The May Bride by Suzannah Dunn
|The May Bride by Suzannah Dunn|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Not a novel about Lady Jane Seymour's role as a Henry VIII bride, but her relationship with her brother's wife Katherine and the scandal that rocked Tudor England. A pleasingly original take on an infrequently heard topic even though it mentions Wolf Hall rather a lot!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: March 2014|
|Publisher: Little, Brown|
|External links: Author's website|
Dateline approximately 1527: Edward Seymour marries Katherine Filliol and takes her to live with his family at Wolf Hall. The days pass happily as coquettish Katherine proves to be a breath of fresh air for the household of Sir John and Lady Margery. Of all John's Seymour siblings she's drawn to young Jane the most, the two developing a close friendship punctuated by fun and confidences. (Including some of which Jane is too young to understand fully.) However there is one secret that Katherine doesn't confide and that's the secret that will pull the Seymour family apart.
This is the fifth historical fiction novel from British author Suzannah Dunn, a lady of literary acclaim and someone who seems to specialise in the Tudor court. In previous books we've been treated to Anne Boleyn, Katherines Howard and Parr, Mary Tudor and now Jane Seymour, the lass who will eventually die after giving birth to Edward VI. (No – not a spoiler as the book doesn't go that far.)
In previous books Suzannah has twisted her viewpoints in original ways and in The May Bride she does it again. Here Jane Seymour is only our way in to the story and narrator. The tale actually belongs to her oldest brother Edward, his wife Katherine and the scandal that rocked their world.
If you don't know the actual story of Edward and Katherine, don't look it up before reading the novel. It will act as a spoiler and Suzannah's eventual reveal gives it the feel of a so-much-better-written Tudor EastEnders that's well worth the wait. However, before that moment is reached, the author ensures we're adequately occupied.
Susannah's' reputation as a thorough researcher is well founded and demonstrated again here. We accompany Jane from late childhood through the minutiae of what it takes to run a Tudor mansion in general and Wolf Hall (their ancestral seat) in particular. Wolf Hall is mentioned rather a lot by name actually, never letting us forget where we are and tying it in, consciously or inadvertently, with a modern day classic.
Jane has a bit of a she-crush on Katherine, who isn't like anyone else she knows in the staid, stuffy world of gentry. Jane's brothers are serious and becoming politically aware (a trait that will fail them fatally, years after the novel finishes). Her mother is hard working and family-focussed but Katherine? She's fun. Indeed if there's a marmite element to this book it's not the people, it's the previously mentioned minutiae.
Once I realised this wasn't the Jane Seymour novel I was expecting (it stops before Jane and big Hal get amorous) I began to luxuriate in the period feel. While the way that the detail sometimes elbows the story to one side may not be to everyone's taste, it can also be fascinating as we learn of the politics, the tensions haunting every day posh family life and customs that other authors don’t have the space to explore. In a way the enthralling routine makes the scandal's explosion an even greater contrast.
If you don't fancy the sort of novel that seamlessly inserts a paragraph about the consistency of Tudor baked goods, it may not be for you. However, if you want to know how life went on and hear those EastEnders drums signal a well-executed jaw dropper, then look no further – Suzannah delivers.
We'd like to thank Little, Brown for providing us with a copy for review.
Further Reading: If you'd like to hear more about the comings and goings at Wolf Hall, then Hilary Mantel's aforementioned classic.awaits. If you'd like more of Ms Dunn, we can readily recommend The Confession of Katherine Howard.
You can read more book reviews or buy The May Bride by Suzannah Dunn at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy The May Bride by Suzannah Dunn at Amazon.com.
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