Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On the Bookshelf—Review of Gilt

Gilt by Katherine Longshore
YA, historical fiction

This book is published today!

15-year-old Kitty Tilney works for the Duchess of Norfolk, one of hundreds of distant relatives living at Norfolk House, hoping to make connections and get into the court of King Henry VIII or make a successful marriage. In this world everything depends on who you know or who you are pretty enough to catch the eye of. But Kitty is neither of these things; she is without connections, plain, and her only talent is making lace. Until her best friend Cat—Catherine Howard—wins the heart of the king. Now Kitty gets to join the royal court as the Queen's chamberer. But life at court is not all that Kitty and Cat dreamed it would be when they played as children. There is always someone watching, there is always a secret to keep, and rumors can get you killed. Whether or not your head stays on your neck depends on how well you can hide behind your gilt facade. Kitty must decide who to trust and who to put her loyalty in.

This was an enjoyable, engaging book. While I'm familiar with Henry the Eighth and his many wives, I haven't read much historical fiction from this period. I didn't know a lot about Catherine Howard, and it was fun to be immersed in all those period details I wasn't familiar with—all those snoods and gables and kirtles. And of course, the codpieces.

The relationship between the manipulative Cat and the backbone-lacking Kitty is fairly transparent and has been done before, but then, this is for teenagers. There were occasional moments (like reactions to a rape) that seemed out of keeping with the times, bordering a bit too much on a modern woman's perspective. But despite a couple flaws, I found myself willing to sit for a few hours to engross myself in the novel, and once I finished reading it I continued to think about it.

What I appreciated about this book is that for a YA novel targeted at girls, the protagonist's romance was really downplayed. There are a couple strapping young men Kitty gets involved with, and drama ensues, but whether or not she ends up married is not in any way the main focus of the novel, and nor do her romantic interests play a role in the climax of the story. While I like a good romance as much as the next person (don't you know it!), it's refreshing to read fiction for young women that doesn't hinge on whether or not the gal gets the guy.

Gilt is nothing special, but if you have an interest in historical fiction or YA you could certainly do worse than read this book. Thanks to Gilt, I'm going to try other historical novels from this time period, and I'll be interested to see what more comes from Longshore. I've heard hints this might be a series.

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