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Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman

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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) » Thu September 4th, 2008, 4:23 pm

Hey, the whole thread is back! How did somebody get that to happen? Can we do that with other threads?

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diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

Postby diamondlil » Thu September 4th, 2008, 8:47 pm

Not sure what you mean. Do you mean from the other site?
My Blog - Reading Adventures

All things Historical Fiction - Historical Tapestry


There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.

Edith Wharton

User avatar
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) » Thu September 4th, 2008, 11:07 pm

yes. Look at the dates! And my post earlier was made on the old site. I never moved it.

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JaneConsumer
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Postby JaneConsumer » Fri September 5th, 2008, 12:57 am

Cool photo, Susan. Thanks for sharing it!

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Rowan
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Interest in HF: I love history, but it's boring in school. Historical fiction brings it alive for me.
Preferred HF: Iron-Age Britain, Roman Britain, Medieval Britain
Location: New Orleans
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Postby Rowan » Mon September 8th, 2008, 5:00 pm

Firstly, I agree that that photo is phenominal. That's a very interesting cross on the wall... It drew my eye above all else.

Secondly, I partly agree with what's been said regarding Becket and Henry. I did think that SKP went a bit overboard prolonging the disagreement between the two men, but I don't have a problem with not knowing what Becket's motivation was. After all, the book is about Henry, not about Becket. If I want to know why Becket did what he did, I'd expect to find that in a book about him. But that's just me.

Thirdly, I, too, enjoyed the sparks that fly between Henry and Eleanor, both passionate and decidedly unpassionate. I wanted to kick his rear for taking the mistress.

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Miss Moppet
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Location: North London
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My review

Postby Miss Moppet » Tue October 12th, 2010, 12:24 am

Thomas Becket’s martyrdom is the climactic event to which much of Time and Chance, sequel to When Christ and His Saints Slept, leads up. Sharon Kay Penman is known for her fidelity to the historical record, and while this has won her an appreciative international audience, it is an approach that brings its own difficulties. The murder of Becket was a turning point in English history, one of the most dramatic events of the Middle Ages. The trail of events which caused it amount to an ongoing squabble between Church and Crown, frequently petty, episodic, rambling and full of arcane legal and theological detail. It’s very hard to make compelling fiction out of this kind of material and so it’s understandable that Time and Chance doesn’t always succeed.

While the Becket thread didn’t quite work for me – it didn’t have the read-on factor and didn’t leave me with a better understanding of the beleaguered Archbishop, since none of the story is told from his point of view – I was delighted to meet Henry and Eleanor again. I love Sharon’s Eleanor and I can’t imagine a better depiction of a royal marriage where passion and politics combine. It certainly provided a refreshing contrast to the stilted, implausible sex-fest that was Alison Weir’s The Captive Queen.

The fictional couple from When Christ and His Saints Slept, Ranulf and Rhiannon, make a return, and Ranulf, an illegitimate son of Henry I by a Welsh mistress married to a Welshwoman and living in Wales, finds himself caught in the middle when his nephew Henry II makes war on Wales. The Welsh court is vividly drawn, especially the heir to the throne, the sociable and musical Hywel and his deadly enemy, glamorous royal mistress Cristyn (bastards could inherit in Wales so her sons have a chance to rule), so that as in When Christ and His Saints Slept, the reader’s sympathies are pulled both ways.

You also get a good sense of how much energy was required to rule a kingdom of the Middle Ages: Henry and Eleanor are perpetually on the move around their empire, and while I had thought of this period of Henry’s reign (1156-1170) as an interlude between civil war, in fact he was constantly putting out fires in the form of risings and rebellions in one corner or another of his vast domains. One of my favourite scenes was Henry’s attempted invasion of Wales, which had to be called off due to weather which was, to say the least, inclement. In fact, this section put me in mind of the attempt of the Fellowship of the Ring to cross the Misty Mountains, thwarted by heavy snow and the ill will of the mountain Caradhras.

For the rest of his days, Henry was to refer to the squall upon the Berwyns with the very worst of the obscenities he had at his considerable command. Never had he encountered a storm so savage, or so long-lasting. Ironically, the English would have fared better had they still been down in the Ceiriog Forest they’d been so eager to leave behind. Here, upon the unsheltered moors, they were at the mercy of the elements. Fires could not be set as kindling was saturated, the ground soaked. The only food available was what could be eaten uncooked or raw and men were soon sickening, stricken by chills, fever and the feared bloody flux. Henry was far less superstitious than most of his contemporaries, with a sceptical streak that few besides Eleanor either understood or appreciated. But even he began to wonder if such foul weather could be dismissed as mere happenchance.

When the rain finally eased two days later, the English army resumed its march, only to discover that the mountain road was washed away in places, the streams swollen with run-off water, and the moorlands pitted with newly formed bogs. Still, they pressed on, driven by the sheer force of Henry’s implacable will. By now some of the ailing men had begun to die. They were buried with indecent haste, left to moulder in an alien, hostile land, and the army straggled on. They had a new concern now – their dwindling supplies – for some of their provisions had been lost or ruined during the storm. But when a hunting party was sent to search for game, it did not return. Hungry and dispirited, the soldiers trudged on, cursing the Welsh aloud and Henry under their breaths.

They were higher up now, and the air held a surprising chill for August. Henry had dismounted and was wrapping a blindfold around his stallion’s eyes, for there was a narrow stretch of road ahead and English horses were not as accustomed to these heights as the surefooted animals the Welsh rode. The wind still pursued them, shrieking at night like the souls of the damned, chasing away sleep and catching their words mid-sentence so that men had to shout to make themselves heard. Now a sudden gust ripped the blindfold from Henry’s hand and sent it flying. He was turning to get another strip of cloth when the screams began.


While not the strongest entry in the trilogy, Time and Chance is a must-read for fans of Henry and Eleanor and for anyone fascinated by the turbulent twelfth century.

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Michy
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Location: California

Postby Michy » Tue October 12th, 2010, 1:53 am

Moppet -- enjoyed your review; as always, you articulate your viewpoints so well. I read through the whole thread and it sounds as though everyone feels pretty much the same way about this book. So if I ever decide to give SKP another try, I don't think I'll start with this one. :)



"MLE" wrote: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.


"LCW" wrote: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've never really been puzzled by Becket's 180 -- although I'm certainly no scholar, so my theory could be full of holes. :) I think that besides being ambitious in his own way, and liking power as EC suggests, I think he was also what we would call today a "company man"; that is, he was totally and blindly loyal and extremely committed to the boss/company above any individual or personal relationship. He took his position (whatever it was) very seriously, and was probably also driven and obsessive, as EC suggests. When he was Henry's chancellor, his whole loyalty was to the crown. Henry totally mistook this for personal friendship and loyalty to himself, and thought that by making Becket A of C, he would have the Archbishopric in his back pocket. However, in his new position Becket transferred all of his blind loyalty, drive and obsession to the new "company" (the church) and his new "boss" (the pope). Too late, Henry realized his mistake. He probably never really understood Becket's behavior because he was wired so completely differently.

"EC2" wrote: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...


This is the part that is hard for me to comprehend. I had always heard about the hair shirt, but maggots??!! :eek: :eek: :eek:

The only explanation that even makes a little sense to me is that in the 12c mindset, this was earning BIG-time points in the afterlife. Perhaps similar to what drove Japanese kamikazis and what motivates today's suicide bombers??

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Miss Moppet
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Postby Miss Moppet » Tue October 12th, 2010, 10:09 pm

"Michy" wrote:Moppet -- enjoyed your review; as always, you articulate your viewpoints so well. I read through the whole thread and it sounds as though everyone feels pretty much the same way about this book. So if I ever decide to give SKP another try, I don't think I'll start with this one. :)


Thanks Michy! No, I wouldn't recommend starting with this one. Which of the other books did you try?

Michy wrote:I've never really been puzzled by Becket's 180 -- although I'm certainly no scholar, so my theory could be full of holes. :) I think that besides being ambitious in his own way, and liking power as EC suggests, I think he was also what we would call today a "company man"; that is, he was totally and blindly loyal and extremely committed to the boss/company above any individual or personal relationship. He took his position (whatever it was) very seriously, and was probably also driven and obsessive, as EC suggests. When he was Henry's chancellor, his whole loyalty was to the crown. Henry totally mistook this for personal friendship and loyalty to himself, and thought that by making Becket A of C, he would have the Archbishopric in his back pocket. However, in his new position Becket transferred all of his blind loyalty, drive and obsession to the new "company" (the church) and his new "boss" (the pope). Too late, Henry realized his mistake. He probably never really understood Becket's behavior because he was wired so completely differently.


Yes, that makes sense.

Michy wrote:This is the part that is hard for me to comprehend. I had always heard about the hair shirt, but maggots??!! :eek: :eek: :eek:

The only explanation that even makes a little sense to me is that in the 12c mindset, this was earning BIG-time points in the afterlife. Perhaps similar to what drove Japanese kamikazis and what motivates today's suicide bombers??


Yes, and I think that mindset is so alien to most of us, living in a very secular society, that it makes Becket that much harder to understand. As he gained wealth and power, he may have felt the need to compensate to avoid spending centuries in Purgatory.

Also, in England at least, we lost the tradition of venerating the saints and martyrs with the Reformation. Henry VIII had Becket's shrine, which had been so popular, completely destroyed. It could be that Becket foresaw his martyrdom and accepted it, seeing it as a path to eternal life and everlasting glory. If his shrine was still there in all its magnificence, would it make it easier to understand why he made the choices he did?

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Michy
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Location: California

Postby Michy » Wed October 13th, 2010, 12:53 am

"Miss Moppet" wrote:Which of the other books did you try?

I tried When Christ and His Saints Slept. It was recommended to me by a former co-worker who knew I like the Norman/early Plantagenet eras, and who was herself an SKP fan. I really wanted to like the book, and I tried..... but about 1/4 or 1/3 into it I realized I was forcing myself to read the book. I just couldn't get into it, it was a slog. So I quit, and I haven't tried any other SKPs since.



Yes, that makes sense.

I suspect my take on Becket is strongly influenced by Jean Plaidy, who was the first author I read on this era. It has been many years, now, so I don't remember exactly, but I suspect this is pretty much how she presented Becket and his motivations.



Henry VIII had Becket's shrine, which had been so popular, completely destroyed.
When I hear things like this it makes me want to cry. Wasn't a lot destroyed during Cromwell's era, too? And of course, there was much destroyed in France during and after the Revolution. It is tragic! I hope to visit England and France someday, and I would love to be able to see the old, old beautiful things and places that were destroyed. Oh, well, if you've never seen it then you can't miss it, right? ;)

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Miss Moppet
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Postby Miss Moppet » Wed October 13th, 2010, 1:16 am

"Michy" wrote:When I hear things like this it makes me want to cry. Wasn't a lot destroyed during Cromwell's era, too? And of course, there was much destroyed in France during and after the Revolution. It is tragic! I hope to visit England and France someday, and I would love to be able to see the old, old beautiful things and places that were destroyed. Oh, well, if you've never seen it then you can't miss it, right? ;)


It definitely was a revelation for me to travel in continental Europe and see all the Catholic churches and shrines which weren't destroyed or looted. One that particularly sticks in my mind is Melk Abbey in Austria, near Vienna:

Image

When I visited, which is years ago, there was a wedding taking place - what a place to get married!


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