mostly through When Christ and His Saints Slept

I’m continuing to enjoy Penman; what a luxury this weekend of laziness is.

What a feat: to tell the story of several decades of civil war in such agonizing detail, complete with all the characters and personalities and constantly shifting loyalties and betrayals. The sheer number of battles and quantity of blood is shocking and sobering (thus the title), but after hundreds of pages of it, I’m still engaged. I guess I do become a little bit numb but we still care about the people and we still want to see what happens to them. Maude and Stephen grow from youth into age, and their children take up the fight, still chasing the crown. The war is shocking. We know war is bad, yes, but the civilian massacres just go on… it makes me consider political issues that are far from settled today. It’s sad (but very human) how both sides bemoan the civilian suffering but continue to fight; each says golly I wish all this suffering could end, but I still need my crown (for my son) and it’s really the other side’s fault it’s still going on, if only *they* would give up… Epic is absolutely the word for this novel. But I’m still deeply engaged and invested in these people. I’m not very strong on English monarchic history, but reading fiction is helping me! (I know, it’s fiction, don’t worry, I’m not taking it as gospel. But at least I’m getting some of the major characters set in time, even if they never delivered these lines.)

As I wrote in an earlier post, I do appreciate how Penman visits with characters from various strata of society. I miss that we haven’t revisited Berold or Barbe and Marthe since the first 30 pages of the book; I thought for sure we’d see them again (and maybe we still will, I’m only on page 575, lol). But perhaps we met them only so they could introduce other people and scenes. I like the colorful, three-dimensional feel these characters add to the story.

Penman takes me into another world, and keeps me there for 750 pages. I’m swept into another dimension, with conflicting loyalties and no easy answers, and human characters, and love and romance and tragedy and death. It’s an amazing tale. And I do think historical fiction can be educational. Still recommending.

2 Responses

  1. […] Henry II Trilogy When Christ And His Saints Slept (1995) – loved it Time And Chance (2002) – own it Devil’s Brood (2008) – […]

  2. […] ago, I read the first novel in the Angevin “trilogy” (now at five books, ha), When Christ and His Saints Slept (also here). Here I am finally with book two in that series. “It began with a shipwreck on a […]

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