This historical novel is the sequel to 2017’s ‘Katharina: Deliverance’, and it is a worthy end to Katie Luther’s fascinating life story. ‘Fortitude’ picks up where the first book leaves off, at Martin and Katharina’s wedding in June 1525. It then leads the reader through the next 27 years, up until Katharina’s death in December 1552.
As with the prequel, the storytelling is compelling, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The years of the Luther marriage were ones of great challenge and development for the Reformation, and this story offers a fascinating insight into the household at the heart of it. As readers, we share in Katharina’s struggles to be accepted as Luther’s wife, and the work she put in to making the ‘Lutherhaus’ welcome to all of Martin’s friends, students and supporters, not least in helping to establish the famous ‘Table Talk’ evenings.
However, this is not a fairytale, and so the details of everyday life in the sixteenth century are evoked in all their messiness and heartbreak. Friends move away, and you may never see them again. Children die far too young, and it’s devastating. Travelling accidents happen, and you may never recover. This atmosphere underpins the religious-political tumult which is once again captivatingly drawn here, as it was in the earlier novel.
Readers may remember that my main criticism of ‘Deliverance’ was the framing device used, which was set in 1552. This device is also used in ‘Fortitude’, to far better effect. As one is introduced to the Luther household, and begin to better understand the context of the flashforward, it offers a poignant portend of things to come.
Of ‘Fortitude’, my only critique is perhaps more subjective. In ‘Deliverance’, I particularly warmed to Katharina because she struggled with theology for herself. She sought to personally understand the Reformation’s teachings before she accepted them. In this, she felt real. In the sequel, as her time is taken over by more practical concerns, she is no longer described in this way, for all that she is fully involved in all that goes on in their home. As a reader, I found this change a little saddening, although it may well be believable, at least to an extent.
Taken as a whole, this book is a welcome conclusion to Martin and Katie Luther’s story, and if you enjoy historical fiction, you must read it. You’ll gain a new perspective on the Reformation, and perhaps understand better the obstacles these faithful Christians faced to gain many privileges we now take for granted.
This book is available to purchase from all good bookshops, including Waterstones.
Miriam Montgomery, Free Church Books