman with her own mind and feelings, but close enough to the action, we get to share in the events but we are also provided with sufficient distance to be able to make our own minds up and to speculate. We might have liked to know why certain characters did certain things, but other than when they talk directly to Beatriz, we can only speculate about it or take notice of other’s opinions.
Although told from the point of view of Beatriz, the novel is written in the third person, and the writing is fluid and beautiful, with great descriptions not only of places and events (including those of battles or bullfighting) but also of characters and behaviours, including not only those they engage in but also those expected of the royal family, no matter what the circumstances. (You might be hurting inside, but you must remember who you are. You might be frightened but nobody should know.) The position of women in the historical period, both royals and not, is often subject to reflection and comes to the fore in the events that unfold and in the difficult relationship between the King and the Queen. There are also scenes that make us ponder religious wars and prejudice. There are sad moments and moments of joy and learning. We get a good sense of Katherine’s childhood, upbringing and her circumstances and gain a good picture of her as a girl and an infanta.
I enjoyed the writing, the story, that is fascinating, and particularly the relationship between all the women in the book, Queen Isabel with her daughters, with Beatriz and her friends, and also that of Katherine with María, her companion, destined to remain with her once she goes to England. Some historical figures come out of it better than others and I recommend this book to anybody keen on learning more about Katherine of Aragon and the historical period, particularly the court of Spain at the time.
One word of warning: there is some violence (not graphically described), and also a sex scene, that is not the most graphic I’ve read, but it’s not behind closed doors either.