In my last Sunday Salon post I wrote that I was glad I’d got round to reading The Sixth Wife by Suzannah Dunn and was having difficulty putting it down. However, on reading further on my enthusiasm for this book waned and then crashed down almost to zero. I should know better than to write about a book before I’ve finished reading it. But people often say you can tell if you’re going to like a book after about 50 pages and the first part of this book did grab my attention, so it was all very promising.
My problem with it is that the dialogue is too modern, too colloquial. It’s not that I want ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ and ‘prithree’ this and that, but the conversations in this book come from the 21st century, not the 16th. And although I was fore warned from the description on the back cover that Catherine, the Duchess of Suffolk, Katherine Parr’s “best friend” has her own tale to tell I didn’t expect it to be the main part of the book. The Sixth Wife is not really about Katherine Parr, but about Catherine’s relationship with Thomas Seymour – which Dunn explains in the epilogue is from her own imagination. I don’t expect historical fiction to be a mere recounting of facts, but I do expect it to have some basis in fact, and not be mainly a story of a woman sleeping with her best friend’s husband. This book is more fiction than history and for me it doesn’t compare with, say Phillippa Gregory’s historical fiction for example.
The plus side, however is that reading this book has spurred me on to read more in the period. This list is taken from Wikipedia:
- My Lady Suffolk: A Portrait of Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk by Evelyn Read (1963) ASIN B000JE85OK
- Queen Katherine Parr by Anthony Martienssen, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York 1973
- Women, Reform and Community in Early Modern England: Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, and Lincolnshire’s Godly Aristocracy, 1519-1580: 19 (Studies in Modern British Religious History) by Melissa Franklin Harkrider
- Catherine Parr: Henry VII’s Last Love by Susan James (2008). Gloucestershire: The History Press. ISBN o75244591X