Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review: Gilt

By Katherine Longshore
Expected publication May 15, 2012 by Viking Juvenile

All their lives, best friends Kitty Tylney and Cat Howard have played at being noblewomen in the court of King Henry VIII. But when they finally find their way to the court, they will realize that it's a much more complicated game than they could have imagined and, if they don't play right, they could lose their heads...

I've been fascinated with Tudor history for a while now and I sincerely love historical fiction. So, clearly, I was thrilled to snag a copy of this at Midwinter. I must admit that, if the story is captivating enough for me, I'm not really a stickler for historical accuracy. Also, I certainly don't consider myself an expert in history, so I find it difficult sometimes to judge the accuracy of any particular novel. That being said, this story did captivate me, though I can't quite put my finger on why. Some reviews I've seen have been particularly harsh on the characters - citing Cat as a horrible person whom they don't want to read about and Kitty as a doormat who simpers and never stands up for herself. But no one seems to be questioning whether these are accurate portrayals of the women. I've only read one other novel about Catherine Howard (incidentally, it was also a young adult book) and she is portrayed radically differently in that one. Well, that's not really accurate. Yes, throughout much of this novel, Cat is terrible to the people she cares about, seemingly only concerned with becoming Queen and having everything she desires (no matter the cost). But, she is a Howard, bred to be power-hungry and thrust into the king's line of sight by her scheming relatives. Let's not forget that she is only a teenager when she arrives at court and begins her romance with the king - how many people would know how to deal with this situation (Kate Middleton perhaps excepted?)? The other novel I've read about Catherine, The King's Rose by Alisa Libby, portrays her in a much more sympathetic light. It makes me curious which is the more accurate portrayal. Additionally, I didn't have much problem with Kitty's character when taken in context - she is a teen girl, essentially cast off by her family and living off the generosity of the dowager duchess. I am not surprised that she believes herself to have very little autonomy over her own life. Yes, I agree that these are not the best characters I've read (and I couldn't help but be annoyed by the trying-too-hard names of Kitty and Cat) but, like I said, the story still captivated me. And I knew how it would end! I wanted to see how Longshore would develop the story - and she provides an author's note at the end to help readers sort fact from fiction. I think this book will appeal to readers of Anna Godbersen's gossipy historical series (The Luxe, Bright Young Things) - it has the same scandalous feel. I do feel a bit put-off by the cover, though, and it may put teens off as well (her nose? really?).

Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

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