When Christ and His Saints Slept

When Christ and His Saints Slept AD As Church Bells Tolled For The Death Of England S King Henry I, His Barons Faced The Unwelcome Prospect Of Being Ruled By A Woman Henry S Beautiful Daughter Maude, Countess Of Anjou But Before Maude Could Claim Her Throne, Her Cousin Stephen Seized It In Their Long And Bitter Struggle, All Of England Bled And BurnedSharon Kay Penman S Magnificent Fifth Novel Summons To Life A Spectacular Medieval Tragedy Whose Unfolding Breaks The Heart Even As It Prepares The Way For Splendors To Come The Glorious Age Of Eleanor Of Aquitaine And The Plantagenets That Would Soon Illumine The World

Penman received her bachelor s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, she majored in history, and also received a Juris Doctor J.D degree from Rutgers University School of Law, and later worked as a tax lawyer The Sunne in Splendour, a novel about Richard III of England is one of the most popular books on the Historical Novel Society s list of best historical novels In 1996, following

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  • Paperback
  • 784 pages
  • When Christ and His Saints Slept
  • Sharon Kay Penman
  • English
  • 14 January 2018
  • 9780345396686

10 thoughts on “When Christ and His Saints Slept

  1. says:

    Penman s broad epic scope focuses on the dynastic struggle for the crown of England This takes place in the early 12th century when Henry I, who had over 20 illegitimate children, loses his one legitimate heir in the White Ship Ordeal i.e basically, a chunk of the fleet sank in the British storms Upon Henry I s death it was settled that Henry s daughter, Maude, would rule For his barons this was quite unpopular as women were not supposed to rule, which opened the doors for a cousin, Stephen of Blois, to usurp the crown What followed was an 18 year struggle in which both sides controlled the throne The interesting aspect of this tale was that both potential rulers had serious flaws which blocked them from truly ruling Stephen was kind and gentle yet his kindness was sometimes taken as a weakness by his barons Additionally, his stubbornness at the Battle of Lincoln i.e when his vassals urged him to retreat and he refused almost cost him his life and resulted in his capture But then, Maude underestimated Stephen s wife, as well as the Londoners, who tossed her out and put her in a precarious position She then escaped but soon found herself forced to leave her army behind which endangered her illegitimate brother, Robert, and resulted in his capture.Thus, Robert was exchanged for Stephen and the war continued after a truce Eventual fighting led to Maude s army being confined at Oxford Matters got so bad for her during this siege that she and three others wore white cloaks and snuck past Stephen s army during a snowstorm this truly happened historically Stephen, who eventually captured the castle, was flustered i.e during the first battle from long ago he had allowed Maude to leave the castle in an act of gallantry His barons blamed him for this much later and, even when he tried to capture her, she always managed to slip away.Victories came and went for both sides, and vassals continued to switch sides Maude lost her main supporter, Robert, who died in the later years of this struggle Because of this, Maude s vassals could no longer be held together and she was forced to flee across the waters to Normandy i.e northern France Note that during this war Maude s husband, Geoffrey, Duke of Anjou, had managed to seize many of the British territories, giving Normandy to Maude.But kingship for Stephen left a bitter aftertaste His wife, Mathilda, died and Stephen continued to have problems with the Church and unruly vassals Meanwhile, Maude s son, Henry, was securing Normandy and ended up marrying Eleanor of Aquitaine, which only made him powerful by leaps and bounds In the end, and, in less than two years, Henry landed in England, where he was supported by his own troops as well as British lords Stephen put up resistance, but the tides of war were against him Bad omens and war weary vassals eventually convinced him to pass his title to Henry upon his death And, in the end, Henry II took the throne of England with very little bloodshed.Penman s writing strengths are in her vivid descriptions, her real and varied characters, her build up of conflict and conclusions and, of course, let us not forget that her love stories are pretty good, too In this particular novel the dysfunctional relationship between Maude and Geoffrey is engaging.Overall, this is sterling silver quality, so read it right away STORY PLOTTING B plus to A minus CHARACTERS DIALOGUE A minus to A HISTORICAL AUTHENTICITY A OVERALL GRADE A minus WHEN READ 2003 3rd reading in 2011 revised review end of June 2012.

  2. says:

    You will look at this book and find the 742 pages daunting, but I will relieve your mind on that score The book reads fast Penman keeps the pages moving bringing history to life and putting flesh on the bones of a vast array of characters Despite the plot involving so many historical figures I never found myself to be lost I have read quite a bit about the Plantagenets and that may have helped me to decipher the where, why and what easily, but I do think a reader with less background of the period will still find themselves swept up in the plot and left at the end of the book with a burning desire to know about the Plantagenets In fact I fully intend to read the other two books in the trilogy in the very near future The trouble, you see, all starts with the White Ship The legitimate heir to the throne of England, William the only son of Henry the first drowns in a tragic shipwreck Many English lives would have been spared if William had survived Henry I dies after a meal of lamprey eels On his death bed he forces his most ardent supporters to swear fealty to his daughter and only legitimate heir Maude Some of his supporters do end up supporting Maude, but a majority of them go over to Stephen, her cousin, and he becomes king of England This is one of those points in history where legitimate and illegitimate blood lines become such a factor Robert of Gloucester, a competent, well respected illegitimate son of Henry I displaying all the characteristics of a man that would have made a good king is kept from the throne by law If Robert had been allowed to be crowned king many thousands of English lives would have been spared in the than a decade of civil war that followed the coronation of Stephen, for Maude did not go quietly in the night Maude married Geoffrey of Anjou, a handsome, dynamic, powerful man who got than he bargained for in his marriage to a King s daughter She married him for military support and he married her with that thought that a son of his would one day sit on the throne of England Their marriage was stormy and it is a miracle that they ever managed to compromise long enough to sire a son One of the reasons why Maude had difficulty in gaining support was of course first and foremost because she was a woman, but secondly she was too imperial with her subjects She exhibited a coldness that kept all, but her key people at a distance Stephen on the other hand was very charming and personable to a fault He wanted everyone to love him and as the war continued that became his Achilles Heel He was unwilling to execute and destroy those that opposed him Qualities today that we would find commendable, but in the twelfth century was perceived as a weakness As the civil war continued supporters blew with the wind, sometimes changing sides three or four times By the time Henry, oldest son of Maude and Geoffrey, became old enough to become involved in the conflict the war was nearly over Stephen, after the untimely death of his son Eustace another deadly meal of eel ,named Henry as his successor thus ending the conflict I have been so enthralled, for good reason, with the reign of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitane that I knew very little about Stephen and Maude I had always known about their weaknesses than their strengths and Penman did a wonderful job giving me a balanced perception of both Stephen and Maude.

  3. says:

    What makes Sharon Penman s historical novels set in medieval Britain so amazing is how they combine sticking quite close to historical facts, with making a thrilling read enjoyable to modern readers, together with an engaging cast of characters.This novel documents the nineteen year civil war between Empress Maud, Countess of Anjou and Lady of the English and King Stephen, a war which ravaged England and caused great suffering to the people.Penman outlines the complex characters of Maude proud, imperious and impetuous, named heir to the throne by her father King Henry I, but denied the crown because she was a woman, and Stephen, gallant, compassionate, and indecisive.Most of the characters are of real historical note, except Ranulf Fitz Roy, a fictional character who could easily have been real as one of King Henry s illegitimate children , but was not.But the space exists for him, because of the untold story of King Henry s other many illegitimate children.Penman also touches on her fascination with medieval Wales, introducing Ranulf s Welsh cousins, including his blind bride to be Rhiannon.It also introduces the saga of Harry later to be Henry II and the beautiful and passionate Queen Eleanor.I never lost interest throughout the novel, filled with intrigue, war, politics, relationships, sex and character analysis.Memorable scenes include the sinking of the White Ship, and the drowning of Henry I s only legitimate male heir, William, the passionate love between Ranulf and Annora, and their later adulterous union, the escape by Empress Maud at Wallingford, the many shifting allegiances by the leading nobleman, the ravaging of England and cruelty of Geoffrey De Mandeville, and the rescue by King Stephen of John Marshall s young captive son from execution.

  4. says:

    It was with great anticipation that I returned to Sharon Penman s When Christ and His Saints Slept, the first book by Sharon Penman that I ever read at the tender age of 10, and which for good reasons immediately became one of my favourite books of all time and in all the years since has never been displaced from its solid and thoroughly deserved status as the cream of the crop not just of historical fiction but across genres This is the only book for which I have ever stayed awake without sleep all night simply in order to read I d always meant to re read When Christ and His Saints Slept someday, and I loved it just as much the second time round as the first, if not , and I daresay that ll be equally true of the 100th reading.Re reading When Christ and His Saints Slept was a joy and a delight Sharon Penman is one of those exquisitely rare writers who can t put a foot wrong The vocabulary she can draw upon would put professors of English to shame, her understanding of the language is almost unmatched, and her consummate fluidity of writing and fluency has few rivals Moreover, Sharon s writing style is supremely natural and elegant in its simplicity though it s plain that Sharon has the linguistic knowledge to bewilder and befuddle us with hideously complex constructions and obscure tongue twisters, she doesn t Her efforts are consistently devoted to lucidity and creating the best reading experience possible Sharon shows us rather than tells us, and where she does tell it fits so seamlessly into the narrative that you d hardly notice its presence at all Her dialogue is unforced and appears effortless Her descriptions are that rare beast concise yet perfectly clear and astonishingly vivid and real Scenes of laugh out loud acerbic humour are written as adroitly as scenes of moving poignancy This book is not just interesting or engaging , those words are not fit for purpose when describing When Christ and His Saints Slept It s amazingly easy to pick this book up and within a paragraph find yourself sucked into a wondrously detailed and thoroughly authentic Medieval world, and emerge an unknown amount of time later to discover that hours and hours have passed by This book is completely absorbing, utterly enthralling, and resplendently captivating I read it as if spellbound, for When Christ and His Saints Slept is a literary dream.Sharon s research is ever impeccable to the point where I must admit to a mixture of enviousness and a truly uncommon admiration This is an author who berates herself over the anachronistic appearance of hoods for hunting falcons in this very book, and details such as the colour of dog hair in Medieval canine breeds inaccuracies of such miniscule stature that surely fewer than one in a thousand would ever pick up on them, and of those that do forgivable without a second thought I m in awe of Sharon s dedication to historical accuracy now this is the level of historical accuracy that I expect of all historical fiction, I only wish all authors were as devoted to it as Sharon Penman Sharon sticks to events as closely as possible and lets the history speak for itself, devoid of embellishment except in a few scarce instances She makes no attempt to dumb down events for her readers by simplifying, but gives her readers the credit they deserve and trusts that we re intelligent enough to comprehend the complexities of the actual history This is something I d sorely like to see of in the historical fiction industry The picture that Sharon paints on the page with her words is so detailed, so thorough, I feel sure that Sharon must know every speck of dust in her world, and I m half convinced that she s discovered the secret of time travel Such a vivid, realistic picture brings the Medieval world to life before your very eyes four dimensional, subtle, sophisticated, and fully formed.Even impressive is Sharon s ability to infuse her characters with such depth and understanding and subtlety that you d swear they were old friends Whether fictional or real historical figures, Sharon seems to know and understand her characters like the back of her hand and creates tangible portraits of subtle, complex people, rooted in their times but distinctly modern, firmly dispelling the notion of past peoples as somehow alien in relation to ourselves These are real, flawed people intelligent, driven by complicated yet understandable motivations, starkly human, one feels as close to the real life historical individuals as one is ever like to get Not one of them is unintelligible or lacks for empathy Even if you find yourself taking sides and disagreeing with the decisions of certain characters, their reasoning is deftly illuminated, their motivations crystal clear I must confess to becoming rather fond of the hot headed Count of Chester, and even Eustace, whose actions are indisputably reprehensible, was understandable if not at all laudable I must admit to whole heartedly getting behind Maude whenever I read this book, warts and all as she comes, but at the same time Sharon Penman s Stephen is no ghoulish villain designed with the express purpose of invoking the reader s loathing in actual fact he is often highly sympathetic There are no black and white sinners and saints here as in so many other, lesser works of historical fiction which tend to play the good guys vs the bad guys , only varying shades of grey Sharon treats her historical characters as carefully as she does the historical facts with objectivity, refinement and intricacy All grow organically She focuses on painting as accurate a picture as possible whilst standing back to let the reader make up their own minds about the people from history, she never tries to impose her own conclusions on us.Sharon remarked in her author s note that This was the first time that I d allowed a fictional character to share centre stage with historical figures, and I wasn t sure if I d feel comfortable with Ranulf. I simply adored Ranulf Fitz Roy, quite possibly the most significant fictional character in any of Sharon s books, from the word go Not quite in the same way as, for example, Llewelyn Fawr in Here Be Dragons surely a romantic hero of historical fiction if ever there were one but because I found Ranulf eminently identifiable clever, enquiring, sensible, moderate, tolerant, unquestionably loyal but troubled at the realisation that war is never so simple as right versus wrong, the voice of sanity for many other characters but blind where it came to his own personal passions I love Ranulf because he reminds me of myself He s that character that makes you say Well, that s what I d do , and that s why he s such a roaring success Sharon s uncanny knack at recreating the grey characters from history comes less from her knowledge of the historical people and from her understanding of the human condition She s applied the same understanding to creating Ranulf, and as a result he fits in flawlessly with Maude, Stephen, Henry and Eleanor My only regret was that Ranulf was fictional, and thus could never take up Maude s proffered earldom without warping history I rather wished that Sharon would let the history slide just this once and allow Ranulf to take up the earldom he so clearly deserved Sharon weaves together all these elements to create a spellbinding yet authentic story of at once epic and human proportions There is no heavy handed laborious message here, again readers are free to make their own conclusions, rather one is struck by a simple truth well known to historians history is often random and accidental, and its inhabitants are a colourful maelstrom of individuals who are impossible to define as wholly right or wrong, good or evil I haven t even mentioned points such as the novel s pacing, point of view or length such elements are so spot on that they are unnoticeable, and that is the mark of a good book The Sunne in Splendour may be Sharon s Wars of the Roses magnum opus, the platinum standard for all other Wars of the Roses historical fiction, her Welsh trilogy begun with Here Be Dragons may be a sweeping tale of romance, triumph and tragedy, but When Christ and His Saints Slept will always be my favourite A simply wonderful epic of the complex machinations and manoeuvrings of bloody civil war and the sophisticated, extraordinary, human characters it encompassed.10 out of 10 Enough said.

  5. says:

    A man can be our enemy, Eustace, and still be a decent sort.I ve read all of Philippa Gregory s king and queen books, and this is only my second title by Sharon Kay Penman I enjoy them both but for different reasons PG shows you all the intrigues in the courts, but you re never really aware of what is happening to the man on the street These are quick, easy and very intriguing reads SKP shows the effects of the kings wars and decisions on the country as a whole I found it especially sad that none of the common people could actually care who ruled them, yet they were the ones who suffered the most in this prolonged war between Empress Maud and King Stephen The second reason I really enjoyed this book is that we get so many different POV s, which enables us to have sympathy with both sides I especially loved Stephen who knew that the same characteristics that makes you a decent and generous person, also makes for a bad king Thirdly, I liked the fact that she used quotes from the newspapers chronicler of the time to give us a true reflection of the mood of the times I can t wait to read the rest of this series about the Plantagenet s I highly recommend this author if you have not tried her before.

  6. says:

    I liked this book, and am a fan of Penman sbut there were a few issues that I had with this one 1 Head hopping Sometimes it s really hard to tell who she s talking about, and you have to go back and re read to figure it out.2 Many scenes seem to have this basic structure 1 Some major characters, most likely nobles, are talking about something eminently important 2 SuddenlyA rider knight will rush in to tell them that someone has died been born, or a castle city is under siege taken, etc.It just seemed like there were too many scenes where people just ahppened to be sitting around, discussing something important, at just the moment that such a herald of joy doom would barge in

  7. says:

    This is not a great example of historical fiction The story is thin and feels like it is just there to connect the historical elements that the author had researched and wanted to tell us about It s hard to develop much interest in any of the characters Really, this isn t so much a novel as a seemingly endless series of vignettes I m struggling to get through it, but sticking it out for some reason I definitely wouldn t recommend.

  8. says:

    A Sad and Tragic Period in England s History and truly a time when Christ and his Saints slept A fascinating, complicated tale with a huge cast of characters, many with similar names It was hard to keep track of at times, a list of who s who at the front of the book would have been helpful, as SKP did in the next book, Time and Chance The characters were well written, and I appreciated that neither Stephen who did steal the crown nor Maude were written as black and white evil vs saint all had flaws in their characters Adding the fictional Ranulf gave a nice perspective to the tale I also appreciated the way the author brought us the viewpoints of the common folk, who didn t care who ruled, as long as there was peace The first 2 3 of the book are mostly about the civil conflict between the two parties and can drag on a bit, but the last part when Henry started coming into power and married Eleanor of Aquitaine the sparks were fairly flying off the pages I am now starting on Time and Chance Ballantine Reader s Circle and eagerly awaiting on this dynamic pair As I said, a great book to read It isn t quite Here Be Dragons, et al but enjoyable all the same.

  9. says:

    Before the Tudors and before the Plantagenets England, France, and much of Europe was comprised of territories up for conquest Although history always highlights men, there were women groveling for crowns, as well Ever hear of Empress Maude versus King Stephen Sharon Kay Penman traverses this period in her novel, When Christ and his Saints Slept.A warning must initially be signaled that Penman s novel is a heavy one The pages immediately introduce a multitude of characters and the story is told from so many points of views that even Anglophiles are left resorting to the genealogical for guidance This noticeably makes When Christ and his Saints Slept choppy and somewhat disjointed resulting in some difficulties in reading Despite this qualm, the pages of When Christ and his Saints Slept are bursting with activity and are thick with an emphasis on history in the HF equation In a sense, you have to read quickly in order to understand the quick pace sort of like how you have to be crazy to understand craziness Penman never slows down with her story so there is certainly a lot to take in with the plot.Penman s language and prose is beautiful both in accuracy with the era and literary language, arousing the reader It is undeniable that Penman is a superb writer Although, the phrase, For certes is overused and becomes annoying Slightly after the 200 page mark, Penman smooths out When Christ and his Saints Slept and reading becomes easier and cohesive as the story focuses on less character point of views Also gratifying is Penman s characterization of Henry future King of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine Penman uses devices to build excitement towards these figures without pushing them into the foreground perfecting the building of their stories This is excellently done There are some tedious filler moments in When Christ and his Saints Slept which seemingly have no involvement in the plot There spots can be skimmed by readers choosing to do so without any depth of the tale being lost As the novel progresses, both the writing and story become heartily better so don t give up too early The plot is stronger and highly visual There are some repetition flaws, however, when characters discuss events from their perspective which were already lived on previous pages therefore backtracking slightly Penman eventually focuses When Christ and his Saints Slept on Henry s quest for the English crown and his relationship with Eleanor These pages are a bit thinner and less rounded than former portions of the novel as the depictions of Henry and Eleanor are too much like other historical fiction novels focusing on lust and a lack of development The story still progresses forward and is an enjoyable read but simply feels different from the rest of the book This is especially true when it seems that Penman rushes to finish the story and set the environment for the next novel The conclusion of When Christ and his Saints Slept isn t as powerful as one would hope but it sets the scene for the next novel and certainly encourages topical interest Penman also includes an Afterword explaining the end courses of the figures in the novel plus an Author s Note presenting the historical accuracies and liberties taken readers will be satisfied to know that When Christ and his Saints Slept is very heavy on the accuracy When Christ and his Saints Slept is a thick novel that starts off slowly and, on some level, confusingly but stick with it to be met with joyful reading Penman refrains from fluff and her writing his highly visual creating a tour de force to be reckoned with When Christ and his Saints Slept is suggested for HF fans of both England and France.

  10. says:

    This was a great book written about the eleven hundreds in England and Normandy It speaks of the fierce fighting for the crown and many betrails of the heart I recommend it highly.Enjoy and Be Blessed.

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