All Manner of Things: A Review

All Manner of Things: A Review

Wendy Dunn is an Australian author who, up til now, has focused on the Tudor era. (I say up til now because I know she has other stories bubbling away and I am DESPERATE to read them. Hint, hint!) Wendy has felt a lifelong affinity with Anne Boleyn. Her first two books, Dear Heart, How Like You This?, and The Light in the Labyrinth, told Anne’s story. But it was told from the point of view of those who loved her, Thomas Wyatt, and her niece, Kate Carey. Her new series, beginning with Falling Pomegranate Seeds, takes the same approach with Katherine of Aragon.

All Manner of Things is the second, concluding book about Katherine, Henry VIII’s first wife. It picks up where Falling Pomegranate Seeds ends, with teenage Catalina of Aragon’s arrival in England. She is there to marry Prince Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII.

As with her earlier books, Dunn takes a familiar story and renders it fresh by presenting it from a different perspective. In this case, Katherine’s story is told by her lifelong friend and companion, Maria de Salinas. Maria is as accomplished as her dear friend. She is a scholar and medical practitioner, and a woman of great intelligence, which shines through in her account of all manner of things.

Active, Relatable Characters

Maria has grown up with Katherine and remains beside her through all the events of her life. She sees her friend’s great love for her young husband Arthur, and the great happiness of the young couple. She supports her friend through the bleak years of waiting as Henry VII uses Katherine as a pawn after Arthur’s early death. Finally Katherine marries Arthur’s younger brother Henry. But Maria observes the early years of glory and love turning to dust when Henry becomes king. His increasing obsession with fathering a son leads to the downfall of many.

None of this is to say that Katherine or Maria are passive women as the events of history happen to them. Katherine is an incredibly strong woman of faith, endurance and dignity. She has been raised to be a queen, and always behaves as one, no matter what. Maria de Salinas is educated, dedicated and passionate. Yet Katherine struggles with doubts and dark shadows. Her fear that she has inadvertently caused a man’s death haunts her throughout her life. Maria also battles her shadow side. For many years she fights against her passionate love for a man she should not have feelings for.

All Manner of Things

Writing historical fiction requires the ability to offer not only convincing details, but the flavour of the time. Dunn does this beautifully. All Manner of Things transports the reader to Tudor castles and concerns. Dunn’s writing uses a more archaic style, which doesn’t fit with modern expectations. But this style adds, along with her extensive research, to a deeply real sense of time and place. The story is filled with evocative description. You can almost taste the food and feel the rushes under your feet. It’s also fun to play ‘spot the historical character’ as figures appear on the sidelines who have a larger role to play in the story we are familiar with.

What Wendy Dunn does so well is create stories with a lot of heart. Relationships are at the core of this retelling: from passionate love to deep, abiding friendship. The result is that the known events of history are brought to life in a meaningful way, with emotional depth and believability.

Comments are closed.