Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Catherine de' Medici

If you are only interested in cooking, sorry, guys, I have a smashing cake recipe coming up later on this week, but it's just a quickie today and you will have to anticipate in mystery a little longer.

I'm reading a new book that I have sort of dual conflicting feelings towards (ha! I'm a Gemini!). It's called Catherine de Medici, Renaissance Queen of France by Leonie Frieda. It's a wonderful book, really fast paced and dynamic and well written. I can tell that the author did a great deal of research -- it shows in a great many ways, in small details such as the cost of Catherine's jewels upon her marriage and the clothes she wore to the coronation, the tender letters to her daughter and the complex portrayal of relationships. All the brilliant personages of 16th century France make their mark in the pages of this book, and they are alive, oh so alive! Much is explained, many myths de-mystified. Believe it or not, I had gone through at least 150 pages before I could put the book down.

But the more I read, the more I feel like there is too much indulgence, that the biographer has done the unforgivable and fallen ever so slightly in love with her subject. It's an understandable thing. Catherine was an entirely fascinating woman, brave and tenacious in the face of many disasters, loving and loyal to her children. In common parlance, girlfriend was a fighter. It's easy to ascribe the highest motives to someone like that, it's easy to say she loved France with all her heart and did what she did for the country. It's easy to say that circumstances were such, and there was no other choice, and she was left in an untenable situation by her spendthrift jerk of a husband, and I get it. However, what emerges despite the indulgence is that she did what she did to survive, to simply survive, and she liked power and wished greatly to keep it for herself and for her children. Which is not a thing to disprespect, but I can't just brush aside all the bad decisions as easily as Leonie Frieda does in her book. We all know the thing about "good intentions."

I would highly recommend this book. There is a multifaceted portrait here to be discovered, and it's just damn good reading. What's next on my list? Peter the Great, and just wait until I get to the Tudors (mwahahaha). :)

1 comment:

Peg said...

Sounds like my kind of book! I'll interlibrary loan it today when I get to work.

Thanks for the suggestion, Irene -- and for the recipe.