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Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman

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LCW
Compulsive Reader
Location: Southern California

Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman

Postby LCW » Tue August 26th, 2008, 5:42 pm

This is the second book in Penman's trilogy on Henry fitz Empress and Eleanor of Aquitaine. It covers the early passion filled years of their marriage through the "cool off" period when Henry takes up with his long time mistress Rosamund Clifford. The whole Thomas Becket affair is also depicted here.

I loved the portrayal of Henry and Eleanor. I stayed up way to late for quite a few nights as I just couldn't pull my nose out of this book. The passion between them was palpable!! And the scene where they meet for the first time after Eleanor found out about Henry's adultery with Rosamun was just crackling with tension and the unspoken emotions between Henry and Eleanor. It was really brilliant!

The focus on the relationship between Henry and Thomas Becket was initially almost as interesting but quickly got boring and I found myself skipping a few pages to get to "the end" of that. Penman takes Henry's perspective in this novel and gives the reader and excellent glimpse into his mind and how he never fully understood the 180 Becket did after he became the Archbishop. His feelings of bewilderment, betrayal, and hurt were evident. However, because of the focus on Henry's perspective, this does leave Becket as somewhat of a mystery to the reader. While I didn't really mind it so much, I understand how it could be frustrating to some.

We are also given a glimpse into the early childhood of King John. I thought it was interesting how he was portrayed as a neglected child and Penman was layng the ground work and attempting to explain some of the reasons he turned into such a villain in history.

I would highly recommend this novel, even though it's not my favorite Penman, it is still a wonderful read.

4.5/5 stars
Last edited by LCW on Tue August 26th, 2008, 5:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue August 26th, 2008, 6:17 pm

The Becket thread was a bore for me too. Maybe I'll rent the 1964 movie and watch it again, as I only have the vaguest memory of what went on.

Even though Becket was presented from Henry's POV, I still didn't feel that SKP was up to her usual standard. Henry must have had some idea as to what motivated Becket, even if it was a wrong one. I'm only 2/3s through the book now, so I don't know if some theory is ever presented, but so far, all I get is the blow-by-blow of the details and that the king is immensely frustrated.

Looking at the details, Becket's behavior doesn't make sense to the modern reader, either. It appears that his only purpose was to be as contrary as possible and to bolster up everything that was corrupt and capricious about the medieval church structure.

As somebody who has worked with drug/alcohol rehabilitation, I am familiar with 180-degree turnarounds, so I tried to apply my experience of human nature to the bare-bones details about Becket. The only thing that would make sense is if the greater half of Becket's story has been left out -- some major soul-searching conversion on Becket's part -- and then the exterior trappings of the religious zeitgeist of his day were confused with the rest of the package, the dross mixed with the gold, something immature believers do all the time.

But to verify that picture, other details would have to be present: some obviously rotten facet of Becket's behavior changing to something obviously virtuous, and then the passion that drove that getting mis-applied to church stupidities. The one thing that history does make plain is that Becket was willing to sacrifice everything for whatever principle changed him. It just doesn't seem that protecting rapists and murderers from justice can stand on its own as something worth dying for.
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Misfit
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Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Tue August 26th, 2008, 9:00 pm

I've just never been able to grasp how and why Becket became a saint -- no matter what ultimately happened to him (martydom) it seems to this lay person that he brought some of it on himself.

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LCW
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Location: Southern California

Postby LCW » Tue August 26th, 2008, 9:15 pm

"MLE" wrote:I'm only 2/3s through the book now, so I don't know if some theory is ever presented, but so far, all I get is the blow-by-blow of the details and that the king is immensely frustrated.



Nope, there never really is a good explanation for Becket's behavior. Henry remains mystefied by it until the end. I think this is really the main weakness in the novel. I get the whole "Henry's perspective thing" but I don't think it was very effective. Towards the end my eyes sort of glassed over whenever the book focused on Becket. I was so enthralled by Henry and Eleanor though so that's why I probably didn't really even care about Becket that much, to be honest.

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Susan
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Location: New Jersey, USA

Postby Susan » Tue August 26th, 2008, 9:17 pm

"Misfit" wrote:I've just never been able to grasp how and why Becket became a saint -- no matter what ultimately happened to him (martydom) it seems to this lay person that he brought some of it on himself.


I think Becket's canonization was partially due to the widespread veneration of Becket as a martyr throughout Europe. The masses made him their saint and the pope officially made him a saint three years later.

I visited Canterbury Cathedral in March and was quite interested in seeing where Becket was killed. This is a photo of the altar that marks the site.

Image
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LCW
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Location: Southern California

Postby LCW » Tue August 26th, 2008, 9:18 pm

"Misfit" wrote:I've just never been able to grasp how and why Becket became a saint -- no matter what ultimately happened to him (martydom) it seems to this lay person that he brought some of it on himself.


Plus the way he died was so gruesome that it probably inspired lots of sympathy for him. That probably started the initial spark of the whole idea of his sainthood, IMO. And people were made into saints for all sorts of absurd reasons! Lots of "miracles" attributed to their corpses, etc. I guess that's what happened to him too.

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Tanzanite
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Postby Tanzanite » Wed September 3rd, 2008, 2:39 am

I just finished reading this. I agree about the sections related to Becket - especially towards the end. That part was rather boring. I loved the relationship between Henry and Eleanor though and thought it was the best characterization of it that I've read so far. Overall, I liked the book, but I don't think it's in the same class as Here Be Dragons or The Reckoning.

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EC2
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Postby EC2 » Wed September 3rd, 2008, 12:40 pm

It's not my favourite Penman either - mainly down to Becket and how his character never really came to life in the author's hands. It's a while since I've read it and I've no real desire to read it again - but I wonder if Becket's viewpoint and motivation is missing? I seem to recall being told about what he'd done but it was as if I was an observer in a passing tourist coach and the person at the mike was just relaying eye-glazing details that they themselves were not passionate about.
I think that Becket liked power and that he was obsessive. I think that being made Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church gave him his own arena in which to perform. Hey, Henry was the King and the secular head of England, but being made AB of C turned Becket into head of the Church in England and not answerable to Henry for his wages, but to God. And since God trumps the King, Becket had the superior boss and was answerable only to HIM.
I am afraid that on another list to which I belong, Becket is known as 'Ole Wormy.' This is because when his garments were removed after death, his nether garments were crawling with maggots. Said garments were used to dunk in water and then 'Essence of Becket' was sold to the pilgrims at great profit to Canterbury...
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

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Ash
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Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Wed September 3rd, 2008, 1:43 pm

I'm in agreement here; I loved the whole book, except for the last section. It just was too repetitious, with Becket disappointing Henry again and again. Ok, we get it. I do agree that Becket probably enjoyed the power he had and it went to his head. Before reading this I assumed he was a great man. After reading this I really did question his sainthood. But I agree - the way he died, and that he possibly did so at the bequest of the king, probably did much to get the church to make him a saint.

I am sooo eager to get Devil's Brood in my hot little hands!

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Postby Carla » Wed September 3rd, 2008, 4:09 pm

"EC2" wrote:It's not my favourite Penman either - mainly down to Becket and how his character never really came to life in the author's hands. It's a while since I've read it and I've no real desire to read it again - but I wonder if Becket's viewpoint and motivation is missing? I seem to recall being told about what he'd done but it was as if I was an observer in a passing tourist coach and the person at the mike was just relaying eye-glazing details that they themselves were not passionate about.
I think that Becket liked power and that he was obsessive. I think that being made Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church gave him his own arena in which to perform. Hey, Henry was the King and the secular head of England, but being made AB of C turned Becket into head of the Church in England and not answerable to Henry for his wages, but to God. And since God trumps the King, Becket had the superior boss and was answerable only to HIM.
I am afraid that on another list to which I belong, Becket is known as 'Ole Wormy.' This is because when his garments were removed after death, his nether garments were crawling with maggots. Said garments were used to dunk in water and then 'Essence of Becket' was sold to the pilgrims at great profit to Canterbury...


Yuk :-) It's funny how appalling personal hygiene was regarded as admirable and a characteristic of sainthood. Mortifying the flesh and all that, I suppose.

I think you're spot on that Becket's viewpoint and motivation were missing from the novel - certainly I didn't get a clear idea when I read it. Which was a bit disappointing, because I've always been puzzled by Becket's volte face and wanted to understand it. You may well be right that his appointment as Archbishop suddenly gave him a power base of his own and the opportunity to throw his weight around. Empress Maud warned Henry in a letter not to appoint Becket - one case where Henry really should have taken his mother's advice!
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